California Issues First State Mandate for Zero-Emission Bus Fleet

On Friday, December 14, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously voted in favor of a mandate that will require public transit agencies in the state to have entirely carbon-free bus fleets by 2040.

The mandate, called the Innovative Clean Transit regulation, is the first of its kind in the United States, according to a press release from CARB.

“The Innovative Clean Transit regulation is part of a statewide effort to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40 percent of climate-changing gas emissions and 80 to 90 percent of smog-forming pollutants,” officials wrote in the release. “The transition to zero-emission technologies, where feasible, is essential to meeting California’s air quality and climate goals.”

According to CARB, there are 200 transit agencies in California, and eight of the state’s 10 largest agencies are already operating zero-emission buses, including battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. They are “particularly well suited” to transitioning to zero-emission technology for their fleet, according to the press release.

“A zero-emission public bus fleet means cleaner air for all of us. It dramatically reduces tailpipe pollution from buses in low-income communities and provides multiple benefits especially for transit-dependent riders,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “Putting more zero-emission buses on our roads will also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, and provides cost savings for transit agencies in the long run.”

According to an Associated Press story published on CBS San Francisco, California has existing federal and state subsidies as well as settlement money from the dispute with Volkswagen over the car manufacturer’s emission-cheating software; these funds are available to help transit agencies absorb some of the higher costs of carbon-free buses.