Electric cars are cool. But electric buses are awesome.
I've been bullish about the spread of electric cars, and genuinely hope that they continue to wrestle more market share from their fossil-fueled counterparts.
But electric cars can only take us so far. Electric buses, on the other hand, are a lot more exciting and becoming more commonplace.
As reported over at Earthtechling, Louisville, Kentucky has just launched a fleet of 10 fully electric buses (this should complement the city's impressive urban tree-planting efforts). And Cleantechnica tells us that in Google's backyard of Mountain View, California, the tech giant is partnering with Motiv Power to trial four electric shuttle buses to service the downtown area.
There are several reasons these initiatives (and other electric bus efforts) are so important. Here are just a few of them.
Buses use a lot of fuel
The first electric and hybrid cars on the market were aimed at replacing compact and subcompact cars. While a worthy endeavor, these vehicles don't burn anywhere near as much fuel as a pickup truck. And a pickup truck doesn't burn anywhere near as much fuel as a bus. So every single electric bus represents a pretty significant chunk of oil not burned.
Buses stop and start a lot
Because city buses stop and start all the time, they are often left idling. This results in a pretty inefficient use of an internal combustion engine. Conversely, this same stop-start pattern makes buses an ideal candidate for innovative charging solutions that can keep them running all day.
Buses go where people are
Forget climate change for a second. The push for cleaner transportation is as much about cleaning our urban air as it is preventing the global climate crisis. And because city buses operate in, you guessed it, cities—each time a dirty diesel bus is replaced by an electric one, it has a disproportionate impact on urban air quality.
Buses are sometimes half-empty
We hope that new electric buses will be in high demand, but the reality is that mass transit has to run during quiet times too when a bus may not be at full capacity. By emphasizing fuel economy, and hopefully sourcing from renewables, bus operators can minimize the environmental impact of these downtimes.
Investing in buses means more people will use them
Perhaps the most important reason why we love electric buses is that they signal a new investment in one of our most important community assets—our public transit infrastructure. Every time you buy a new electric bus, you're not just buying a zero emission vehicle, you're also buying new seats, new decor, a new environment (with hopefully less chewing gum on the floor!), and of course free wi-fi, for transit riders to enjoy. You are sending a signal to the public that transit is valued and valuable. And when you invest in the infrastructure, ridership should follow.