E-buses have positive health impacts on city residents by reducing air and noise pollution.
Air pollution is a very serious issue for both rural and metropolitan populations. The UN environment program classifies it as “the greatest environmental threat to public health globally” and estimates million premature deaths to be caused by breathing in high levels of fine particulate matter every year.
Tackling the problem of global air pollution will need to involve measures targeted at transport. The UN environment program identifies residential pollution and transport as “the main human-made sources of fine particles globally”. Trends such as rapid urbanization and an increasing demand for affordable mobility also means that urban bus activity is predicted to rise by nearly 50% by 2030. The price of not acting is high, as the Climate & Clean Air Coalition estimates diesel buses account for approximately 25% of the black carbon (BC) emitted in cities.
Unlike diesel buses, e-buses produce zero tailpipe emissions. This is significant because pollutants, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, are proven to have negative health consequences on city residents, including asthma and respiratory diseases. In particular, black carbon, a component of particulate matter, has been listed as a known human carcinogen. While the negative effects can be minimized with soot-free engine technologies, less than 20% of all buses sold globally meet the definition of soot-free. The most effective way of mitigating the negative health consequences of pollution from urban bus fleets is by transitioning to electric buses.
In fact, because of the positive change in air quality, the deployment of e-buses has been estimated to reduce illnesses and deaths in many cities. For example, in TUMI deep-dive city Jakarta, it is estimated that the transition to e-buses would avoid 58 premature deaths and 100 hospital admissions every year. In Delhi, another TUMI deep-dive city, the numbers are even more drastic – one study estimates that the electrification of the bus fleet would lead to an annual reduction of 1370 mortality cases and 2808 hospital admissions. Similar studies linking air pollution and mortality have been conducted for cities such as São Paulo and Santiago as well.
Beyond significantly improving air quality, e-buses also reduce noise pollution. Research shows that this is especially the case on routes with a high share of buses, routes with low travel speeds, and at bus stops. More than just a benign nuisance, noise pollution too can have negative health effects on residents, such as elevated blood pressure, coronary artery disease, hearing loss and even heart attacks. With many major cities, from Jakarta to Hong Kong, averaging at noise levels almost four times louder than the recommended levels, transitioning to e-buses is key to reducing the negative health impacts of noise pollution.
Bogotá, Colombia, is undoubtedly one of the global trailblazers for the adoption of e-buses: as of 2022, Bogotá had over 1,000 e-buses operating on its roads. The e-buses are part of a broader set of measures to improve air quality for residents, such as a push to improve biking infrastructure across the city. Sofia Zarama Valenzuela, Chief Planning Officer at Transmilenio, Bogotá’s BRT system states that their ambitious roll-out of e-buses “provides a significant contribution towards public health. This reduction in emissions allows us to save approximately 18 billion pesos (3.8 million USD) annually in terms of public health costs.”
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With women globally using public transport more than men, the transition to e-buses disproportionately benefits women’s health. To see how else e-buses impact gender, social, and economic issues, click here.