How Electric Buses Will Drive Change in 2024 and Beyond

How Electric Buses Will Drive Change in 2024 and Beyond.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

How Electric Buses Will Drive Change in 2024 and Beyond. Image Unsplash.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How Electric Buses Will Drive Change in 2024 and Beyond

Imagine strolling city streets without feeling like you needed a mask because of all the particulate matter from smog. Clearing the air has multiple benefits for human and planetary health, including breathing freely and protecting your glowing complexion while window-shopping. However, emissions from vehicles create pollution. Fortunately, electric buses offer a viable alternative to their gas-guzzling counterparts. 

Already, transit agencies have added such vehicles to their fleets. Many have plans to convert to full alternative fuel fleets before 2050. What can you expect from the transition? Here’s how electric buses already drive change and the exciting innovations you can look forward to in 2024 and beyond. 

The Growing Market Share of Electric Buses

As of 2021, only 2.5% of rapid transit, commuter and trolley buses used electric power, but that figure has shifted over the past two years and continues to grow. Research shows the electric bus market is projected to climb to $53 billion by 2027, representing a compound annual growth of 9.5%. 

Currently, over 12,720 electric buses operate in at least 38 states. They include school buses and the commuter models you see on your streets. San Francisco is famous for its cable cars, and some municipalities have rapid transit systems with dedicated bus lanes for boarding and deboarding. 

Advantages of Electric Buses Over Other Public Transit Options 

The biggest advantage of electric buses is that they create zero tailpipe emissions. That stuff coming out of a traditional car’s exhaust contributes to smog, urban heat islands and rising global temperatures. It’s also detrimental to human health in the following ways: 

  • Increased risk of stroke and heart disease
  • Elevated risk of various types of cancer, including lung cancer
  • More cases of chronic lung disease, including COPD and asthma
  • More frequent and severe upper respiratory illnesses — the flu hits you harder
  • Bad skin as free radicals wreak havoc on your complexion

Electric buses have advantages that other green transportation methods, such as light rail, lack. Here are three additional features that will make these vehicles increasingly vital. 

1. Use Existing Infrastructure 

Unlike light rail or subway systems, buses drive on the same roadways other commuters use. It’s relatively easy to retrofit thoroughfares to accommodate these vehicles and is far less labor- and cost-intensive than digging up streets to run wires and pipes. This makes their adoption more feasible for city planners. 

Additionally, it’s easier to make shifts to encourage further public transportation use among residents. For example, creating dedicated lanes for buses minimizes driver frustration and improves on-time accuracy for passengers who rely on these services to get to work. 

2. More Customized Route Options

You can’t reroute a light rail system to pick up passengers from a new tiny home development or apartment complex. However, an electric bus can readily make the switch. As city planners design routes, these vehicles provide greater opportunities for future customizations that can ease traffic congestion and get people to their destinations more quickly. 

For example, planners can design routes to include stops adjacent to multifamily housing developments. This also increases property values, as residents have more options for commuting to work and handling daily errands. They make it easier to meet ADA requirements for accessibility, such as assisting passengers from their doorsteps. 

3. Innovations Benefit Other EV Drivers 

Increasing electric bus use means establishing new charging infrastructure to ensure bus drivers can recharge during the workday. However, this also benefits other individuals who rely on EVs. Currently, just over 160,000 charging stations are available for public and private use across the U.S.

Charging time is another concern of EV drivers. However, groundbreaking new techniques promise to cut it to mere minutes. Shortly, EV charging stations could replace traditional gas models, with drivers of electric buses and cars stopping in for a cold drink while their ride fills up with juice. Researchers are also experimenting with hemp batteries to avoid the environmental harm caused by lithium mining. 

Challenges of Implementing All-Electric Fleets

Despite the advantages of electric buses, municipal governments face several issues when implementing them. Here’s how some cities have risen to the challenge. 

1. Charging Infrastructure 

Electric buses require charging infrastructure. Although most charge when done for the day, drivers may still need locations to juice up throughout the workday. Expanding bus service to more remote locations also requires recharging stations. Fortunately, bus drivers aren’t alone in their need. 

New York has committed $29 million to upgrade electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the state. The money goes toward several programs. The first, Charge Ready, will use $15 million to fund the installation of Level 2 chargers, which promise to improve these resources for cars and electric buses. The Drive Clean Rebate Program receives the remainder for providing rebates to people who buy electric vehicles.

Other cities and states will follow suit. For example, some, like California, already plan to prohibit the sale of new gas-powered cars. This will encourage more drivers to adopt EVs, fueling the need for building additional charging stations. The more charging stations electric buses have, the further they can extend routes.

2. Route Planning

Another issue city planners must consider is route planning. How can they efficiently get the most people to their destinations in the least amount of time? Much of the question hinges on how to best use existing roadways and improve that infrastructure to ease traffic congestion. 

Cleveland pioneered the Green Route bus rapid transit system in early 2007. It connects two central bus stations and transports hundreds of riders daily, with the goal of making it as convenient as traveling by car.

3. Safety for Micromobility Users 

One of the advantages of electric buses and EVs in general that gets relatively little press is how quiet they are. These innovations promise to cut air pollution as well. However, that becomes a problem for the walkers and bikers who share the roadways with these larger vehicles, putting them at an increased risk of injury or death. 

City planners should encourage more walking and bicycling use, as these methods are even greener than EVs. However, they must also account for the lower noise levels when planning for safety. Incorporating dedicated pedestrian and bike lanes, complete with barriers, keeps drivers more alert and prevents those who prefer walking from suffering potentially life-altering — or ending — accidents. 

Fortunately, this goal merges with route planning and easing traffic congestion. Many cities in China already have dedicated lanes for pedestrians, mass transit, trucks and commuter vehicles. Adopting similar practices in the United States could reduce jams and road rage while improving public safety. 

Electric Buses and the Future of Public Transportation 

Electric buses play a pivotal role in addressing climate change. Their lack of tailpipe emissions promises to clear the air in city centers, reducing pollution and urban heat islands while helping to control the rise in global temperature. 

Electric buses are the future of transportation, especially when paired with other sustainable improvements, like infrastructure adjustments that ease traffic. These vehicles promise a cleaner, healthier commute in 2024 and beyond.

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