Accelerating Bus Electrification: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Barriers and Drivers to Scaling Transit Fleet Electrification

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, place - urban, infrastructure - vehicle, infrastructure - fleet management, economics - operating costs, economics - subsidy, economics - capital costs, technology - emissions, technology - alternative fuels, planning - service level


Transit buses, Greenhouse gas emissions, clean technology, operating cost


Although transit buses have a relatively small impact on greenhouse gas emissions, they have a larger impact on urban air quality, have commercially available electric models, and have historically commercialized clean technologies that enabled deployment in other heavy-duty vehicles. This paper investigates what factors affect transit agencies’ decisions to go beyond electric bus pilots to larger scale deployments, with the goal of identifying strategies to enable an accelerated transition to an electrified fleet. This mixed methods analysis utilized quantitative total cost of ownership analysis and qualitative interviews to study the barriers and drivers of electric bus investment for transit fleets in three case study states: California, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. A total cost of ownership analysis estimated electric buses are already more cost-effective than diesel buses in many agency contexts, but are sensitive to key parameters such as annual mileage, fossil fuel costs, and electricity tariffs and supporting policies that vary widely. Though multiple agencies in California reported planning to fully electrify their fleets, outside California where less supportive policies exist, fewer agencies reported planning to procure additional electric buses, primarily owing to high first cost and undesirable tradeoffs with maintaining transit service levels. Interview respondents also reported other substantial barriers such as oversubscribed grant programs, charging infrastructure costs, electricity costs, and additional operational complexity, suggesting a need for multiple complementary policies to overcome these barriers and ensure agencies can transition to a new technology without affecting transit service.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.