Bogota recently announced an order of 379 electric buses, just days after Los Angeles broke the United States record with its order of 130 electric buses, putting the Colombian capital’s prospective fleet in the ranks of among the largest in the world.
The order, placed a fortnight ago, expected on the road late next year, rivals current regional electric bus leader Santiago de Chile’s 200 e-buses.
But Chile’s capital is not idling— it’s due to race past Bogotá order by expanding its fleet to 411 in early 2020.
Bogota’s buses will come from the same company, Chinese group BYD, as those currently in Santiago de Chile, and its charging infrastructure from Enel X, which also powers the latter’s buses.
The buses will join its renowned bus rapid transit system, Transmilenio, which serves Bogota’s 8 million residents as their primary means of public transport.
It’s the latest rev-up in an e-bus race that’s picking up speed in Colombia.
In September this year, second-largest city Medellín announced that the first of a 64-strong electric bus fleet would roll onto its roads this month– also the first such fleet to be completely funded with public resources, according to the city. The fleet is expected to avoid the emissions of 3,274 tonnes of carbon dioxide and over 79 kilograms of PM2.5 particles.
At the same time, 26 e-buses had already started circulating in Colombia’s third-largest city, Cali, which is expecting the arrival of another 110 battery-powered buses at the end of 2019, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, in the United States, a report released last month by clean transport advocacy organization CALSTART found that almost every state either already owns or will soon own at least one electric bus, with California, Washington and Florida leading the way.
While most fleets trail far behind those of cities in China— Shenzhen alone has 16,000 of China’s 421,000 electric buses plying its roads— their cities share one main motivation with the electric bus leader’s: reducing air pollution.
According to the World Health Organization, unhealthy air quality plagues 97 per cent of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in low- and middle-income countries and 49 per cent of those in high-income countries.
Its toll on human health and potential is immense— air pollution is one of the world’s major risk factors for developing non-communicable diseases, sending 7 million people each year to an early grave, costing societies more than $5 trillion each year, and adds to the drivers of climate change.
The increase in electric buses in the United States may have been driven by the support of an $84 million federal Low or No Emissions Vehicle Program to offset the higher upfront costs of electric buses, but cities around the world are discovering that the buses save fuel and maintenance costs over time— and reap tangible rewards for public health.
Chicago: a $110,000-a-year saving in healthcare expenses— and more
Chicago’s public transport agency, for example, estimates that its two electric buses save the city almost $110,000 a year in healthcare expenses, by cutting out tailpipe pollutants from diesel buses— one of very few cities in the world to have quantified health benefits gained by policy action on air pollution.
The city also estimates each electric bus saves the city $25,000 nett in fuel costs, or over $300,000 in its expected 12-year lifespan and $30,000 annually in maintenance costs, when compared to the diesel buses they replaced.
On top of that, the buses are quiet, the agency says: “the noise produced by these electric buses is the equivalent to a human conversation”.
While Bogotá hasn’t released projected health gains, the city of 8 million people nonetheless expects its new fleet to cancel out 526 kilograms of fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5, the most health-harmful air pollutant, in its first year of operation alone.
The new electric buses are also expected to eliminate 21,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the same period, while being 60 per cent cheaper to operate than traditional diesel buses,
While electrifying bus fleets has seen modest progress outside of China due to a combination of technological, financial and institutional challenges, more and more cities are taking the leap as first-movers persist, leading to the emergence of creative solutions (like battery leasing) and best practices to guide other cities on electric bus adoption.
And, as cities in the Americas boost their electric bus fleets, their experience is already paying dividends for clean air, climate action and health.
Banner photo by Claudio Olivares Medina/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0