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  • Writer's pictureSophie Price

The Zero-Emission Bus Fleets of Bogotá, Colombia

Written by: Sophie Price

Edited by: Kyra Odell

In the past few years, Colombia has become one of the world’s major frontrunners in pioneering the market for public electric buses, with its capital Bogotá as the primary center for their efforts to improve and decarbonize mass transit. Nonetheless, in the past 3 decades, Bogota has consistently been one of Latin America's most polluted cities. However, since 2016, when Chinese automobile company BYD provided Colombia’s Transmasivo with the world’s first articulated e-bus and charging infrastructure, the benefits to Colombia’s transport sector have been considerable (Sclar et. al. 2020). 

To understand the groundbreaking significance of the strides being made in Colombia’s transportation sector, it is important to comprehend why electric buses are so valuable to the maintenance and restoration of environmental integrity. There are many straightforward benefits for e-buses – they help to reduce CO2 emissions (especially if they are powered by a clean grid), mitigate local air pollutants, assist in improving regional energy efficiency, and reduce noise pollution. Furthermore, the accelerated adoption of electric buses in recent years has made notable contributions to states’ long-term goals to curtail their contributions to climate change. Despite Colombia and others making positive strides in this direction, however, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that investing in low-carbon technologies, such as e-buses, must grow to 6 times what it is currently by 2050 to maintain global warming below the relatively safe threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (Sclar et. al. 2020). 

Even so, officials in Bogotá are excited for the positive benefits these new bus fleets are bringing to their communities.During the introduction of a large new e-bus fleet routing from the city’s surrounding boroughs back in 2022, Bogotá Mayor Claudia Lopez remarked, “when it comes to CO2 capture, using these 172 buses is equivalent to planting 148,000 trees in Bogotá…the environmental impact of this project is really that significant'' (Sánchez 2022). With the newly operating 172 e-buses Bogota commissioned in the last few years, 1.5 tons per year of particulate matter emissions and 3,200 tons per year of CO2 emissions will be prevented. At the end of 2023, when the entire proposed fleet of 1485 electric buses were in operation, 94,300 tons of CO2 per year would be prevented from reaching the atmosphere. For scale, “this is the equivalent of what 42,000 private cars produced in this same period”(Sánchez 2022). 

This is on par with the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC, per the 2016 Paris Agreement) from 2020, in which they committed themselves to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Globally, transport has become “the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions and fossil fuel demand worldwide,” which is one of the main causes of concern expressed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) (Sclar et. al. 2020). In their updated NDC, Colombia committed itself to making the public transportation sector much greener, with an apex target of getting 600,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 – this has the potential to reduce CO2 by 4 million tons annually, which is the most of any global transport measure proposed so far (Goyal 2022). Back in Bogotá, “the 1485 electric buses will do almost more than double what the almost one million trees that we will plant in Bogotá will do,” with Mayor Lópex stressing that “this is having clean, sustainable, caring, timely, quality, safe, and dignified transportation for residents of Bogotá" (Sánchez 2022). This is important because of the potential to create a global domino effect of other major cities and their nations following suit and investing in cleaner public transport. Currently, the global transport sector is the cause for a significant and growing proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, “accounting for approximately 8 billion tons of annual emissions in 2016 and constituting roughly one-quarter of all Greenhouse gas emissions,” meaning that the quicker this trend catches on, the more hope we have to preventing complete climate disaster (Sclar et. al. 2020). 

The Colombian energy grid also has a vital role to play in their transition to cleaner transportation. The grid produces a high percentage of hydroelectric power and has sufficient infrastructure to meet the increased demand for electric zero-emission vehicles. Thanks to this, they can implement the various national electromobility policies that they aspire to accomplish, such as their primary goal of massive decarbonization. These goals can be seen in the projection of future transport policies — new requisites from the Colombian government imposed on all major cities to have 10% of all buses be electric in 2025 and gradually increase to 100% by 2035 (Pettigrew et. Al. 2023). As far as the limitations go for Bogota’s ambitious electric fleet, the most pragmatic concern is the impact this will have on the electrical infrastructure. However, there do not seem to be any realistic limitations of the use of electricity, because, as mentioned before, Colombia has become well equipped with the ability to generate hydroelectric power, among other vital renewable energy sources (Pettigrew et. Al. 2023). As such, the future of EVs in South America appears promising. 

Bogotá provides a compelling and ongoing story of how agency and ambition for transportation modernization can transform the environmental future of a city. Further, this offers valuable insights for other national governments looking to deploy electric buses at greater scales to achieve their health and environmental objectives. Going forward, the international community will have all eyes on Bogotá as they continue to strive toward their goals, and with luck we will see other major cities begin to follow suit throughout the following decade.



Goyal, K. (2022, December 7). Electric Buses in Colombia: Leading the adoption of clean fleet in Latin America - REGlobal - Mega Trends & Analysis. REGlobal.

Pettigrew , S., Acevedo, H., & Delgado, O. (2022, December 22). Charging infrastructure for zero-emission buses — Strategies in Bogotá D.C., Colombia. The International Council on Clear Transportation; Zebra publications.

Sánchez, N. (2022, February 15). By 2023, Bogotá will have the biggest electric fleet in the world after China |; City of Bogotá.

Sclar, R., & Werthmann, E. (2020, March 31). THE FUTURE OF URBAN MOBILITY: THE CASE FOR ELECTRIC BUS DEPLOYMENT IN BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA. Coalitions for Urban Transitions; World Resources Institute .

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