With no metro or tramway at present, some 5 million people, or almost 70 percent of commuters, travel by diesel buses around Bogotá each day. As a result, the city has one of the highest levels of sulphur dioxide pollution of the Latin American Green City Index cities.
However, a plan to replace most existing diesel buses with hybrid and full electric systems, as well as introduce and grow the city’s fleet of electric taxis, will help decrease high pollution levels and carbon emissions.
The city began tackling its air pollution and congestion problems in the year 2000 with the introduction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, TransMilenio. Now, of a city bus fleet of almost 18,000, around 2,000 are part of the BRT network (many articulated and some hybrid models) running on a network of 87km and carrying some 1.5 million passengers per day.
The BRT network has been expanded over the years and a third phase of 36km is under construction.
The city began testing electric and hybrid buses on some routes last year, and took part in the Latin American Hybrid Electric Bus Test Programme (HEBTP), an initiative designed to test hybrid and all-electric buses in Latin America, in real-world conditions. Bogotá’s goal is to replace thousands of buses with low-emissions vehicles by the end of next year, making it one of the most ambitious electric vehicle programmes in the world. Two hundred hybrid feeder buses are currently in production and expected to be running within the next three months.
To complement these initiatives, in 2013 a fleet of 46 electric taxis is to begin operating in Bogotá as part of a pilot project. Taxi cabs have the largest CO2 emissions per passenger in the city. A conversion to electric vehicle technology is expected to avoid the daily consumption of seven gallons of fossil fuel per vehicle, thereby cutting operating costs by more than 80 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70 percent across the soon-to-be 50-strong taxi fleet.
Bogotá’s existing BRT is already widely credited with significantly reducing carbon emissions – by some 350,000 tonnes annually – and has been the first major transport scheme in the world to earn Kyoto carbon credits.
The city is working closely with bus operators, and funders like the World Bank and IDB to examine and promote innovative financing options. The city’s participation in the HEBTP reflects this commitment, by generating concrete data that operators could use to demonstrate the viability of electric and hybrid bus technology.
If Bogotá’s scaling-up of electric and hybrid vehicle initiatives are successful, it could feasibly pave the way for other cities with BRT systems to replicate its technology and funding models.