This week, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously to transition its transit fleet to 50 percent electric vehicles by 2035.
Meanwhile in neighboring Broward County, environmental activists say they expect lawmakers there to officially support moving to a 100 percent electric transit fleet within the next week. And Pinellas County’s transit system will begin running its first two electric transit buses beginning next week in downtown St. Petersburg.
At a press conference in front of City Hall in St. Petersburg today, Congressman Charlie Crist announced that for the second year in a row, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Trust Administration is issuing a $1 million low-emission federal grant to Pinellas. Transportation authorities plan to have six electric buses running by 2020.
The push for Florida transit agencies to convert their buses to electric has been strongly advocated by the Sierra Club.
“Choosing zero emission, battery-electric buses eliminates the 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide, 10 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 350 pounds of diesel particulate matter that a traditional bus emits over 12 years,” says Emily Gorman, an organizing representative with the Miami-Dade Sierra Club.
The City of Tallahassee earlier this year also received a $1 million federal grant for its transit agency, StarMetro to replace its aging diesel buses with 15 new electric buses.
Electric buses are more expensive than diesel buses, but advocates say that those costs may be offset in the long run. Gorman says for Miami-Dade County’s fleet of 800 buses, a 50 percent zero emission bus commitment is projected to save the county about $80 million over 12 years.
The transition from moving to diesel to electric buses is happening nationally, but on a gradual basis. Out of more than 65,000 public buses on the roads, just 300 are electric, according to a Reuters report from last December.
Those figures are expected to rise in the coming years, with expectations that by 2025, at least 5 percent of bus fleets are expected to be electric.
America’s use of electric busses is dwarfed by other places in the world. China, for example, had close to 400,000 electric buses operating in 2017, reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance.