Wheels in Motion: UCI’s Electric Buses Have Strides to Go

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UCI, considered in the last few years to be a leading green school in the United States, has been improving its environmental impact over the last decade. We’re home to an award-winning energy management program which helps us reduce our carbon footprint, and we’ve improved our campus energy efficiency by 20 percent over the past ten years. We’ve even been praised by former U.S. president and 2014 commencement speaker Barack Obama for being “ahead of the curve” on climate change research and sustainability. Recently, another step to be greener has gone into effect for UCI students: implementing the nation’s first all-electric bus fleet.

A highly advertised fleet of purely electric buses hit the road in the beginning of February, and students are finally able to get a ride on an Anteater Express vehicle that doesn’t produce harmful emissions. Because of this, we are now poised to be the first college campus in the nation to convert its buses to an all-electric fleet.

However, this process isn’t happening all at once. A huge percentage of off-campus residents depend on the Anteater Express system to get to and from class, but only a small number of those are riding on the electric buses. This is because while we are supposed to have 20 buses in our electric fleet, only three are in service so far. The other buses? They’re still the diesel-guzzling buses that we took to class in elementary school.

These gas-guzzling buses are still in use alongside the newly deployed electric buses, and the contrast is striking. It is hard to listen to UCI praise itself on being so green while a clean and silent electric bus zooms alongside a diesel-chugging bus that smells of gas fumes. While I am impressed and excited for these new electric buses to take over the transportation of students, the transition in between is hard to watch, and the praise UCI is accepting for its all-electric fleet seems premature.

ASUCI has announced that this lack of electric buses is due to a production delay from the manufacturer, BYD Motors, which has set back the integration of the electric buses into UCI’s bus fleet. UCI has apologized, and said they are working on releasing them all soon.

This is why many UCI students have been forced to keep using old, environmentally harmful school buses. However, even if it’s due to external circumstances, the lack of electric buses is still hurting UCI’s image of being a green school. Our school has been using regular school buses for years and is only starting to get rid of them. ASUCI has not revealed when the fleet will fully be electric. Change can be slow to come, and the environment continues to deteriorate in the meantime.

UCI is great for making the transition to electric buses, and has been sure to advertise that fact as well. But the truth is that we still have a long way to go before these changes start actually helping the environment. Every time an electric bus drives by, there is an old-fashioned gas-guzzler emitting fumes right behind. While we may be lessening our carbon footprint, there are many more strides to take before UCI can fully embrace the praise it’s been given for going electric.

Claire Harvey is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at cpharvey@uci.edu.

A previous version of this article stated that the Anteater Express is under the leadership of Transportation services. Anteater Express is under the direction of Student Government & Distribution Services.

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