The National Academies

TCRP H-61 [Pending]

A Guide for Resilient Zero-Emission Transit Bus Fleets

  Project Data
Funds: $215,000
Contract Time: 14 months
Staff Responsibility: Stephan A. Parker


The transit market in the United States is undergoing a significant shift from predominantly fossil–powered vehicles to zero-emission buses (ZEBs). When transit organizations consider introducing these types of vehicles into their fleets, the primary concern is whether or not the vehicles can meet the agency’s service requirements for both regularly scheduled service and for unscheduled service to address local or regional events and emergencies. This concern exists both at the individual route and fleet levels. 

Transit organizations seek answers to questions that will inform their planning, procurement, operations, and maintenance practices, such as:

  • What happens if the grid loses power?
  • What happens if a charger goes down?
  • How will an operator ensure their buses are properly charged and ready to go into revenue service?
  • When a natural disaster arises and an agency needs to provide emergency transportation services, how can ZEBs support this need, with or without a functioning power grid?
  • In a natural disaster or local outage of power, how can assets be shared between fleets in the region? What kind of governance or resource-sharing structure or system can be employed?
  • Are there issues of compatibility with those bringing outside resources during a disaster, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Defense Logistics Agency?
  • What is the responsibility of local, state, and regional emergency management agencies to manage the restoration of transit service priorities?
  • How might agencies organize vehicle to grid capabilities to support local communities and disaster response with electricity from transportation energy generation, charging, management, or storage?
  • What is the potential for using power supplied through solar, wind, and nuclear?
  • How might relations be established with local grids?
  • How does a charging approach affect the local grid? What can be done to minimize peak demand on a grid?
  • What is the relation to rail traction power networks?
  • What factors should be considered when a contractor provides power?
  • Can distributed charging be a resilience strategy?
  • What is the status of standardization for charging systems?
  • How can fueling and charging be tracked to meet the National Transit Database reporting requirements?
  • What are hydrogen fueling station concerns? What are the considerations for on-site generation versus delivered?
  • What are battery electric bus concerns?
  • What are the potential impacts to onboard diagnostics and communications for ZEBs?
  • As rapidly evolving charging technologies are being developed by OEMs, what are the best strategies for agencies to commit to technology that does not quickly become outdated or obsolete? 

Research is needed to develop a guide that includes:

  • High-level concepts and findings;
  • Institutional resilience and contracting;
  • Current, commercially available options with pros and cons;
  • Available tools and resources;
  • Funding and financing options; 
  • Practical, clear, specific examples to communicate ZEB resilience strategies within a transit agency; and
  • An all-hazards assessment process for zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure.



The objective of this project is to develop a guide for resilient zero-emission transit bus fleets, covering both the resilience of scheduled service and the ability to provide transportation services during unscheduled events. 

The focus should be on power generation, distribution, and charging infrastructure for battery electric buses and hydrogen supply and fueling infrastructure for fuel cell electric buses; institutional relations; and operations. This project will not address zero-emission transit bus lithium-ion fire prevention and risk management in depth, as that will be handled in a parallel project.

At a minimum, the research team shall: (1) survey available and emerging technologies and strategies for improving resilience of a zero-emission transit bus fleet, such as on-site power generation, microgrids, backup utility feeds, local liquid hydrogen storage, and vehicle-to-grid technologies; (2) summarize available technologies; (3) identify model applications of strategies; (4) estimate costs for implementation; and (5) assess the roles such technologies and strategies may play in the disaster response plans of communities and states.


Potential tasks include but are not limited to:

  1. An Amplified Research Plan that responds to comments provided by the project panel at the contractor selection meeting.
  2. An Interim Report and panel meeting. The Interim Report should include the analyses and results of completed tasks, an update of the remaining tasks, and a detailed outline of the final research product(s). The panel meeting will take place after the panel review of the Interim Report. The Interim Report and panel meeting should occur after the expenditure of no more than 40 percent of the project budget


The final deliverables will include but not be limited to:

  • A guide for resilient zero-emission transit bus fleets.
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”. 
  • A report with the following:
    • Documentation of the research activities;
    • Key Findings; and
    • Other topics identified during the project.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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