An electric demonstration bus stops at the Tate Center bus stop on September 26, 2018. The bus was run on the Orbit route during the morning hours to see how it handled on UGA's roads. The bus is part of an ongoing test program run by UGA campus transit to see which type of electric bus will work best on campus. UGA has been given a grant of $10 million to invest in electric busses. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

The University of Georgia recently announced its plans to buy up to 20 Proterra Catalyst E2 electric buses, which will create one of the biggest electric bus fleets in the country.

The decision will make the university more sustainable and provide students with greater transportation service.

Investing in electric buses will enable the university to take a stand against climate change and pollution. The UN reports that urban buses are responsible for around a quarter of the black carbon that the transportation sector emits, and urban bus activity could rise by 50% by 2030, resulting in adding another 26,000 tons of black carbon.

Air pollution has dramatic and wide-ranging consequences. The carbon emissions will speed climate change through the Greenhouse Effect, resulting in rising temperatures. In addition, air pollution can severely damage public health. The World Health Institute says that air pollution is linked to 4.2 million premature deaths globally and can cause several deadly diseases like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. In buying electric buses, UGA will do its part in slowing climate change and ensuring the campus environment is clean for students and faculty.

In addition, it is clear that students will support the university’s attempts to be more sustainable. College students tend to tilt to the left politically, and UGA students have consistently shown concern for environmental issues in the past. For example, in 2013, the student body approved a small increase in the green fee from $3 to $4 to fund initiatives to make UGA more sustainable. The university’s choice to buy the electric buses signals that they are listening to and wish to accommodate what students care about.

Chisom Ukwuoma, a freshman biology major, echoes the students’ feelings, expressing that she supports the decision to buy electric buses because of their environmental benefits.

“I do think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I think it’s better for the environment.”

Ukwuoma said she would support a small increase in fines to protect the environment.

“I think that if it wasn’t a huge increase, I would be okay with it to make a better campus,” she said.

Besides the environmental and social benefits, the electric buses will make transportation around campus cheaper more efficient. Each diesel bus costs the university $90 per day, but each new electric bus will only cost $10 per day. Indeed, as battery prices decline, electric buses have become oftentimes less expensive over their life cycle than fossil fuel buses. In addition, the new buses offer two times as much horsepower as diesel buses, all while offering a much quieter ride. Furthermore, the new electric buses will be five times more efficient because they more effectively convert energy into motion and do not have as many moving parts, reducing maintenance needs.

UGA has made becoming a greener institution a priority. By building a new fleet of electric buses, the university continues to make tangible progress toward sustainability and creating a clean environment for all.