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Electrification on Public Transportation: How It's Changing Transit Infrastructure

electric bus

Electrification on Public Transportation: How It’s Changing Transit Infrastructure


The Pros and Cons of the Electrification of Public Transportation


As more cities become modernized and strive for greater sustainability, the electrification of public transit systems is a huge topic of conversation. Many see the move toward electrification of the public transit sector as critical to building more efficient and accessible communities. And the progress toward electrification continues to gain momentum worldwide. Cities like Oslo, Amsterdam, and Shenzhen lead the way, with fleets of electric buses flooding the streets.


As one of the leaders of the electrification movement in the Santa Clara Valley, Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric is keeping a close eye on how various cities integrate renewable energies into their public transportation systems and how individual home and business owners can take steps to join the electrification movement.


Read on to explore how the electrification of public transportation is changing transit infrastructures, along with the benefits and challenges of this movement.


Electrification Definition

Electrification is the growing movement away from fossil fuels to more renewable energies. While many people imagine this as adding solar power panels to their homes, driving electric vehicles, or switching to electric appliances, electrification can happen at a much larger scale, impacting entire cities.


In the public transportation sector, electrification is moving from gas and diesel-powered buses, trams, cable cars, and ferries to electric-powered modes of transportation. The electrification of public transportation might seem like something that will happen someday in the distant future, but it is already happening abroad and at home.


Electric buses are already on the road in cities across the globe. In the U.S., cities like Chicago and New York are electrifying their public transportation systems, hoping to be completely electric in the coming years. Los Angeles is committed to being completely electric by 2030—that’s over 2,300 buses.


Even smaller communities are exploring renewable energies for public transportation. In 2014, Breathe California, a leader in clean air initiatives, partnered with the Gilroy Unified School District to convert a diesel school bus into a fully electric, solar rechargeable vehicle. This school bus was just the start, and other communities follow Gilroy, CA’s lead.


The Benefits of Public Transportation Electrification

Cities worldwide are investing in electric public transportation options as more than just a fun science experiment. A host of benefits actually make electrification a superior way to serve the community.

  1. Reduced Air and Noise Pollution

Electric buses, trams, and ferries emit zero tailpipe emissions, and their engines also don’t produce the loud, jarring sounds associated with large people movers. The result is improved air quality, less noise pollution, and enhanced health for people and the environment.

Shenzhen, China, replaced over 16,000 diesel-powered buses with electric models, reducing carbon emissions by 1.35 million tons annually. As other cities follow suit, we’ll see a massive reduction in greenhouse gases produced by public transportation.

  1. Lower Running Costs

Electric vehicles, on the whole, have lower operating costs than gas or diesel vehicles, which makes electric transportation more affordable and efficient. Electric buses also require far less maintenance, have fewer moving parts, do not require oil changes, and are generally easier to maintain, leading to significant cost savings.

  1. Better Service Quality and Reliability

With fewer breakdowns or pauses in maintenance, riders can experience greater reliability. The days of being late to an appointment are long gone because the bus broke down. In addition, electric buses provide smoother and quieter rides, giving customers an overall better experience.

  1. Economic Growth

As cities adopt electric transportation, we will see the development of a robust supply chain for electric vehicles and their parts: batteries, charging stations, and more. These economies will scale to meet the growing need, which means more jobs and better local economies.

  1. Building a Low-Carbon World

Supporting the electrification of public transportation is a significant step toward achieving carbon neutrality. Reducing carbon emissions helps mitigate climate change and its impact. Electric buses do more than create jobs, lower operating costs, and reduce pollution—they also help create greater harmony with the planet.


Challenges and Barriers to Public Transportation Electrification

While implementing public transportation systems based on renewable energies comes with plenty of perks, there are also several significant barriers to consider.

  1. Higher Upfront Costs

Anyone who has shopped for an electric vehicle knows EVs cost more than gas-powered cars. The initial upfront costs of electric buses create entry barriers for many public transportation operators. On the other hand, the total cost of ownership is much lower, as electric vehicles cost less to operate and maintain.

  1. Lack of Charging Infrastructure

Adopting electric vehicles and buses requires a stronger charging infrastructure, and the lack of sufficient charging stations limits the range and availability of electric options. Luckily, the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act aims to invest over $370 billion into climate and clean energy initiatives, including building a broader charging infrastructure.

  1. Consumer Preferences

Even with all the perks of electric transportation, not everyone is ready to move. Consumer preferences are influenced by everything from convenience to familiarity, and nothing new is ever adopted quickly. Some passengers are reluctant to see their tax dollars go toward the unknown.

  1. Competition

Public transportation systems face competition from other modes of travel, like private cars and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. As people use these non-public services, public transportation faces competition, which could lead to a loss of funding or reduced interest in investing in electrification.

Watson’s: Your Guide to Electrification

If you are interested in doing your part in reducing carbon emissions and ushering in an era of electrification, Watson’s Charging Stations & Electric is your guide. We help home and business owners design, install, and maintain electrical systems that are better for the environment and your wallet. From home energy storage systems to electric vehicle charging stations, we can handle any electric job that comes your way.


Take the first step toward a brighter future, and give us a call to schedule your free consultation.