Why LA Metro Should Buy Both Electric and Natural Gas Buses


Move LA is urging the Metro Board of Directors to adopt the new bus purchase policy recommended by staff: that Metro purchase both electric buses as well as near-zero emission natural gas buses powered by Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)—with preference given to products manufactured in LA County. Below are some excerpts from Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane's letter to the Metro Board. You can read the entire letter HERE.

 . . . Transit fleets play a vital role in facilitating the deployment of cleaner advanced technologies in the much larger marketplace for heavy-duty trucks, which remain LA County’s biggest clean air challenge. Move LA believes truck operators can learn a lot from transit operators, and that bus fleets can serve to demonstrate the operational readiness of advanced heavy-duty engines and power systems in more complex and demanding duty cycles.

Staff has made a compelling case for the inclusion of buses powered by RNG, sometimes called biogas or biomethane, because their ultra-clean natural gas engines have been certified as near-zero-emission technologies, and because RNG removes methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. Other transit operators, including Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, have had success with RNG. We urge Metro to assume a leadership role in expanding its use.

Diesel emissions are a toxic air contaminant heavily implicated in the incidence of asthma and lung cancer. Transit can serve as a kind of “proving ground” that helps cleaner technologies gain acceptance in the heavy-duty truck marketplace. This is especially important since neither the state nor the South Coast AQMD had direct regulatory authority over truck emissions in California . . .

 . . . Battery electric vehicles still have range challenges. There may simply be a limit to the role that battery-powered electric engines can play in the larger heavy-duty vehicle universe: good for drayage trucking or in-basin delivery, but not appropriate for medium-range or long-haul trucking.

For those longer trips and more demanding duty cycles natural gas technologies perform well. Facilitating the deployment of heavy-duty engines powered by RNG in transit bus applications readies this technology to enter the longer haul heavy-duty marketplace.

That is an exceptionally important role for environmental purposes and Metro should treat that role as an important part of its mission. In the entire heavy-duty vehicle sector, it is not electric versus natural gas that is the relevant comparison here—it is both versus diesel . . .

 . . . Awareness of this important additional role for transit systems was taught to me by the late Carl Moyer with whom I worked in the 1990s on legislation that now bears his name, the Carl Moyer Program, one of our state’s most important clean air programs for advancing clean alternatives to diesel power in heavy- duty on and off-road applications. Carl was a technology expert, often used by the California Air Resources Board when it came to questions about heavy-duty vehicles, principally trucks. Carl had a deep understanding of both the operational elements as well as the emissions and environmental implications of all engine technologies that were candidates for the heavy-duty vehicle sector.

Carl would emphasize that while cleaning up transit buses was a vital agenda on its own, for public health and environmental justice reasons, the larger agenda needed to be getting all heavy-duty vehicles – trucks, trains, off-road vehicles like bulldozers and the like – off diesel fuel . . .

 . . .  . . . If Carl Moyer were here today I believe that he would say that the transit bus sector best serves our larger community’s environmental goals as well as its own performance objectives by treating both electric powered and near-zero emission RNG technologies as important components of our fleet. Otherwise we will be conceding to diesel a continuing and dominant role in long-haul trucking.

Read the entire letter HERE.

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