LA transitioning to fully electric bus fleet – but is it really the answer?

Los Angeles is to transition to a fully electric, zero-emissions bus fleet by 2030, according to recently announced plans.

The Californian city has a reputation for extreme bouts of smog, something city authorities hope the electricity transition will help to alleviate.

2,200 vehicles will be purchased as part of the transition, which is expected to last ten years and cost $1 billion (€854 million).

"Today's vote represents an enormous investment in the future of a healthy and prosperous Los Angeles," said Hilda Solis, a Metro Board Member, according to Phys.org.

Currently, LA’s bus fleet operates on compressed natural gas (CNG), which was considered the most environmentally friendly option in the 1990s when the buses were purchased.


Are electric vehicles really the answer?

The LA announcement follows a growing global trend that has seen governments and industry throw their support behind electric vehicles.

Earlier in July, both the French and UK governments announced plans to ban the sale of diesel and petrol fuelled cars in their respective countries, with the aim of reaching emissions and clean air targets. Swedish manufacturer Volvo meanwhile, has announced that all of its cars built from 2019 onwards will have an electric motor.

These moves have proven controversial, attracting criticism from the car and biofuels industries, while environmental groups have argued that the distant targets are delaying solutions to emissions problems.

As Biofuels International reported recently, a leading expert on renewables has questioned the green credentials of electric vehicles.

“You have to look at the energy consumption and emissions of the manufacturing of new electric vehicles,” said Devin Walker, chief technical officer of Renovare Fuels. “In some circumstances the manufacturing of the batteries and electric cars themselves produce even more harmful emissions which must be accounted for in the overall life cycle impact of the vehicle electrification movement.”

Walker also pointed to the emissions needed to power electric vehicles as another issue that needed to be addressed.

“You will notice that Volvo doesn't specifically state it will manufacture only fully electric cars.  Instead, it is being realistic in stating that hybrids will be a major focus in vehicle manufacturing.  This is because in certain circumstances, the power requirements and consumption rates of vehicles, buses, and heavy equipment make fully electric applications unrealistic; ultimately contributing to even higher overall life cycle emissions than compared to liquid fuel applications.”

“Clean energy technologies are now rapidly advancing towards the use of biomass feedstocks to produce liquid fuels. Utilising these renewable liquid fuel production technologies effectively uses the carbon already present in our atmosphere and incorporates it into the backbone of the fuel molecule, therefore closing the carbon life cycle loop.”

To find out more about the biofuels market come and visit the tenth Biofuels International Conference & Expo.  Register now for Biofuels International 2017 for two days of essential learning to network with experts, sharpen your biofuels knowledge and improve your skills, on 4-5 October.

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