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SF aims for fully electric bus fleet by 2035

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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted Tuesday to convert to an all-electric fleet by 2035. (Examiner file photo)

The City’s transit authority passed a resolution Tuesday to convert its hybrid buses to a fully electric fleet by 2035.

The resolution calls for buses purchased after 2025 to be 100 percent battery powered and the entire San Francisco fleet to be completely electric by 2035.

While advocates say that transition can’t come soon enough, city officials said it could cost San Francisco hundreds of millions of dollars.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority is moving toward transitioning the more than 800 buses in its fleet to run on battery-powered energy that simply plugs in and charges, “similar to a Prius,” according to agency officials.

However, John Haley, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s transit director, said “It will cost us hundreds of millions of dollars” to get the charging network installed in city garages and facilities.

Green energy advocates think that the 2035 goal is too conservative, and note that Los Angeles recently promised that their city buses would be completely electric five years sooner.

“We think staff is being a little overly conservative, we have transportation agencies up and down the state who are on a much faster time schedule,” said Paul Cort, an attorney at EarthJustice. “The idea that somehow we should be slower than some place like L.A., or even Stockton, is a little frustrating.”

The agency said that the cost of converting the fleet, paired with the unproven battery technology in the new, electric buses, are reasons to remain cautious.

“We would rather underpromise than underdeliver,” said Ed Reiskin, the SFMTA’s director of transportation.

The transit agency will start test-running a 100 percent battery-powered bus within the next 30 days on routes where hybrid buses that use diesel fuel run, Haley confirmed.

If the battery-powered electric bus proves to be as efficient as the hybrid buses currently in service, the 256 buses that have the capacity to be retrofitted with a bigger battery will begin transitioning to be fully electric, according to Haley.

The city agency will begin rolling out “green zones” where buses that produce zero emissions can begin testing new routes, but that start time is dependent on the success of the battery-powered bus pilot next month, Haley said.

“We see the battery technology advancing quickly, so we’re all in for that,” Haley said. “But,we see the facilities conversion to be long and expensive.”

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