Exploring the Costs of Electrification for California’s Transit Agencies

Research Team: Hanjiro Ambrose (lead), Alissa Kendall, and Nicholas Pappas

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: In 2018, the California Air Resources Board approved the Innovative Clean Transit regulation, which sets a statewide goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100% zero-emission bus (ZEB) fleets by 2040. The costs to comply with this new regulation are not easily quantified, however, and are especially difficult to forecast. The true life-cycle cost of electric buses includes not only the purchase cost of the vehicles themselves but also of their batteries over their lifespan, as well as the charging equipment, maintenance costs, and the cost of energy. If electric buses lack the range or are otherwise unable to travel the full length of existing routes, the extra costs of providing service on those routes must be considered, too.

Project Description: This project attempts to identify and assess critical drivers of electric bus adoption costs, characterize uncertainty in forecasting agency transition costs, and provide an approach to support agencies’ assessment of strategic investments in new vehicle technologies. While current purchase costs for electric buses are 40% higher compared to conventional diesel or clean-natural gas buses, by 2030, electric buses are likely to become the most cost-effective option. Taking total cost of ownership into consideration, replacing a bus fleet by 2030 with a 100% electric fleet is estimated to decrease overall costs by $0.1 to $3.6B compared to replacing the current fleet. Results are likely to vary depending on agency size as small and rural agencies have orders of magnitude smaller fleets than the largest agencies and the estimates take into account current subsides for purchases electric buses. The report concludes that total costs of ownership for electric buses are likely to be lower than current fleets and that agencies need better tools to be able to evaluate integrated technology and systems planning, particularly as it relates to transit bus electrification.

Status: Completed

Budget: $95,000

Project Partner(s): UCLA, California Air Resources Board (CARB), California Transit Association (and Proterra Inc., BYD, New Flyer, LA Metro, Foothill Transit, MTC)

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