North American edition of the Zero Emission Bus Conference is on its way to be performed on September 15–17 in Denver. With the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) as host, the conference is set to gather zero-emission bus (ZEB) experts, operators, and advocates. In this interview CTE’s Development Director, Lauren Justice, explains focus and target of the conference.

The conference will be live but also digital opportunity will be provided, with registrations on zebconference.com. At the end of the day, It is possible to tune in virtually or participate in-person and experience all sessions in real-time, engage with speakers, and network with other leaders in the ZEB industry.

In 2011, there were less than 50 ZEBs in the US. Today there are more than 1,000 in service with another 1,500+ on order.  In the Conference’s early years, conversations focused mostly on the buses’ performance capabilities. Our 2021 sessions now drive the needed narratives in the industry such as methods for electrifying a full depot, sourcing green hydrogen, equitable investments, workforce development, resiliency and redundancy opportunities, development of smaller e-shuttle vehicles for paratransit, P3 financing options, and charger interoperability, among others

CTE’s Development Director, Lauren Justice

Zero Emission Bus Conference in Denver, focus on BEV and FCEV

How did the International Zero Emission Bus Conference (ZEB Conference) get its start? 

«The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) began organizing the ZEB Conference in 2011 with support from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Our first event was held in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Triennial EXPO in New Orleans, and we have produced subsequent versions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Thousand Palms, Hamburg (Germany), and Canton, Ohio.  We held the 2016 ZEB Conference in London in partnership with Element Energy and Hydrogen Europe and sparked our sister event, the European Zero Emission Bus Conference. We continue to maintain a collaborative relationship with the EU ZEB Conference that will take place in Paris this November and CTE will share lessons from the US ZEB market. Over the past decade CTE has intentionally expanded the scope of the Conference to encompass both battery and fuel cell electric technologies in multiple sectors including airport, school buses, and transit».  

How does the conference play into the evolution of the electric bus market in the US and globally? 

«For 10 years, the ZEB Conference has elevated and focused stakeholders’ concerns across the ZEB industry and driven maturation of the market. In 2011, there were less than 50 ZEBs in the US.  Today there are more than 1,000 in service with another 1,500+ on order.  In the Conference’s early years, conversations focused mostly on the buses’ performance capabilities. Our 2021 sessions now drive the needed narratives in the industry such as methods for electrifying a full depot, sourcing green hydrogen, equitable investments, workforce development, resiliency and redundancy opportunities, development of smaller e-shuttle vehicles for paratransit, P3 financing options, and charger interoperability, among others».  

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In your opinion, what sets this conference apart?

«Having assisted more than 80 bus owner/operators with ZEB deployments since 2008, CTE possesses an unparalleled perspective on the real-world challenges within the ZEB market.  The adoption of ZEB technology is not easy; we are the first to say this. However, communities can avoid costly missteps and disillusionment with the technology through early education and transparent conversations on the ways fleet decision making is evolving alongside the new battery and fuel cell electric technologies.

The ZEB Conference facilitates provocative reconceptualizing of future fleet operations and the systems that support them.  The ZEB Conference is the only national event to focus solely on medium and heavy-duty people mover fleets.  Furthermore, by examining the nuances across transit, school, and airport shuttle operations, the event brings into focus systemic elements that require reshaping and investment to realize a new zero-emission future.

Another element that sets the ZEB Conference apart from battery-only electric vehicle events is the comprehensive explanation our speakers provide on the role of fuel cells and hydrogen in meeting the demands of transit.  Our speakers include key transit agencies such as AC Transit, Foothill, and Champaign-Urbana MTD who are building out fuel cell electric bus operations».

The rapid development of the industry towards clean solutions

What are some highlights of this year’s event?

«We are excited about all our sessions this year, which will provide content ranging from community engagement to reframing ZEB operations planning and management. The program will highlight Capital Metro’s (Austin, TX) new bus yard that will support charging for 187 battery electric buses and Chicago Transit Authority’s roadmap to transition their entire fleet by 2040.  The “Happy Bus Hour” EXPO is a key networking highlight that includes ZEB displays from BYD, Proterra, GILLIG, New Flyer, Lightning Motors, ENC, and Thomas Built. Attendees will also have the opportunity to take a tour of Denver’s Regional Transportation District’s electric bus depot and hear directly from RTD staff about their fleet of 36 electric buses. And finally, CTE staff will teach a ZEB 101 class that will provide an in-depth look at the basics of bus technology, infrastructure design, and operational considerations».

What do you expect attendees to take away from this event? 

«Attendees will leave this event better equipped to make decisions for their communities through a deeper understanding of ZEB technologies, partnerships, and the current policies in place that support zero-emission vehicles. Attendees will have the opportunity to form connections that will help them navigate challenges and celebrate successes along their journey to zero-emission. 

The ZEB Conference serves to catalyze hope in real solutions. Despite struggling for the past two years through the global pandemic, our attendees and supporters are champions who continue to prioritize the adoption of zero-emission transportation in their work.  We expect that attendees leave this year with a sense of excitement and optimism about the rapid development of our industry and the clean air and climate benefits possible for our communities».

Highlights

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