Electric Transit Becoming the New Norm in California

Electrification is at a tipping point in California, expanding into the heavy-duty sector with the buy-in of transit agencies across the state.

2 minute read

October 31, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden


In an interview with The Planning Report, Proterra CEO Ryan Popple declares that the market for zero-emission electric transit buses has "come of age"—especially with Los Angeles Metro's recent commitment to fully electric fleets by 2030.

Proterra is an electric bus manufacturer with contracts around the country, at least 15 of which are in California. Popple explains:

"Most California transit agencies expect that, in the long term, they will run zero-emission vehicles. At this point, the majority use EVs or have them on the way, and at least eight cities have a 50 or 100 percent EV mandate by 2025. The laggards—the fleets that are moving slowly—run the risk of coming under regulatory pressure from the California Air Resources Board."

California has been moving ahead on light-duty electric cars for some time: $800 million worth of charging infrastructure is in store thanks to Volkswagen's "dieselgate" settlement, and Governor Brown just signed 12 bills meant to push the state toward 1.5 million zero-emission electric cars on the road by 2025.

But how well electrification would spread to the heavy-duty vehicle sector—like trucks, tractors, and buses—had been an open question. Proterra's answer is its latest model of transit bus, which recently broke the record to become the world's longest-range electric vehicle of any type.

Now, Popple says:

"It's no longer about whether an electric can do the job of a diesel. Now the question is whether diesel and natural gas buses can keep up with electric. And at this point, I don't think they can."

In The Planning Report, Popple goes on to explain why transit buses are good candidates for electrification after all, why he believes utility companies should push for transportation electrification, and more.

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