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London gets all-electric double-decker buses: Will the US follow suit?

The environmentally friendly buses will have no emissions, benefiting London air quality and raising the bar for public transit around the world. 

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    The world's first pure electric double-decker bus is to be tested in London.
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The world's first purely electric double-decker bus will be tested in London this October, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced at the Clean Bus summit. 

During the Clean Bus Summit held in London on June 29, representatives from 24 cities from around the world, including Madrid, Rio de Janerio, Johannesburg, Bogota, and Warsaw committed to roll out over 40,000 ultra-low emission buses by 2020.

London's new zero emission buses will run along Route 16, transporting passengers to some of London's biggest tourist attractions, including Hyde Park, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Buckingham Palace.

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"The iconic red double-decker bus is about to become greener than ever," said Mayor Johnson. "I could not be more pleased that London will play host to these exciting pure electric double-deck buses, and I’m sure the lucky users of Route 16 will embrace it with gusto."

"London is a world leader in clean buses," he added. London has had pure electric single-deck buses since 2013, as well as hybrid electric double-decker buses for years.

The arrival of the pure electric double-decker bus, which can carry 81 passengers and has a battery range of 162 miles, is set to mark the next stage in the greening of London’s bus fleet, with the goal of reducing both toxic emissions into the London air and greenhouse gas production.

Since 2008, Transport for London (TfL) has rolled out more than 1,300 hybrid electric buses and retrofitted more than 1,400 buses to reduce their emissions by up to 88 percent. 

The five new pure electric buses represent a "fantastic" step forward, but there's more to do, London Assembly transport spokesperson Valerie Shawcross told the BBC. "We need a plan to make environmentally friendly vehicles the rule, not the exception."

“Working together with our colleagues from around the world really is the best way to reach our common goal of reducing emissions," said Sir Peter Hendy, London’s transport commissioner.

In the US, public transportation lags behind London's example, and it varies from city to city. Nationwide, industry experts report that 40.4 percent of US buses used alternative fuels or hybrid technology as of January 1, 2013.

In Dallas, seven pure electric buses are scheduled to go into service in early 2017, thanks to a federal grant. In San Francisco, a $500 million bond measure helped fund 60 pure electric trolleys and 61 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses, unveiled on Earth Day 2015.

“Transit is an important part of growing healthy, vibrant communities,” said Peter Varga, chair of the American Public Transportation Association. “Environmental stewardship and using our resources wisely is what public transportation is all about.”

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