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California Could Require Zero-Emission Shuttles At Its Largest Airports

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California wants to make shuttle services at airports more eco-friendly, which could pave the way for larger transportation sectors to adopt the technology.

While airplanes are a notorious source of greenhouse-gas emissions, the ground vehicles servicing airports also contribute. A proposed regulation from the California Air Resources Board would require shuttle operators at the state’s 13 largest airports to transition their fleets to zero-emission vehicles.

Switching the roughly 1,000 shuttles across California would have a modest impact on reducing overall greenhouse-gas emissions. But experts say it could provide a test case for bigger, more complex transportation industries to adopt zero-emission technology.

“You can start to see this transition up to school buses, to public transit … up to large trucking companies, as well,” said Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Femi Olaluwoye, a manager of incentives developments at the Air Resources Board, says airport shuttles are an ideal sector for the early adoption of zero-emission vehicles because they have short, fixed routes; operate at low speeds; and perform stop-and-go functions.

“Those are characteristics that really lend itself to … zero-emission technology,” Olaluwoye said.

Some shuttle businesses have already embraced the change to zero-emission vehicles. Wally Park, an off-site parking company serving Los Angeles International Airport, began adopting the technology in 2017 and currently operates 33 zero-emission shuttles.

The Air Resources Board acknowledges switching to zero-emission vehicles technology can be costly. But Olaluwoye says shuttle services will save money in the long run from lower fuel and maintenance costs. The state also plans to offer grants to shuttle services to offset the cost of switching to zero-emission vehicles.

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