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Phoenix to convert bus fleet to zero emissions by 2040

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a plan to transition the city’s bus fleet to zero-emission models by 2040. 

“What this plan does is ensure that we will only be ordering hybrid and zero emission buses after 2024, which will completely then end our dependence on fossil fuel transit in terms of new purchases,” said Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari. 

Over the next five years, Phoenix will focus on buying and evaluating the year round performance of battery electric and fuel cell electric buses. Mayor Kate Gallego said the city’s size creates a unique system.

 “Five hundred square miles, very long north-south routes, this takes a lot of technical expertise, the charging infrastructure, hydrogen, are all complicated and there’s huge demand right now so supply chain is not easy,” she said while thanking city staff for their efforts.

Due to supply chain issues and backlogs, Phoenix does not expect to receive any hybrid-electric or zero-emission buses before 2025. During fiscal years 2023-2027, the city will buy battery electric and fuel cell electric buses, along with a mix of hybrid-electric and CNG-fueled buses  to ensure reliable service.

Once the evaluation of zero emission buses is complete — that should be around 2028 — Phoenix will continue converting its fleet until 2040. The 500 heavy duty buses will be paid for with federal and regional funds.

“This is the same timeline as New York City and as the state of California and is one of the most ambitious in the United States,” Ansari said. “This will mean more clean jobs, improved air quality, less noise pollution and a transit system that we can truly be proud of.”

During Wednesday’s council meeting, representatives for the American Lung Association and the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, known as Arizona PIRG, spoke in support.

“Cleaner buses have lower lifetime maintenance and operating costs, and having a transition plan opens the door for more federal funds,” said Diane E. Brown, executive director of Arizona PIRG. “Phoenix residents and visitors will also benefit by improved air quality and public health.” 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct when Phoenix expects to receive any hybrid-electric or zero-emission buses.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.