Brent Pantell/UCLA

Brent Pantell/UCLA

UCLA became the first public university in California with electric buses, when two zero-emissions BYD electric buses replaced the last diesel buses in the BruinBus transit fleet.

Combined with the 14 current compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in UCLA’s fleet, UCLA’s first electric buses switch the BruinBus fleet to all clean fuel and continue to reduce the university’s reliance on fossil fuel. The move is also in step with the University of California’s systemwide goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. UCLA has already met its 2020 goal of using less energy per square foot of buildings than in 1990, in part by converting more than half of its campus fleet to alternative-fuel vehicles and growing its roster of LEED-certified green buildings.

“UCLA Transportation began its commitment to operating alternative-fuel vehicles in its university fleet 18 years ago,” said Renée Fortier, executive director, UCLA Events and Transportation. “Adding two new emission-free electric buses to the BruinBus transit fleet is an exciting and natural progression of our efforts to move sustainable transportation from ideas to practice.”

The project also aligns with UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, a university-wide research initiative to transition the Los Angeles region to 100% renewable energy, 100% local water, and enhanced ecosystem health by 2050.

“In California, transportation is estimated to create almost 40 percent of our greenhouse gases, so a huge part of reducing emissions and improving public health comes down to clean fuel,” said Nurit Katz, chief sustainability officer for UCLA.

Bruins first boarded the new electric buses after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the BruinBus stop by Dickson Court. UCLA Transportation hopes to order additional electric buses later this year. The department is also conducting a feasibility study on the installation of solar-powered charging stations so that zero-emission buses would also be powered by clean energy, Fortier said.

The iron-phosphate batteries, designed by the company BYD, can run for up to 145 miles of typical driving on the service routes and can recharge in four hours. The department can charge the buses overnight using low-cost, off-peak electricity to provide additional cost savings.

“UCLA is the first University of California campus and the first California public university to have electric buses,” said Clinton Bench, director, UCLA Fleet and Transit. “This supports our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from university fleet vehicles.”

The new buses are five times more efficient compared to diesel, CNG, and hybrid technologies. This translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings per bus from the reduced cost in fuel and maintenance, according to UCLA Transportation. UCLA students on campus will notice something unexpected as well — the new fleet addition will be half as loud as buses operated by fossil fuels.