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CALSTART annual report finds 6,147 full-size transit ZEBS in US as of Sep 2023; growing interest in fuel cell technology

CALSTART has released this year’s Zeroing in on ZEBs, an annual report funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The report provides an updated index of newly adopted transit zero-emission buses (ZEBs) that have been funded, ordered, delivered, and/or deployed within the United States and Canada according to data collected through September 2023 by local, state, and federal sources. The data shows the two countries’ progress toward 100% zero-emission vehicle adoption.

In the United States, the number of full-size transit ZEBs (defined as Class 7 or 8 transit buses that are 30 or more feet in length) has grown to 6,147 as of September 2023—an increase of 12% from the previous count—and includes more than 100 new fleets adopting ZEBs for the first time.

Additional US findings are:

  • California leads adoption with 1,946 ZEBs, accounting for 32% of all ZEBs nationwide.

  • New York (742), Florida (464), Washington (214), and Texas (209) are behind California with the most ZEBs adopted. New York had the largest increase in the number of ZEBs, adding 250 ZEBs to its transit fleets in 2023. Many other states, like Illinois, saw gains.

  • While battery-electric buses (BEBs) remain the dominant ZEB type, fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) saw more than 75% growth, with 13 states reporting FCEBs among their transit fleets.


Source: Zeroing in on ZEBs

The FTA’s Low-No Program continues to be the main source of federal funding for ZEBs in the country and supports US transit fleets in their transition to non-polluting, energy-efficient vehicles. Funding sources such as this, state incentive programs including New York’s Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) and California’s Clean Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP), and policies signed by the President such as the Global Memorandum of Understanding on Zero-Emission Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles are vital in accelerating the adoption of ZEBs across the country.

Like the United States, ZEB adoptions in Canada grew due to zero-emission funding opportunities and policy efforts. In 2020, C$1.5 billion was made available to support the adoption of ZEBs and supporting infrastructure. As of September 2023, Canada saw growth of approximately 12% from the previous count and now has a total of 976 ZEBs.

Additional findings are:

  • Significant growth of ZEBs across eight of the ten Canadian providences, up from seven, stretching from British Columbia to Québec and Nova Scotia.

  • Of the total ZEBs counted, 938 are BEBs and 38 are FCEBs.

  • Ontario continues to lead the country with the total adoption of ZEBs (594). Manitoba (94), Alberta (81), Québec (74), and Nova Scotia (60) are behind the providence of Ontario.

  • The government of Québec announced plans to add 1,229 ZEBs to its fleet at a cost greater than C$1.8 billion.

  • BC Transit announced it is receiving C$395.5 million for the purchase of more than 100 BEBs and more than 130 charging ports to support their fleet.



Fuel cell buses are currently quite a bit more expensive than BEV ones both to purchase and run.

I tried to look into projected growth rates, but they are all over the shop, so that you pretty much pick what you fancy.

The most realistic assessment I came across about the current state of play, and why operators are choosing the mixes they are, was here, which refers to Europe but looks widely applicable:

' There was a consensus that there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to zero emission buses; duty cycles, climates and terrains all play a role in determining the appropriate technology to meet the operator’s needs. For example, a Californian operator found a transition to battery electric would require a fleet expansion of 50% (choosing FCBs instead), whereas an operator in Amsterdam has found one-for-one replacements sufficient. What is agreed is that a range of technologies will be required for the transition to a fully zero emission public transport system.'

Where the future of heavy transport will be decided though is in China, who are way further down the path:

'2023 was a landmark year for ZEBs in Europe, with sales of electric buses surpassing those of diesel buses for the first time (1/3 of market). However, Europe still lags behind China, where 97% of city buses sold in 2022 were zero emission (compared to 24% in the EU in the same year). '


Outside of CA, IL, and DE FCEBs actually decreased in the US.

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