SunLine’s fleet will be emission free by 2035

July 14, 2020
The transit agency’s board of directors approved a plan that will convert SunLine’s full fleet to zero-emission vehicles five years ahead of a California mandate.

SunLine Transit Agency’s fleet of vehicles will be completely emission free by 2035 following approval of its Zero-Emissions Bus Rollout Plan by SunLine Transit’s Board of Directors on June 24.  

“SunLine Transit Agency wanted to ensure that we submitted our plan early to allow for other small to mid-size systems to have a model to follow. It also positions SunLine to be first in line for any grants or funding programs that expand our zero-emission program,” said SunLine Transit Agency CEO/General Manager Lauren Skiver. “Our agency has a reputation for taking on a number of ‘firsts’ in the industry, and it is an honor to be a part of the progress made for clean air and alternative fuel technology.”

Back in 2000, SunLine Transit began a 13-month demonstration program using the first Buy-America compliant fuel cell bus to be placed in U.S. service. Since then, the agency has added 15 hydrogen electric fuel-cell buses and four battery-electric buses to its fleet.

The agency has also completed construction of a hydrogen electrolyzer in 2019, which has created infrastructure that promotes low- and zero-emission technology for the region and sets SunLine up well to establish a fleet that is entirely zero emission. The electrolyzer can produce 900 kg-H2/day, which is enough to satisfy demand for 32 buses.

SunLine says its completion of its hydrogen electrolyzer is an important step not only for the Coachella Valley, but also for fuel cell vehicle adoption across the country.

“SunLine’s innovative step positions the agency as a forerunner, leading the way to zero-emission solutions,” said the agency.

The board-approved rollout plan calls for all new fixed-route vehicle purchases to be zero-emission buses starting in 2021. The last compressed natural gas (CNG) buses purchased will be when the fleet has fully transitioned to zero-emission as each bus will operate for its entire 12-14-year useful life. SunLine Transit’s CNG paratransit vehicles will be phased out of the fleet by 2030.

The final fleet composition – 67 fixed route fuel-cell buses, 18 fixed route battery-electric buses and 39 paratransit fuel-cell vehicles – was determined to maximize performance and minimize cost.

The California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) Innovative Clean Transit Regulation was passed in December 2018 and requires all public transit agencies transition to a zero-emission fleet by 2040. Part of the mandate is a board-approved rollout plan that describes how an agency will transition to a zero-emission fleet.

SunLine Transit had until 2023 to submit a rollout plan to CARB, but the agency says its submission of the rollout plan is a first for a small-sized agency in the state.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.