Why Don't U.S. Cities Use More Electric Buses?

What prevents cities from adopting electric buses en masse is a mix of technological, financial, and institutional challenges.
June 28, 2019 AT 7:44 AM

By Linda Poon

There were about 425,000 electric buses in service in the world’s cities last year. Almost all—99 percent of them—were in China. The booming industrial city of Shenzhen, in particular, is one of only a few cities to have fully electrified its fleet. The rest of the globe, meanwhile, is racing to catch up, and falling further behind.

It’s not the lack of ambition that’s stopping them: With the goal of curbing carbon emissions in mind, municipal leaders all over have pledged to partially, if not fully, replace their city’s fleet with e-buses over the next decades. A number of cities, from large metropolises like Mexico City to more modest ones like Philadelphia, have started pilot tests.

What prevents cities from adopting electric buses en masse is a mix of technological, financial, and institutional challenges, according to a pair of reports from the World Resource Institute looking at efforts in 16 cities at various stages of adopting e-buses. That first report focuses on three major types of barriers, while the second highlights how to overcome them.

The cities studied range from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia—where there’s been “no substantial planning” around electric buses—to cities like Philadelphia and Campinas, Brazil, which, respectively, are running a pilot test and expanding its number of e-buses, to successful cases in Shenzhen and the nearby Zhengzhou. They vary geographically, with some in developed nations like Chile and Spain, and other in emerging countries like India.

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