Economic and Environmental Impacts of Electric Public Transport

What major impacts are there to the environment and economy for using electric public transport?

Can electric public transport completely replace traditional diesel ones?
Can electric public transport completely replace traditional diesel ones? Source: Mario

Electric vehicles are poised to transform nearly every transportation aspect, including fuel, carbon emissions, costs, repairs, and driving habits. They change the way we look at cars from all points of view. From advanced vehicular engineering to decarbonising effort, electric vehicles are indeed the future.

Let us take a look at why electric vehicles are required now more than ever, what exactly is driving the demand for these types of vehicles and what the major economical impacts are.

Introduction

The signs of vehicle electrification are growing.

By 2025, Norway aims to have 100% of its cars be either an electric or plug-in hybrid unit, and the Netherlands plans to ban all gasoline and diesel car sales by the same year.

On the other hand, Germany plans to ban internal combustion engines by 2030, and by 2040, France and Great Britain aim to end their gasoline and diesel car sales. The most aggressive electric vehicle targets are those set by China, with plans to sell only ‘new energy’ vehicles by 2035. Time is running out for fossil-fuelled cars.

China is the latest country to create these plans to get them off the road, as soon as possible by finding new types of energy, joining a growing list of countries that have announced similar plans.

The broad-scale adoption of the electric vehicle and the banning efforts made by the respective countries could bring significant changes for society in terms of not only the technologies we use for personal transportation, but also moving our economies away from petroleum and gasoline while also lessening the environmental footprint of gasoline or diesel-based transportation.

Let’s Talk Greenhouse

CO2 represents the largest percentage of greenhouse gases in the environment.
CO2 represents the largest percentage of greenhouse gases in the environment. Source: Anne

Carbon dioxide levels are at a record high

Greenhouse gases from human activities are the most significant driver of observed climate change since the mid-20th century. Greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6) are some of the gases that contribute to the warming of the climate.

In particular, let us talk about the most common greenhouse gases – Carbon dioxide. CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, worsening every year as we know it. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the most dangerous greenhouse gas, which is currently the highest ever recorded.

Greenhouse gas levels are so high primarily because humans have released them into the air by burning fossil fuels. The gases absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth’s surface, rather than letting it escape into space. That trapping of heat is known as the greenhouse effect.

CO2 levels are at an all-time high due to unrestricted and uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases
CO2 levels are at an all-time high due to unrestricted and uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases. Source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography (with permission)

Largest Sources of Greenhouse Gases – Carbon Dioxide

Below listed are some of the largest sources generating CO2 at an alarming scale that needs to be intervened and stopped.

Transportation 

(28.2 per cent of 2018 greenhouse gas emissions) 
The transportation sector has the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes.

Electricity production

(26.9 per cent of 2018 greenhouse gas emissions)
Second is the industry that generates electricity by burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas in masses.

Commercial and Residential

(12.3 per cent of 2018 greenhouse gas emissions)
Greenhouse gas emissions from businesses and homes arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases, and the handling of waste.

In the United States alone, it’s estimated that the transportation sector produces 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. Hence, the change of direction of using electric based vehicles are not only helping to improve the economy but at the same time developing and keeping our resources from depleting for the future generation.

Climate Change and Electric Vehicles

Climate change is the change in the long-term weather pattern of the earth. Earth weather keeps on varying on a year-on-year basis but over a period of a decade or century, it doesn’t change much.

Climate change takes place over a long period of time and slowly, due to global warming, the temperature has risen more rapidly to about 0.8 degree Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

Much of the activity nowadays are all focused on a single outcome and that is profit
Much of the activity nowadays are all focused on a single outcome, and that is profit. Source: Markus

There is much reason for climate change like change in the amount of solar radiation received by earth or volcanic eruption but the recent, sudden and rapid climate change is occurring because of human activity.

Burning of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum in very large quantities since the beginning of the 20th century because of the industrial revolution is one of the major causes of climate change.

Study finds that highway vehicles release about 1.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere each year—mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2)—contributing to global climate change.

The Rise of Electric Public Transport

Electric public transport has been around for much longer than one would expect. Dubbed as the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train, the Coradia iLint by Alstom made its grand entrance at the InnoTrans trade fair in 2016 and entered operations 2 years later.

