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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring the Costs of Electrification for California’s Transit Agencies

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The California Air Resources Board is considering regulatory changes to require an increasing share of public transit buses to produce zero-emissions by 2040. This report attempts to identify and assess critical drivers of electric bus adoption costs, characterize uncertainty in forecasting agency transition costs, and provide an approach to support agencies’ assessment of strategic investments in new vehicle technologies. While current purchase costs for electric buses are 40% higher compared to conventional diesel or clean-natural gas buses, by 2030, electric buses are likely to become the most cost-effective option. Taking total cost of ownership into consideration, replacing a bus fleet by 2030 with a 100% electric fleet is estimated to decrease overall costs by $0.1 to $3.6B compared to replacing the current fleet. Results are likely to vary depending on agency size as small and rural agencies have orders of magnitude smaller fleets than the largest agencies and the estimates take into account current subsides for purchases electric buses. The report concludes that total costs of ownership for electric buses are likely to be lower than current fleets and that agencies need better tools to be able to evaluate integrated technology and systems planning, particularly as it relates to transit bus electrification.

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