In fact, when it comes to electric bus purchases, China is outpacing the United States by an astounding 421,000 to 300 as of the end of 2018.
Thanks to China’s massive investment in and support for electric buses, electrics are now racing past a 50% share of new bus sales worldwide, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg NEF (BNEF).
For decades, cities and countries have been trying to replace dirty diesel buses, which not only emit staggering amounts of urban air pollution and greenhouse gases, but they also routinely break down and need major repairs.
Cities around the world have tried buses running on a variety of cleaner alternatives to diesel, including natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, and electricity. But in recent years, it has become overwhelmingly clear that nothing can compete with electricity for the highest efficiency and performance along with lowest emissions and lifetime cost, including fuel and maintenance.
“Everything that has an urban drive cycle will ultimately be an electric vehicle,” Ryan Popple, the president and CEO of Proterra, the leading U.S. electric bus company, explained to ThinkProgress back in 2016.
But electric buses aren’t just winning because they have no tailpipe emissions. They are also so efficient they have one-fourth the per-mile fueling cost of regular diesel buses and the other alternatives — even running on renewable power, thanks to the rapid price drops of solar and wind power.
In addition, electric buses have considerably lower maintenance costs, as many studies have shown. So over the 10- to 12-year lifetime of a typical urban transport bus, an electric bus can save $400,000 in total operational costs compared to a typical diesel.
Back in 2016, a new electric bus only cost some $300,000 more than a diesel, so total lifetime savings could be as much as $100,000. But battery prices have been dropping so rapidly that the differential in upfront cost is now closer to $200,000.
The net lifetime savings from electric buses is thus growing rapidly. In China, subsidies and stringent pollution regulations have pushed more and more cities to switch over to electrics entirely.
Shenzen, the first Chinese city to switch to all electric buses, finished the transition in 2017 with the help of China’s $150,000-a-bus subsidy and a city-wide effort to accelerate the process. Today, the megacity of 13 million people has 16,000 electric buses.
Now Beijing is requiring major cities to establish deadlines to replace all diesel buses with electric ones. The UK Guardian reported in December that “more than 30 Chinese cities have made plans to achieve 100% electrified public transit by 2020,” including such megacities as Guangzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shandong.
How remarkable is China’s rapid adoption of electric buses? Electric vehicles (EVs) of every kind will displace a total of 350,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel this year, BNEF projects. Three-fourths of that displaced fuel will be from electric buses, 99% of which are in China.
In U.S. cities, purchasing decisions are often driven by upfront costs alone, which are still substantially higher for electric buses. That reality, together with the Trump administration’s general opposition to clean energy subsidies, has left U.S. electric bus sales languishing.
To help address that problem, Proterra launched a program in April that allows customers to lease the batteries over a 12-year period — rather than pay for the entire cost upfront. That will make the initial cost of the electric bus comparable to that of a diesel bus, making electrics more attractive to cash-strapped municipalities.
But such efforts pale in comparison to China’s gains. Beijing sees batteries and electric vehicles as a major strategic investment in a world increasingly focused on improving the air quality in polluted cities and preserving a livable climate.
The Chinese have a 99% stranglehold on production and use of electric batteries. The United States has little chance of matching China until we have a president and Congress that understand that the urgency and inevitability of a carbon-free future means the nation that makes the biggest bets on clean technology will reap the most rewards in the years to come.
May 23rd, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation. How small is it? Let’s put it this way. The King Ranch in Texas is bigger. Many states have counties that are larger than Rhode Island. It is affectionately known to those who live there as Little Rhody. But Rhode Island now has something most other states do not — an autonomous shuttle serving the capitol city of Providence.
Financed in part by money Rhode Island received from the Volkswagen diesel cheating settlement, a fleet of 6 passenger autonomous shuttles supplied by May Mobility began operating this week on a 5.3-mile fixed route that connects the downtown area with nearby Olneyville Square. The shuttles will operate with just a human minder aboard until it begins accepting passengers later this year.
There are no public buses along most of the route, which parallels the Moshasuck River. That area is defined by empty factories today but is rapidly attracting new business and residential buildings. The free shuttle will operate 7 days a week between 6:30 am and 6:30 pm, will help those who live near Olneyville (pronounced Oneyville by locals) commute to work or shop at the Providence Place Mall. There will be 12 predetermined stops along the way.
For the first few months, the Little Rhody shuttles will be used to gather data. Since they never vary from their assigned route, they rely on a system of cameras, radar, and other sensors that feed information to a central computer where a detailed digital map of the surroundings is stored.
Julia Gold, head of sustainability for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, tellsEcoRI News that autonomous vehicles today are like automobiles at the start of the last century. Back then, many cities required a person to walk in front of them waving a red flag and sounding a klaxon to warn pedestrians and horses that one of those newfangled machines was approaching.
“AVs are going to present a lot of challenges and they present a lot of questions about how we develop our communities,” she says. “We have a lot of questions that need answers. The end point is that we come away with valuable lessons that inform our next steps.”
At a meeting introducing the shuttle in April, members of the public had a number of questions. They wanted to know how the vehicles would avoid pedestrians and potholes, whether they would incite road rage, and how they will know to pull over for a passing firetruck or police car. The shuttles are limited to a top speed of 25 mph, but speed limits in Rhode Island are treated as suggestions by most Rhode Island drivers, as is stopping for red lights or using a turn signal.
“There may be some road rage at first but it also has the potential to increase safety in the neighborhood by encouraging people to drive the speed limit,” Gold says. Andrew Dykman, a mobility engineer for May Mobility, explained that the sensors, radar, and cameras affixed to the top and all sides of the vehicles offer greater awareness and faster reactions than a human driver.
