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CTE: entire US transit fleet could transition to ZEVs by 2035 for $56B - $89B

In a new report produced at the request of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) concluded that a the entire US transit fleet could transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035 at a cost of between $56.22 billion and $88.91 billion.

In a scenario assuming a reduction in bus capital cost in 2028, the total cost drops to $42.39 billion on the low end and $60.02 billion on the high end.

Currently, more than 1,300 zero-emission buses (ZEBs) have been delivered or awarded to US transit agencies, representing roughly 2% of the US transit bus fleet.

The cost analysis includes the incremental costs of ZEVs compared to conventionally-fueled vehicles (e.g., diesel, diesel-hybrid, compressed natural gas (CNG)), fueling infrastructure, direct technical assistance for transit agencies, and federal research and innovation support services using a combination of publicly available pricing and CTE project experience. “Low” and “high” estimates for each vehicle type are provided to capture the range of available models.

This estimate accounts for vehicles, infrastructure, technical assistance, and federal research and development support. The report assumes the national fleet will require a mix of both battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric vehicles to meet zero-emission transition targets (Mixed Fleet Scenario).


Total estimated incremental costs of the mixed fleet scenario. Source: CTE

CTE assumed agencies operating in areas with lower population density will need more vehicles with greater range to support more challenging service requirements, and therefore will procure more fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs). CTE approximated splits between urban, suburban, and rural populations to determine the appropriate bus fleet mix. Overall, 73% of buses are converted to battery-electric buses (BEBs) and 27% are converted to FCEBs in this scenario.

CTE incorporated federal support for research, development, and component testing into the cost assessment. Technology development programs and the testing facilities needed to support them are integral to accelerating the transition to ZEVs and ultimately achieving a full ZEV transition by 2035. These programs support the advancement of battery technology, drivetrain components, and advanced driver assistance.

Workforce development is also a crucial component of the plan as transit operators, technicians, engineers, and planners need specialized training to understand unique components of ZEVs and supporting infrastructure.

Rapidly electrifying the US transit system has to be done the right way. Transit agencies need more than vehicles to successfully make this transition, and the federal government is well-positioned to provide that much-needed support.

—Dan Raudebaugh, Executive Director of CTE

CTE has helped more than 80 transit agencies across the US successfully adopt zero-emission technologies, including the deployment of more than 300 zero-emission buses and development of 30 transition plans. These agencies represent nearly every geography, climate, and topography. CTE’s work spans the entire clean transportation system, including manufacturers, infrastructure providers, and fleet operators who are leading electrification initiatives.

CTE is working on a 100-Bus Initiative to form a consortium of transit agencies to purchase a collective 100 or more FCEBs in a single order. The primary objective of this effort is to drive down the capital cost of North American FCEBs to the point where they are commercially viable for agencies seeking zero-emission solutions.


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