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Next Steps Toward Zero-Emission Motor Coach Fleet

Friday, November 15, 2019

Test run of the prototype, a 40' battery-electric bus. (SFMTA Photo, June 2018)​​​

Last week, the SFMTA Board of Directors authorized a pilot to procure and operate battery-electric buses. Now the agency can move forward to purchase three 40-ft buses from three different battery-electric bus (BEB) manufacturers and test their performance in revenue service for one year. The first-of-a-kind buses are expected to arrive in the fall 2020 timeframe.

Throughout the pilot, detailed data on the BEBs' performance will be collected. At the end of the test program, we will evaluate the feasibility of operating an all-electric bus fleet and implement future procurement strategy. Throughout this process, the SFMTA will also be evaluating how effectively the battery-electric buses can deliver the same standard of reliability and service as our current hybrid-electric and trolley bus fleet.

Progress in Battery-Electric Technology Benefits Transportation Industry

The SFMTA, which has operated a network of zero-emission vehicles for almost 85 years, today operates the greenest transit system of any major city in North America. Muni currently operates more than 900 buses, which include 650 hybrid electric buses and 275 zero-emission trolleybuses, accounting for roughly 26 percent of all trips in San Francisco, yet generates only 0.03 percent of the City's transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. 

But in continued efforts to reduce the transportation sector's carbon footprint further, the agency's fleet engineering staff researched different technologies available for zero-emission transit buses, including battery-electric and fuel cell electric bus technology.

Benefits of Battery-Electric Buses

  • BEBs generate zero greenhouse gas emissions because they are powered by a battery and does not require any fossil fuel to operate. 

  • Like our other zero-emission vehicles, the BEBs will be charged overnight using our 100 percent greenhouse gas-free Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power.

  • BEBs don't produce harmful exhaust that reduces air quality.

Service improvement features:

  • BEBs have lower maintenance costs which will allow the SFMTA to dedicate more resources to serving our passengers.

  • BEBs have significantly reduced noise levels, making them more pleasant to ride.

Going Green

In May 2016, SFMTA Fleet Engineering staff reviewed prototype buses from five long-range battery-electric bus manufacturers in an internal technical study to evaluate both their technology capabilities and their compliance with Federal Transit Administration Buy America requirements. The study identified three battery-electric bus manufacturers that could meet the technological and Buy America requirements: New Flyer, Proterra Inc. and BYD. Since this study, Gillig and Nova Bus have also announced long-range battery-electric buses which will meet the Buy America requirements.

Two years later the SFMTA board of directors approved the SFMTA's Zero Emission Vehicle Policy supporting its commitment to an all-electric battery bus fleet by 2035. The policy mandates that the SFMTA only purchase all-electric battery buses starting in 2025. The BEB pilot serves as that first step toward achieving that goal.

Whether we are investing in new sustainable technologies or modernizing our existing fleet, the SFMTA is doing our part to eliminate San Francisco's carbon footprint by making our transit fleet even greener.

This pilot project also contributes to the City's Climate Action Strategy goals and supports the City's voter-approved Transit-First Policy established in 1973.

Drop us a comment, we'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.