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Transportation

Why U.S. Cities Aren’t Using More Electric Buses

Two reports from the World Resource Institute look at the biggest barriers to electrifying the global bus fleet—and how cities can overcome them.
A fleet of electric buses in Santiago, Chile. Outside China, only a few cities have adopted the new technology.
A fleet of electric buses in Santiago, Chile. Outside China, only a few cities have adopted the new technology.Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters

There were about 425,000 electric buses in service in the world’s cities last year. Almost all—99 percent of them—were in China. The booming industrial city of Shenzhen, in particular, is one of only a few cities to have fully electrified its fleet. The rest of the globe, meanwhile, is racing to catch up, and falling further behind.

It’s not the lack of ambition that’s stopping them: With the goal of curbing carbon emissions in mind, municipal leaders all over have pledged to partially, if not fully, replace their city’s fleet with e-buses over the next decades. A number of cities, from large metropolises like Mexico City to more modest ones like Philadelphia, have started pilot tests.