The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved a rule that will require fixed-route shuttles serving the state’s 13 largest airports to transition to 100% zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035.
The regulation applies to public and private fleets, including parking facilities, rental car agencies and hotels. With almost 1,000 airport shuttles in operation, the regulation is expected to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by at least 500,000 metric tons, according to CARB’s estimates.
“California continues its forward march toward a zero-emission future with airport shuttles presenting a great opportunity for showcasing this process,” states Richard Corey, CARB executive officer. “Shuttles are a vital part of airport activity. The transition to zero-emission shuttles not only provides consumers with clean, quiet transport but will help further expand the reach of this ultra-clean technology into the heavy-duty transportation sector.”
According to CARB, airport shuttles are particularly well-suited to zero-emission technology because they operate up to 200 miles per day on short, fixed routes with low average speeds in a stop-and-go pattern. The shuttles are also centrally maintained and fueled, which presents opportunities for overnight and midday charging. As the technology evolves, costs and performance will continue to improve, making adoption easier, notes CARB.
Zero-emission shuttles are already operating throughout California. Six airports, as well as private businesses serving nine airports, have purchased ZEV airport shuttles. In addition to 48 ZEVs currently operating, nearly 100 additional zero-emission shuttles have been ordered, many of which have been awarded incentive funding through the state. Combined, on-order and currently operating ZEV shuttles represent more than 15% of all airport shuttles in California.
The new rule will be phased in over a 13-year period. Beginning in 2022, shuttle fleets will be required to report the details of their vehicles. Starting in 2023, if fleets are replacing a ZEV shuttle, the replacement vehicle must also be a ZEV.
The rule starts with annual reporting to CARB in 2022 and will end in 2035 with a fully compliant, 100% ZEV airport shuttle fleet, the agency says.
The schedule is designed to allow fleets to remain eligible for incentive funding during most of the transition period and to use their current shuttles for the remainder of their useful life. It also provides adequate time for infrastructure planning and installation, adds CARB.
CARB staff plans to work with airport shuttle operators and stakeholders of other CARB zero-emission regulations to facilitate sharing of technology and implementation strategies.
CARB’s economic analysis of the rule shows that zero-emission shuttles, like most new technologies, may have a higher upfront cost, but they have lower operating costs than their internal combustion counterparts. The regulation is expected to yield cost-savings of $30 million to airport shuttle operators from 2020 to 2040 due to reduced fuel and maintenance costs, including the use of Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits for electricity.
The regulation will also improve air quality throughout the state, including for low-income and disadvantaged communities, especially those close to major airports, the agency says.
Thursday’s hearing was the second of two on the rule, following the first in February, and reflects public input.
CARB is also developing a proposal that would achieve additional emission reductions by requiring zero-emission airport ground equipment.