Big Blue Bus is charging forward with a clean energy future.
After becoming the first transit agency in Southern California to purchase buses with near-zero compressed natural gas (CNG) engines in 2014, and one of the country's first municipal transit agencies to convert is entire fleet to non-fracked, renewable natural gas (RNG) in 2015, Big Blue Bus is taking the next step toward preserving the environment and protecting our communities.
In August 2019, we rolled out our first battery electric bus (BEB) as part of a pilot program, designed to help us evaluate the technology, and better prepare for deploying eighteen (18) additional BEBs by 2021, and the complete transition to a clean energy fleet by 2030.
In 2016, Big Blue Bus (an industry leader in sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices), pledged to convert 100-percent of its fleet from natural gas to zero emissions by 2030. Nearly three (3) years later, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a statewide regulation (Innovative Clean Transit) that mandates public transit agencies fully adopt a zero emissions bus fleet by 2040. There are currently 200 public transit agencies in California, which collectively operate roughly 12,000 buses.
CARB estimates that full adoption of the regulation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons between 2020 and 2050 -- that's equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road. Further, in March 2019, Bloomberg reported that for every 1,000 electric buses on the road, demand for roughly 500 barrels of diesel is displaced each day.
As a public transit agency, we have a responsibility to safely connect people to opportunities that enrich their well-being, and we must do so in a manner that greatly contributes to the preservation of people, place, and planet. This principle, along with state and local goals for zero emissions buses, has guided our important work toward the adoption of BEBs, and strengthened our commitment to sustainability and the environment.
In July 2018, Santa Monica City Council approved a sixth modification to BBB's existing agreement with GILLIG, a California-based bus manufacturer, which allowed the agency to purchase one (1) 40-foot prototype BEB.
In May 2018, Big Blue Bus received a grant from the California State Transportation Agency's Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), for the purchase of ten (10) additional zero emissions battery electric buses in 2021. TIRCP funding is provided through Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) and from the proceeds of the Cap-and-Trade Program. The TIRCP program provides major benefits towards meeting the State's climate and air quality goals, and has contributed to a total reduction of more than 32 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Big Blue Bus is seeking additional federal, state, and local funds to help purchase and deploy a total of eighteen (18) electric buses by 2021.
The Road to Zero
Here's how our path to an all-electric future began, and what the road ahead looks like:
- June 2016: The City of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) pledges to convert 100-percent of its bus fleet from natural gas to zero emissions by 2030.
- April 2018: Santa Monica City Council reviews findings from a Fleet Composition Study conducted by Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), assessing the economic and environmental benefits of converting BBB's fleet to zero emissions. Based on the study's findings, Council reaffirms the agency's commitment to full zero emissions by 2030, and its desire to purchase one (1) of five (5) prototype BEBs, to be manufactured by GILLIG and Cummins in December 2018.
- May 2018: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approves BBB's request to purchase and put into service one (1) GILLIG/Cummins prototype BEB. Separately, BBB receives a grant from the California State Transportation Agency's Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), for the purchase of ten additional (10) BEBs.
- July 2018: Santa Monica City Council approves BBB's request to modify its existing agreement with GILLIG, allowing the agency to purchase one (1) 40-foot prototype BEB. Council also approves an agreement with the Center of Transportation Excellence (CTE), to help BBB staff understand how best to purchase, deploy, and operate BEBs.
- January 2019: GILLIG and Cummins begin production of the prototype BEB.
- June 2019: GILLIG and Cummins complete production of the prototype BEB. BBB deploys two (2) ChargePoint Express 250 fast chargers on-site, each capable of fully charging the bus in under four (4) hours.
- July 2019: BBB receives delivery of the prototype BEB. The bus undergoes a series of performance tests (i.e. route, charge, and rate modeling) to help staff determine the most efficient operating conditions.
- August 2019: The prototype BEB officially goes into service, replacing an aging 2004 LNG-powered bus that reached the end of its useful life, in accordance with BBB’s vehicle replacement plan.
- October 2019: BBB enters into an agreement with Stantec Architecture Inc., to develop a work plan for upgrading its facilities to accommodate a full zero emissions fleet.
- April 2020: BBB will complete the re-powering of fifty-seven (57) buses with Cummins Westport L9N engines, helping to reduce our total nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by a projected 95% (or 332,857 lbs), by the end of 2021.
- 2021: Leveraging lessons learned from operating its prototype BEB, BBB will purchase and deploy eighteen (18) additional BEBs.
- Ongoing: BBB will continue to identify funding opportunities and best practices for purchasing and deploying future zero emission buses.
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