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Comprehensive Study Reveals Natural Gas Buses Outperform Electric

NGVs Achieve Greater Environmental Impact, Maximized Cost Effectiveness, and Lower Cost of Operation

Washington, DC – An analysis released today – Maximize Clean Transit Investment: Natural Gas Outperforms Electric – shows alternative fuel natural gas transit buses outperform their electric counterparts on virtually every major assessment mark:

  • Natural gas buses are less costly to purchase, maintain, and operate;
  • Natural gas refueling is more affordable, efficient, and convenient for transit operators;
  • Natural gas buses are more reliable and require fewer days out of service in need of repair, with no compromise on duty or performance in any terrain or weather; and 
  • Natural gas buses offer the most cost-effective emission reduction investment; operators can affordably achieve carbon-negative transit now by refueling with renewable natural gas (RNG).

The report was compiled by NGVAmerica based largely on data presented in the ongoing multi-year Foothill Transit (CA) Electric Bus Evaluation, a project by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL), as well as additional national studies and evaluations.

“Natural gas transit buses are the most affordable, most effective, and most reliable alternative fuel bus option for mass transit operators across North America,” said NGVAmerica President Dan Gage.  “By compiling public data from multiple independent third-party studies and evaluations, NGVAmerica demonstrates how investing in natural gas buses allows for more clean buses deployed today and more cost-effective emissions and climate impact achieved right away with no deterioration of service due to technology limitations.”

Foothill Transit study results reveal:

  • Battery electric buses (BEBs) cost more: 57 to 67 percent higher than their compressed natural gas (CNG) counterparts;
  • Electricity on an average energy equivalent basis cost 6 times more than CNG, nullifying much of the anticipated savings associated with operating battery electric buses;
  • Overall, the BEB cost 1.5 times more than CNG on a total cost to operate basis, including repair and maintenance costs of $0.68/mile for BEB versus $0.41/mile for CNG;
  • CNG buses were available for service 93 percent of the time while BEBs struggled at 63 percent.  Transit operators require an 85 percent availability rate;
  • CNG performance exceeded BEB by 18,000-20,000 miles between road calls;
  • CNG buses were deployed on any route in any weather without compromised performance or range; electric buses required on-route fueling and ran on a single pre-selected short-range route; and
  • While both CNG and BEB buses achieved essentially zero criteria pollutant emissions, when fueled with RNG, the CNG bus can offer a net carbon negative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result 400 percent better than a BEB fueled by 100 percent renewable solar or wind.

Replacing America’s 50,000 40-foot transit bus fleet with all-natural gas buses would cost $47.5 billion, versus $71.6 billion for all-electric – for a cost savings of $24 billion – while achieving greater GHG emissions reductions than their electric counterparts on a well-to-wheel basis.

“This study reveals that electric bus rhetoric simply does not meet reality,” added Gage.  “In multiple studies of their real-world use, battery electric buses do not meet performance or reliability targets.  Natural gas buses, on the other hand, are more climate impactful, cost less, and perform better in any environment on any route.  It’s simple… we get more and pay less with natural gas buses.”

The full study can be accessed online at: https://ngvam.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/NGVA-Transit-Full-Study-December-2020.pdf.   

A shortened executive summary can be found at: https://ngvam.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/NGVA-Transit-Executive-Summary-December-2020.pdf

NGVAmerica is hosting a free online webinar to review the study outcomes at 1:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 10, 2020.  Pre-registration is required at: https://ngvamericaevents-maximize-clean-transit-investment.eventbrite.com.

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