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The zero-emission mass transit industry is wide open. At the moment, only a handful of companies are making serious gains in the field.

Electric buses have all the markings of a disruptive product. It can substantially decrease transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Best of all, EV engines don’t blow smoke in your face when you’re crossing the street.

“This marks a major milestone in our development of new solutions for electrified buses,” mentioned president of Volvo Buses Håkan Agnevall. “Quiet and entirely exhaust-free operation will contribute both to a better urban environment and reduced climate impact, while passengers get a more pleasant ride.”

Why Buses?

Electric buses make sense. Unlike a traditional diesel engine, electric power provides high levels of torque required to quickly accelerate and move heavy vehicles. When it comes to making multiple stops, batteries are capable of sustaining energy needed for constant braking.

The costs of purchasing, owning and maintaining an electric mass transit vehicle is also 35 percent lower compared to a diesel bus. Taking into consideration that battery prices are dropping at an alarming rate, it is likely businesses will start switching over to the more logical transportation option very soon.

It All Goes Back to Tesla

While Elon Musk focused on mid-range electric cars, Ian Wright, co-founder of Tesla, and Ryan Popple, ex-senior finance director of Tesla, were looking into mass transit solutions.

Wright, who is also CEO of Wrightspeed, has completely shifted his attention to battery-powered garbage trucks and heavy machinery. Compared to private cars that consume 600 gallons of fuel per year, large commercial vehicles take in a staggering 14,000 gallons annually. Hence, Wright’s presence in the space is well appreciated and timely.

Popple is currently CEO of Proterra, a pioneer establishment that handles almost everything related to electric commercial vehicles, from buses to charging stations. The forward-thinking company recently unveiled the new TerraVolt XR extended-range electric bus that can go for 180 miles on a single charge.

In addition to Proterra, the only other business performing consistently in the field is BYD Motors. The leading automobile brand just released a 200-mile electric bus called BYD C9.

Electric hybrid bus

Where Are All the Electric Vehicles?

Why aren’t there fleets of electric buses taking over cities? The same reason adoption of battery-powered passenger cars has been slow to take off. Infrastructure is scarce and local transit companies are required to setup their own designated areas for charging. Furthermore, when an electric bus breaks down, individuals have to contact the manufacturer directly, which could take days or weeks, depending on the location of the business.

“However, electric buses will only gain acceptance if they adapt to established operational practices and do not create a need for additional vehicles or personnel,” said Dr. Thoralf Knote from the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI.

Despite the early roadblocks of EV bus transit, the progress of the developing technology still seems inevitable. With the support of global automobile organizations and government regulations, zero-emission commercial vehicles may soon become the new standard for daily commutes.

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