The battery-powered autonomous vans are built for May Mobility at a factory in Anaheim, California operated by the electric vehicle division of Polaris Industries. The shuttles are already being used in Detroit, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 2017, May Mobility has received $33.6 in capital including a recent $22 million investment from hedge funds and private investors.
On its website, May Mobility says, “By partnering with urban planners, property managers, developers, and municipalities, we are building self-driving vehicles and mobility services that can transform the landscape of cities to be more green, vibrant and livable spaces. We listen closely to people in local communities to design and build human-centered solutions that meet real needs.”
Perhaps one day, our grandkids will ask in wide-eyed wonder, “You mean you actually used to drive to work?” Conventional wisdom has a way of becoming unconventional wisdom in the span of a few decades.
By Steve Hanley, 23 May 2019 on Clean Technica, Scientists Discover Sustainable Alternatives To Cement
In many parts of the world, residential and commercial buildings are made of concrete and/or concrete blocks. Concrete is strong and durable. It resists damage from water and pests. But making the cement which is used in concrete is responsible for 8% of the global emissions each year.
That’s a big deal. It’s almost 4 times as much as the carbon emissions from transoceanic and coastal shipping. Let’s put it another way. Cement production creates a third as much carbon pollution as the world’s entire transportation sector. If we are serious about reducing carbon emissions, we need to find environmentally friendly, low carbon alternatives to cement.
Scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg say they have done precisely that. In research published recently in the journal Construction and Building Materials, they describe how industrial residues can be used to produce high-quality, climate-friendly materials.
The basic raw material for cement is limestone, which is converted to cement clinker in large furnaces. Not only do those furnaces consume an enormous amount of energy, the environmental impact of the process is disastrously large. “Around one ton of carbon dioxide is released during cement production for every ton of limestone. The majority of this is emitted by the limestone itself,” Professor Herbert Pöllmann, a geoscientist at MLU, tells Science Daily.
Replacing the limestone in cement production would result in greatly reduced carbon emissions, but to find acceptance in the commercial world the new material would need to have the same beneficial properties as traditional cement. The scientists experimented with two kinds of industrial waste — kaolin and aluminum. Kaolin, also called china clay, is a soft white clay used in the manufacture of china and porcelain. It is widely used in the making of paper, rubber, paint, and many other products, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
“I don’t really like the term industrial waste. It is actually industrial residues that can still be used very effectively, for example to produce alternative forms of cement,” says Pöllmann. The researches investigated a number of different ratios of ingredients and analyzed the physical properties of the new cement products they formed. The biggest advantage is that both aluminum and kaolin contain no carbon dioxide that can be released during processing.
“You can use them to produce large quantities of cement that has great properties,” explains Pöllmann. He says producers could either switch completely to the more climate-friendly materials or produce cement mixtures that use a lower ratio of limestone and are therefore more climate friendly.
There are limits to the process, however. “There aren’t enough industrial residues to cover the global demand for cement,” Pöllmann says. So his team is also looking for suitable natural products such as volcanic ash or various mineral resources that have not yet been used industrially and that do not release carbon dioxide as well. As an example, there are other types of clay that could be substituted for kaolin.
Making cement with lower carbon emissions won’t save the planet all by itself, but it could make an important contribution to lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Earth will need all the help it can get to avoid an existential event that could threaten millions of species, including humans.
Producing cement takes a big toll on our climate: Around eight per cent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to this process. However, the demand for cement continues to rise. A team of geoscientists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has found a way to produce more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives. In the journal Construction and Building Materials they describe how industrial residues can be used to produce high-quality, climate-friendly materials.
The basic raw material for cement is limestone, which is converted to cement clinker in large furnaces. The environmental impact of this process is disastrous: “Around one tonne of carbon dioxide is released during cement production for every tonne of limestone. The majority of this is emitted by the limestone itself,” says Professor Herbert Pöllmann, a geoscientist at MLU. Replacing the limestone in cement production would result in an enormous savings potential, adds the researcher. However, the material produced would need to have the same beneficial properties as traditional cement.
In their search for alternative raw materials, the researchers from Halle came across two types of industrial waste: Residual materials from the production of kaolin and aluminium. “I don’t really like the term industrial waste. It is actually industrial residues that can still be used very effectively, for example to produce alternative forms of cement,” says Pöllmann. For the new study, his team tested different mixing ratios and analysed the physical properties of the newly produced cements. The study showed that the two industrial residual can be used to produce cements that have the same properties as conventional mixtures.
The advantage of the two residual materials that the mineralogists at MLU investigated is that they contain no carbon dioxide which could be released during further processing. “And you can use them to produce large quantities of cement that has great properties,” explains Pöllmann. In the new study, he and his team also describe in detail the mixing ratios and production steps of the more environmentally friendly cements. According to the researcher, producers could either switch completely to the more climate-friendly materials or produce cement mixtures that use a lower ratio of limestone and are therefore also more climate-friendly.
However, the process does have its limits: “There aren’t enough industrial residues to cover the global demand for cement,” says Pöllmann. Therefore, his team is also looking for suitable natural products such as volcanic ash or various mineral resources that have not yet been used industrially and that do not release carbon dioxide as well, for example various types of clay.
Sabrina Galluccio, Tobias Beirau, Herbert Pöllmann. Maximization of the reuse of industrial residues for the production of eco-friendly CSA-belite clinker. Construction and Building Materials, 2019; 208: 250 DOI: 10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2019.02.148
Electric bus adoption has lots of roadblocks: New reports offer solutions: New research from the World Resources Institute offers roadmap for electrifying mass transit