China and the United States (U.S.) are the world’s top two carbon dioxide emitters. Considering the impact of greenhouse gases on the warming of the planet - which has been forecasted to detrimentally affect global environments and make the Earth less inhabitable – the U.S. and China have come together to address and mitigate their emissions as the major contributors. While the historic U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change was made in November 2014, both the U.S. and China have had programs that have focused on developing zero emission buses to help reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.
Zero Emission Bus Advancement in the United States
In the U.S., Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo Program) aims to encourage adoption of green technologies in transit buses. The LoNo Program has provided two rounds of funding assistance to transit agencies to deploy clean and energy efficient U.S. made buses in their fleets. Other federal programs working toward sustainable transportation include the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program and the National Fuel Cell Bus Program. There are also a number of sustainable transportation programs and initiatives that are led by state and local governments and non-governmental organizations, including nonprofits and educational institutions. These programs and initiatives have resulted in many demonstrations and deployments of zero emission buses in various public and private fleets, which have encouraged further purchasing and use of these buses while collecting data to further advance the technology.
Zero Emission Bus Advancement in China
Similarly in China, the Ten Cities, Thousand Vehicles Program was created in 2009 that challenged ten cities (Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Jinan, Chongqing, Wuhan, Changchun, Hefei, Dalian, and Hangzhou) to stimulate electric vehicle development by instituting pilot projects with at least 1,000 vehicles. Additionally, incentives have been offered to encourage the purchase of zero emission vehicles. Four central Ministries released a plan in 2013 to provide subsidies for new-energy vehicles (the Chinese term that encompasses electric, hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles). Local governments have followed this trend, including in Shanghai, where they offered free license plates for newly purchased Tesla vehicles. On the non-governmental side, the Sustainable Cities Program at Energy Foundation China focuses on reducing carbon emissions and air pollution in urban areas with an emphasis on sustainable urbanization and transit systems. Chinese manufacturers have also participated in zero emission vehicle development: Azure Hydrogen and Ballard have partnered for a zero emission fuel cell bus program that would result in phased development of these buses. Further demonstrating China’s zero emissions bus industry’s growth is BYD, one of China’s largest battery technology companies. The company is a founding member of the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Development Advisory Committee in China as a representative of the energy sector.
In April 2013, the United States and China launched the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) to jointly address greenhouse gas emissions. This Working Group serves as the mechanism to coordinate efforts to address key drivers of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in sectors such as heavy duty vehicles and freight transport, electric grid technology, carbon capture, and building and industry efficiency standards. As a result of this expanded bilateral collaboration, the Race to Zero Emissions (R2ZE) Challenge was created to provide a platform where transit operators, industry members, and policymakers can come together to share real world experiences, lessons learned, best practices, and industry insights of deploying zero emission buses.
R2ZE offers a multitude of benefits for both the U.S. and China:
A Major Step Toward Cost-Effective Zero Emission Transit Buses: The combined bus market of the U.S. and China is substantial. A joint initiative that increases demand for zero emission buses in both countries would encourage significant investment and allow U.S. and Chinese manufacturers and suppliers to achieve greater economies of scale at a greater level than one country’s market could promote.
Paving the Way for Electric Drive in Much Larger Truck Sector: In both the U.S. and China, the transit sector has been the early adopter of advanced technologies and cleaner fuels in the heavy-duty vehicle sector. Once these technologies have been sufficiently proven in the transit market, they are more likely t0 migrate into the much larger and rapidly growing U.S. truck market that has traditionally been slower to adjust to technology advances.
Opportunities for Economic Wins for the U.S. and China: U.S. and Chinese companies are already collaborating in the global zero emission bus industry but the R2ZE provides the momentum and the venue needed for even greater collaboration and opportunities for win-win partnerships.
Improving the Environment and Public Health: While air quality problems in China have received significant media attention, nearly half of the U.S. population lives in metropolitan regions that still do not meet federal ambient air quality standards. Enabling rapid expansion of the zero emission bus market in U.S. and China would result in mutual environmental and public health benefits.
The Race to Zero Emissions Challenge can produce significant and meaningful outcomes leading to measurable progress in reducing greenhouse gases and paving the way for bilateral collaboration between China and the U.S. in other areas. Result-oriented concrete actions taken by the two largest greenhouse gas emitting nations will also set an example for other countries encouraging unilateral action and leading to sustainable transportation initiatives, as well as cooperative initiatives with other countries through multilateral fora.