All Aboard: Broward County Sets Goal to Transition to All Electric Buses

When it comes to a clean energy future, you can talk about it, or you can take action. Broward County, Florida is taking action - it recently set an ambitious goal to electrify its fleet by 2030.

George Cavros | September 18, 2019 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Florida

When it comes to a clean energy future, you can talk about it, or you can take action.

Broward County is a shining example of taking action today to realize the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy now and well into the future. Broward, the second-most populous county in Florida, recently set an ambitious goal to electrify its fleet by 2030. That commitment includes not only its general-purpose vehicles but also its transit buses.

Broward is in the process of purchasing 5 electric buses that it will use on its I-75 express routes by early 2020. It is committed to purchasing another 15 buses in the near term. As it considers a vendor for its current purchase, it’s doing its due diligence by testing out buses from each vendor to see how they perform in the south Florida heat, in all types of weather generally, and to determine how stops/starts and A/C use affect performance. The range of the buses is approximately 150 miles.

The County is actively working with Florida Power and Light to assess its infrastructure needs for charging the buses. Therefore, as it purchases more buses, it is planning ahead for the charging stations to support them.

Cost savings, pollution reduction

The upfront cost today of purchasing an electric bus is higher than a conventional diesel bus, but over the lifetime of the vehicle, the buses offer significant cost savings. The maintenance of an electric bus is just a fraction of what’s needed for a conventional bus. Charging the bus with electrons is a lot cheaper than pumping liquid fuel into it. For example, the Chicago Transit Authority is saving $25,000 per year in fuel per electric bus – that’s a $300,000 savings over the life of an electric bus.

The electric fleet goal will also help the County meet its targets under its Climate Change Action Plan. A recent study examined electricity generation in all parts of the country and factored that into the environmental friendliness of electric buses throughout their lifecycle. It found that electric battery buses are 2.5 times cleaner in terms of lifecycle emissions than conventional diesel buses. That means a cleaner, healthier Broward County, especially in heavily traveled urban areas.

Even more exciting is that the County is expanding its rooftop solar development by 2.5 MW. Some of the new solar development will be at County bus depots – that means that many of the electric buses on the road could be powered by clean, renewable solar power in the future – effectively driving on sunshine.

Look up, or you might just miss the bus

I recently had the pleasure of going out with the County’s Transportation Director, Dr. Chris Walton, and County staff on a test drive of the Proterra electric bus. The first thing I noticed is just how quiet the bus is when it’s on. With the A/C off, you couldn’t tell if the bus was turned on, or off. So next time you are waiting at a Broward bus stop, pull your earphones out and look up, otherwise, you might just miss your bus!  The ride also got a thumbs-up from our bus operator, Heidi, who said she enjoyed driving the electric bus because she didn’t have to jump back for and forth so much between the accelerator and the brake due to the electric bus’s regenerative braking system.

As a member of the County’s Climate Change Task Force, I’m proud to see us taking affirmative action to reduce the impact of pollution on our air quality and climate – while saving money for residents. The County could leverage the funds from the Florida Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for the Volkswagen Settlement, and the County’s penny for transportation sales tax to build its electric bus fleet going forward. If you’re a local elected leader and want to transition your municipality’s fleet to electric vehicles, visit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s EV policy toolkit.

Given the cost savings of electric buses and the cleaner air and climate benefits, municipalities in Florida and around the country simply can’t afford anymore not to invest in electrifying their bus fleets.

George Cavros
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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