The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is coordinating among transit agencies in northern Virginia on the transition to zero-emission bus (ZEB) fleets. NVTC's Northern Virginia Zero-Emission Bus Strategic Plan outlines regional strategies to help the agencies reach sustainability goals while providing safe, reliable and cost-effective transit service to riders.
ZEBs produce zero tailpipe emissions and can be either battery-electric buses (BEBs) or hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs). However, NVTC says the transition to ZEB's presents challenges:
- Cost and funding—ZEBs typically cost more than $1 million per bus and require new charging or fueling infrastructure
- Operational differences—Current BEBs cannot replace diesel buses on a 1:1 basis for all routes due to their shorter ranges
- Availability—Grid capacity for BEBs and hydrogen supply for FCEBs remain critical pathways to successfully implementing ZEBs
- Workforce development—Whether a BEB or a FCEB, ZEBs require new skills for the transit workforce
NVTC's strategies include actions that are already underway, such as facilitating a ZEB working group and educating staff and local elected officials on ZEB advancements. The plan also identifies the quick wins NVTC can begin in 2024 and build from in the coming years.
NVTC's ZEB strategies include:
- Serve as a regional ZEB forum
- Advocate for consistent and supportive ZEB standards and policies
- Provide regional ZEB funding coordination
- Support development of shared BEB charging infrastructure
- Evaluate opportunities for private partnerships related to ZEBs
- Support ZEB workforce training and education
"We recognize that transitioning Northern Virginia's local bus fleets away from fossil fuels will have multiple benefits for the region," said Matt de Ferranti, NVTC chair. "However, we also know it's a massive undertaking that requires deep understanding of all the needs and challenges ahead for our transit agencies. This Northern Virginia Zero-Emission Bus Strategic Plan will provide valuable insight to guide this work."