With clean energy conversion, flexible energy storage and smart traction power management, this train emits steam, condensed water, less noise and no carbon gases.

The Alstom Coradia iLint being presented at InnoTrans 2016.
The Alstom Coradia iLint being presented at InnoTrans 2016.
Image Source: Frank Paukstat

Various public sector bodies around the world have already made headway in this direction. In Italy, the Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) Region embraced this agenda in 2017, within the H2020.

European project Noemix, whose goals are reducing CO2 emissions and air pollution, increasing the share of renewables in the electricity mix, improving overall energy efficiency and substituting the current vehicles with electric ones.

Several life-cycle assessment studies have also found that life-cycle environmental impacts are lower from electric buses than from buses with internal combustion engines if they are powered by renewable electricity

For example, when it comes to dense cities, Mumbai, India with over 76,790 per square mile, electric buses are a huge advantage as they are reducing greenhouse emissions and the noise in their towns, especially along bus routes.

Mumbai, India with over 76,790 per square mile, electric buses are a huge advantage
Mumbai, India with over 76,790 per square mile, electric buses are a huge advantage. Source: Annie

There are some notable advantages of expanding the number of electric buses in a city as below:

  • Lower maintenance cost, up to 25% lower than the maintenance cost of a diesel bus, since the electric motor doesn’t need the same level of services the diesel engine needs.
  • Electric engine’s energy losses are significantly lower than diesel engine’s energy losses, so the cost per kilometre of electric bus travel is about a third of the cost of a diesel bus ride.
  • It is convenient to recharge electric buses by simply connecting to the local power grid. Companies can even set up solar panels to generate their power source for even more significant long-term savings.

However, there are also some disadvantages of electric buses as opposed to a diesel bus:

  • Electric buses run about 25% to 35% more than a regular bus, and an electric bus can cost two to three times as much as a standard. Until our technology advances further, anyone looking for an electric bus is looking at a pretty large payment.
  • Depending on the current battery technology, the distance that the electric bus can travel might not be on the same level as what a diesel bus could offer.

Governmental Policies

Governments have begun to offer incentives for plug-in electric vehicles. Source: Hannah

Following the widespread need to care for the environment, countries have begun to offer incentives for plug-in electric vehicles to support policy-driven adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.

These incentives mainly take the form of purchase rebates, tax exemptions and tax credits, and additional perks that range from access to bus lanes to waivers on fees (charging, parking, tolls).

For example in Germany, the German Ministry of Environment (Bundesministerium fuer Umwelt) gave €180 million for selected cities (with NOx levels higher than the EU threshold) to buy electric buses. These cities included Aachen, Berlin, Bochum, Darmstadt, Duisburg, Hanover, Kiel, Leipzig, Offenbach am Main, Osnabrück and Wiesbaden.

Lately, more financial aid schemes in Germany were approved by the European Commission and among them was a €300 million scheme to improve the coordination, distribution and sustainability of local public transport over different transport modes.

“As more and more subsidies become available, the choice to purchase zero-emission buses has become easier. Doing so will enable not only the big cities but also smaller towns to achieve their desired greening more quickly and effectively.

This is an important development for VDL Bus & Coach because of its continuity and spread. We are looking to use our experience as a European frontrunner in the field of electric public transport as widely as possible.”

Managing Director Boris Höltermann of VDL Bus & Coach Deutschland GmbH

Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, explained that the €300 million scheme will help Germany’s transition from private motorised transport to sustainable public transport, thus meeting the Green Deal’s goal of reduced carbon emissions.

In Summary

From the first electric car developed in 1837, we have witnessed massive advancements, notably in terms of technology and the people’s attitude towards the environmental impact of cars and other mobility solutions.

The article is trying to say that the adoption of electric public transport has to be right now.

With the rise of global temperature climate changes caused by gasoline vehicles, there has never been a better time for governmental bodies to set regulations that will enable automobile companies worldwide to produce electric vehicles.

For more accelerated adoption of electric vehicles, the government will also have to offer more prominent tax rebates and subsidies to prospective car owners and manufacturers as said in the article.

Taking critical measures now will only make the world a better place for future generations to come

And since we’re a Big Data company, it’s worth considering that there are numerous Big Data use cases in this pursuit for an electric public transport system including water supply for producing green hydrogenclean energy and public transport.

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