Zero Emission Electric Buses

The push for clean transportation is as much about cleaning our urban air as it is preventing global climate disruption.  Zero emission buses (ZEBs) offer a great way to get people where they want to go, while reducing the number of vehicles on the road to create safer streets for pedestrians.  They also present a huge opportunity to slash pollution in our more vulnerable communities where diesel & hybrid-diesel buses most frequently operate.

A zero emission bus uses electricity to power a battery, and a number of companies are manufacturing zero emission buses that operate without overhead wires.  This means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, and no cough-inducing exhaust.  They achieve 3-4 times the per-mile efficiency of hybrid-diesel & compressed natural gas buses, while offering (as the name suggests) zero tailpipe emissions.  Even after factoring in the emissions from the electricity used to power them, each zero emission bus will reduce carbon emissions by upwards of 270,000 pounds per year compared to diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. 

You Might Be Riding In One Already

Here in Massachusetts, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority is currently operating six ZEBs on daily routes.  Next time you ride Worcester Transit, take a look.  You may be riding electric!  The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority of Massachusetts introduced three ZEBs into their fleet in September 2016.  Several other transit authorities across the country, including Seattle, WA and Los Angeles, CA have also adopted battery-electric buses into their fleets and are already seeing the benefits. The state of California has committed to transitioning its entire 12,000+ bus fleet to zero emission buses by the year 2040, and requires all new purchases to be zero emission starting in 2029.

Zero Emission Electric Bus from PVTA in Holyoke, Robert Kearns

Massachusetts is receiving $75M in funding through the Volkswagen Settlement for clean transportation programs that reduce smog causing oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is the lead agency for distributing these funds.  In July 2018, MassDEP announced the Year 1 phase of these investments. Both the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority were awarded a total of $11 million to procure more zero emission buses. An additional $5 million was allocated to the state's MassEVIP program, and another $7.5 million was made available for proposals through an application process. Read our Volkswagen Settlement Factsheet for Cities and Towns to advocate for use of these funds in your community.

Massachusetts Sierra Club remains active in advocating for a zero emission public transit system. We are working alongside community partners and building a strong coalition to push for an accelerated transition to electric buses. For more detailed information on the benefits of zero emission buses, check out our Zero Emission Bus Flyer and Factsheet, and this informative article entitled "For U.S. Transit Agencies, The Future for Buses Is Electric".


October 27, 2021: Zero Emission Coalition letter on MBTA Bus Fleet Electrification 

October 27, 2021: Legislative and Municipal Letter on MBTA Bus Fleet Electrification

January 11, 2021:Joint Letter to the MBTA Board regarding Bus Fleet Electrification and Modernization of Bus Facilities

October 13, 2020: ZEV Coalition Letter on Quincy Bus Facility

June 23, 2020: Joint Letter to Baker Administration on ZEV Policies

May 18, 2020: Recommendations on Structure of Successor Fiscal and Management Control Board at MBTA

January 13, 2020: Joint Statement on Bus Facility Modernization

December 5, 2019 "Coalition Call on State to Accelerate Switch to Electric Buses"

October 10, 2019: "Electrify Our Public Transit"

September 23, 2019: Public Comments on Fleet Electrification

June 10, 2019: Bus Fleet Investments in 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan

April 27, 2019 Commonwealth Magazine: "MBTA's Electrification Priorities Stuck in Traffic"

March 14, 2019 Commonwealth Magazine: "Use VW Settlement to electrify bus fleet" by State House Representatives Barber, Hecht, Robinson, Rogers

March 4, 2019: Public Comments on MBTA Fare Increase, Bus Fleet and Facilities Plan

September 10, 2018 Letter from over 100 Boston businesses urging MBTA to advance adoption of electric buses

August 17, 2018 Joint Response to draft VW Beneficiary Mitigation Plan

April 17, 2018 Commonwealth Magazine: "Mass. needs to move much faster on electric buses" by Mayors Stephanie Burke and David Narkewicz

March 2, 2018 Letter to Pioneer Valley Legislators on Impact of PVTA Budget Cuts on Fleet Electrification

Volkswagen Settlement Factsheet for Cities and Towns

January 25, 2018 Letter to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) on Roadmap to Electric Bus Fleet

November 10, 2017 Written Testimony on Fleet Electrification at Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

October 26, 2017 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Bus Cost Analysis

October 13, 2017, Vineyard Gazette: VTA Receives Large Grant for Electric Buses

September 14, 2017 Mayors Electric Bus Coalition Letter Calling on State Department of Transportation to Accelerate Shift to Electric Transit Buses

December 1, 2016 Coalition Letter to Secretary Pollack, CEO, Department of Transportation urging faster integration of zero emission buses into state transit fleets

September 15, 2016 PressReader video: Sierra Club Electric Vehicles Initiative Director Gina Coplon-Newfield on why electric vehicles will save you money and decrease pollution

May 17, 2016 PVTA to Introduce Electric Buses on Holyoke-Springfield Line

October 22, 2015 Study: Cities Could Save Millions By Switching to Electric Buses

October 2, 2015 Meet The Electric Bus That Could Push Every Other Polluting Bus Off The Road