- Reduce emissions
- Reduce fuel costs
- Reduce maintenance costs
- Reduce noise
- Provide better health outcomes for communities and transit employees
Some states, including Washington and California, have run electric buses at various transit agencies for years. Oregon is now starting to move in this direction. The first electric buses in the state are due to arrive at Lane Transit District in Eugene in 2017.
About the impact on carbon emissions
source: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
The graph above shows carbon intensity of fuels, measured by grams of CO2e per megajoule. Carbon emissions contribute to climate change, so Oregon’s goal is to reduce them.
While electric buses produce no tailpipe emissions, some greenhouse gases are emitted during the production of the electricity used to charge the vehicle battery or other electricity storage device. These electricity-production emissions are sometimes referred to as the “long tailpipe”. How the electricity is created determines the amount of long tailpipe emissions produced by an electric bus.
Electricity derived solely from hydropower (supplied by Bonneville Power Administration/BPA, on far right) is almost carbon-free. The general electric mix in Oregon includes both hydropower and coal, which explains its higher carbon intensity. Learn more about electricity sources and emissions at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center
Most buses in Oregon currently run on diesel or gas fuel (almost identical carbon intensities). A few transit agencies have some compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in their fleets. Buses of all types also have manufacturing-related climate impacts, which are not represented on the graph.
About the impact on fuel and maintenance costs
Cost savings from electric buses vary with factors such as the terrain being traveled, the climate, the operator’s skill level and the local price of electricity. Foothill Transit
in Southern California reports saving $225,000 on fuel over the lifetime of each of their electric buses compared to traditional buses.
According to calculations by the US Energy Department
, the cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity in Oregon would be equivalent to $.97 per gallon, while the cost of fueling a vehicle with diesel fuel is typically $2.28 per gallon.
About the impact on noise pollution
According to a 2017 report by King County Metro
, shifting to a battery-electric bus can "reduce noise pollution to levels similar to and less than a passenger vehicle." For comparison, a diesel bus while accelerating (76–81 decibels) is nearly as loud as a garbage truck (80–84 decibels). Noise pollution is of particular concern on dense urban routes that have frequent starts and stops.
About Oregon's goals
The Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative
is ODOT's effort to help Oregon meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 75 percent below 1990 levels, by 2050. The Oregon Global Warming Commission published a 2017 report
noting we are not reaching the goal. To the contrary, our state’s transportation-caused emissions are increasing, specifically due to the use of gasoline and diesel. Electric buses replacing diesel buses can help to turn this problem around.
The drafted vision of the Oregon Public Transportation Plan
, or OPTP, states Environmental Sustainability to be Goal 7, “moving people with efficient, low-emission vehicles, reducing greenhouse gases and other pollutants”. The OPTP will guide Oregon’s transit development for the next 20 years.