California's Air Resources Board Mandates Zero Emission Buses

(Bloomberg) -- California’s Air Resources Board voted Friday to require public transit agencies throughout the state to commit to buying only zero-emission buses starting in 2029, a policy that boosts manufacturers including Proterra Inc. and China’s BYD Co.

The Innovative Clean Transit rule will force California’s public bus lines, many of which now run on diesel or natural gas, to shift to electric power or hydrogen fuel cells. The measure assumes the state’s bus fleet will turn over to zero-emission vehicles by 2040. Friday’s vote came after nearly three years of discussion and input from transit agencies, industry and public-health groups.

"This is the end of a long process, and we’ve planted a flag," said Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. "It’s a very important step forward."

Public buses are a key part of the nation’s over-taxed transit infrastructure, and a lifeline to school and work for passengers who can’t afford to hail a ride from their smartphone, much less buy a car. As the nation’s coal-fired power plants close, transportation is likely to eclipse electricity production as the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s already true in California, with transportation accounting for 41 percent of the state’s emissions, according to the Air Resources Board. The rise in vehicle miles traveled -- driven by longer commutes, a strong economy and a surge in package deliveries -- has undercut the state’s aggressive efforts to curb emissions.

“The industry is well primed for this,” Jimmy O’Dea, a senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said of the rule.

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