C40 FSCI: On-the-Tarmac Lessons for Accelerating Electric Bus Deployment

By Anthony Courreges (Clean Transportation Finance Manager) and Anelise Rosa (Project Manager), C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative

Cities are increasingly turning to electric buses to improve air quality, reduce GHG emissions and reduce operating costs. Despite growing interest in this new technology, cities still face a number of barriers to full-scale electrification of their fleets. The C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative (FSCI) and Zero Emission Vehicles Network are working together to support members in overcoming these challenges by exploring innovative business models to finance electrification of municipal bus fleets.

Peer-to-peer learning is an integral part of this work and is an effective way to accelerate climate action in cities, especially when a city is looking to finance the adoption of a new technology. C40 and the FSCI have found “study tours” to be some of the most effective and impactful modes of peer-to-peer learning. These tours allow city representatives to engage directly with their peers who have first-hand experience, and to ask questions relevant to their home contexts.

On Monday 17 September, the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative, in collaboration with the Zero Emission Vehicle Network and funded by the Citi Foundation, conducted two such study tours on opposite sides of the globe: one in Los Angeles, and one in London. 

Delegates from eThekwini (Durban) visit Los Angeles

Delegation is pictured at a visit to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation bus depot. Pictured (from left to right): Tommy Melendez (LADOT), Anthony Courreges (C40), Martha D’Andrea (LADOT), Musa Mbhele (eThekwini Municipality), Councilor Sipho Kaunda (eThekwini Municipality), Krish Kumar (eThekwini Municipality), Malcolm Joshua (eThekwini Municipality), Brian Lee (LADOT).

The first “study tour” brought a delegation from eThekwini (Durban) to Los Angeles. South Africa’s eThekwini Municipality (Durban) has developed a Low Emissions Strategy, in conjunction with a commitment from Mayor Zandile Gumede to implement an electric bus pilot program for electric buses. However, the city is still in need of more benchmarking data to help them move forward. After first discussing their shared transit goals with Los Angeles at two C40 Clean Bus Finance Academy events in London (2017) and Quito (2018), the Durban delegation hoped to learn from the city’s experience with a low emissions policy and critical operational considerations like charging strategies, electric bus ranges, and methods for ensuring a stable electricity supply.

During the tour, the group had the chance to hop onboard an LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) electric bus and tour a new bus depot which will house 26 electric buses and over 330kW of photovoltaic solar panels by early 2019. The group also visited Foothill Transit, a regional transit agency, to see electric buses in action at a local end stop where they’re recharged using a fast-charging reversed pantograph system (see video below). The delegation was particularly impressed by the agency’s iterative approach to electrification. 

Delegation visit of Foothill Transit’s on-route charging facility in Pomona. Pictured (from left to right): Brian Lee (LADOT), Tommy Melendez (LADOT), Malcolm Joshua (eThekwini Municipality), Councilor Sipho Kaunda (eThekwini Municipality), Krish Kumar (eThekwini Municipality), Musa Mbhele (eThekwini Municipality), Kevin Parks McDonald (Foothill Transit), Martha D’Andrea (LADOT).

The tour also made a stop at the Proterra manufacturing facility, an American electric bus manufacturer based in California. The group discussed innovative ownership models involving battery leasing that could limit the upfront capital cost of electric buses, while guaranteeing a suitable level of performance for the batteries over the lifetime of the vehicles.

The tour gave the Durban delegation the chance to collaborate with their counterparts at LADOT. Discussions focused on operational and maintenance considerations as well as Los Angeles’s recent efforts to work with other transit agencies in the region  and the joint procurement of electric buses. Los Angeles representatives presented on the development of a joint procurement schedule for the State of California, an exciting development catalysed by support from the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative. 

Senior State Officials from Tamil Nadu visit London

The second “study tour” brought Senior State Officials from Tamil Nadu to London. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu operates over 22,000 buses, carrying millions of passengers every day. Following commitments to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at both the national and local level, the state is looking to electrify its bus fleet while also maintaining a high operational capacity. 

London has been working on a roadmap toward large-scale electrification of municipal vehicles, providing a wealth of knowledge to share in this peer-to-peer learning process. London’s density and high demand for public transport made it an ideal resource for senior officials from Tamil Nadu.

The group met with representatives from Transport for London (TfL), to discuss TfL’s experience with implementing electric buses and the organization’s future objectives. Specific attention was paid to TfL’s unique contracting approach to running London’s bus service and how this integrates with the city’s roadmap to a zero emission fleet by 2037

Delegation visit to GoAhead London’s electric bus garage at Waterloo. Pictured (from left to right): Anelise Rosa (C40); Anna Peiris (C40); Richard Harrington (Engineering Director at Go-Ahead London);  Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar (Government of Tamilnadu); PWC Davidar (Government of Tamil Nadu); Mike Weston (Independent).

The day concluded at Go-Ahead London’s pioneering Waterloo Bus Garage. This one-acre site serves as the sole garage for 51 pure electric buses operating on two routes through the heart of London, carrying a combined total of seven million passengers per year. This visit provided unique insight into financial, mechanical and maintenance considerations, driver training, and the complex process of redesigning a parking plan for the vehicles that accounts for new charging infrastructure with limited space.  

No matter where they take place, C40 “study tours” have a shared objective of helping cities to learn directly from those who have ‘walked the walk’. Although these two tours took place over 5,000 miles apart, discussions about topics such as driver training and effective charging strategies came up for both groups. With these new learnings, both Durban and Tamil Nadu are now better equipped to progress more efficiently towards an electrified fleet. By facilitating the open exchange of real-world knowledge, the C40 FSCI is helping cities overcome financial barriers to realise a clean, green and prosperous future.

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The Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative (FSCI), funded by the Citi Foundation, is a partnership between the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group that helps cities accelerate and scale-up investments in sustainable urban solutions through the development of innovative business models.

More information on the FSCI can be found here, or by contacting fsci@c40.org. More information on the C40 Zero Emissions Vehicle Network can be found here.