The California Air Resources Board has approved a first-of-its-kind regulation in the US that sets a statewide goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100% zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. 

Mary D. Nichols, CARB Chair, said, “A zero-emission public bus fleet means cleaner air for all of us. It dramatically reduces tailpipe pollution from buses in low-income communities and provides multiple benefits especially for transit-dependent riders.”

Nichols continued, “Putting more zero-emission buses on our roads will also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, and provides cost savings for transit agencies in the long run.” 

The Innovative Clean Transit regulation is part of a statewide effort to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40% of climate-changing gas emissions and 80-90% of smog-forming pollutants. The transition to zero-emission technologies, where feasible, is essential to meeting California’s air quality and climate goals. 

Full implementation of the regulation adopted is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tonnes from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road. Additionally, it will reduce harmful tailpipe emissions (nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) by about 7,000 tonnes and 40 tonnes respectively during that same 30-year period.

As longtime partners for clean air in California, the state’s 200 public transit agencies play a pivotal role in transitioning vehicle fleets away from fossil fuel-powered technologies to zero-emission alternatives. Eight of the 10 largest transit agencies in the state are already operating zero-emission buses, including battery electric and hydrogen (H2) fuel cell vehicles.

Deployment of zero-emission buses is expected to accelerate rapidly in the coming years – from 153 buses today to 1,000 by 2020, based on the number of buses on order or that are otherwise planned for purchase by transit agencies. Altogether, public transit agencies operate about 12,000 buses statewide.

To successfully transition to an all zero-emission bus fleet by 2040, each transit agency will submit a rollout plan under the regulation demonstrating how it plans to purchase clean buses, build out necessary infrastructure and train the required workforce. The rollout plans are due in 2020 for large transit agencies and in 2023 for small agencies. 

Agencies will then follow a phased schedule from 2023 until 2029, by which date 100% of annual new bus purchases will be zero-emission.