According to a new report produced by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at the request of Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the entire US public transit fleet could replace its fossil fuel vehicles with battery-electric and fuel cell buses by 2035 at a cost of between $42 billion and $89 billion, depending on bus capital costs and other factors.
The report envisions federal support for vehicle and equipment procurement, technical assistance, and a comprehensive research and innovation program to accelerate transit vehicle technology development. It offers a roadmap for federal lawmakers to pursue this policy objective, including an accounting of estimated agency costs and a list of key assumptions underpinning the figures.
Currently, more than 1,300 battery-electric and fuel cell buses have been delivered or awarded to US transit agencies—this represents roughly 2% of the US transit bus fleet.
CTE’s cost analysis includes the incremental costs of EVs compared to legacy vehicles (diesel, hybrid, CNG), fueling infrastructure, direct technical assistance for transit agencies, and federal R&D support services. Low and high estimates for each vehicle type are provided to represent the range of available models.
The report’s authors assume that legacy buses will be replaced by both battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles. CTE assumes that transit agencies operating in areas with lower population density will need more vehicles with greater range, and therefore will procure more fuel cell buses. CTE’s scenario envisions a national mix of 73% battery-electric buses and 27% fuel cell buses.
CTE finds that federal support for research, development, and component testing will be integral to accelerating the transition to cleaner vehicles. Workforce development is also a crucial component of the plan—transit operators, technicians, engineers and planners need specialized training to understand EVs and supporting infrastructure.
“Rapidly electrifying the US transit system has to be done the right way,” said Dan Raudebaugh, Executive Director of CTE. “Transit agencies need more than vehicles to successfully make this transition, and the federal government is well-positioned to provide that much-needed support.”