California campus switches to all-electric bus fleet

The University of California, Irvine is set to become the first college campus in the US to convert to an all-electric fleet of buses. The student-funded and student-operated shuttle service is acquiring 20 buses from BYD for USD 15 million.

The BYD (Build Your Dreams) buses will roll onto campus for the 2017-2018 year and provide more than 2 million pollution-free rides each year. Individual rides are free, but the undergraduate students voted in favour of paying up to USD 40 per quarter to the Associated Students of UCI to cover the bus purchase and other costs.

While other schools have added some alternative energy transportation in recent years, UCI is the first to completely scrap its traditional diesel fuel-powered buses, officials said in a statement.

“Once again, UCI is No. 1 in making sure we have a sustainable future,” said ASUCI President Tracy La. The campus has twice been voted the Sierra Club’s “Coolest School,” among other environmental awards.

Like many of her classmates, La has relied heavily on the buses to get between classes and her job. The campus has already has some hydrogen buses in service, which La called “a lot quieter, a lot cleaner”.

The move to switch to an all-electric fleet came as a result of a 2013 student referendum, which called to expand and update the popular but sometimes overcrowded campus transport system. A requirement that buses use clean energy helped that referendum pass. According to La, a survey of students last year found that their top priority was providing electric buses over conventional ones.

Although the production of hydrogen power and plug-in electricity does generate carbon dioxide, technology advances will make those energy sources carbon-free in the next few years, explained UCI engineering professor Scott Samuelsen.

UCI has pledged to emit net-zero carbon greenhouse gases from buildings and vehicles by 2025. Replacing diesel with electric buses will help the university slash tonnes of carbon dioxide and polluting soot each year.


Image credit: University of California, Irvine

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