Colombian capital Bogotá will add 594 new all-electric buses to its TransMilenio public bus system in 2020, giving the city the largest electric bus fleet in Latin America, Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa said.

The 594 initial electric buses will represent the first phase of TransMilenio’s upgrade toward an environmentally friendly fleet that improves city air quality. Another phase will include “other low emission technologies” to complete a fleet of nearly 2,800 buses.

It’s unclear if the next phase will involve any electric buses, or how many, or what those other technologies might entail. But Peñalosa tweeted that Bogotá’s electric bus fleet will be made up of “at least” 594 out of 2,779 vehicles, and possibly more:

Of the first 594 buses, 553 will be operational, with 41 to be used as reserve vehicles, TransMilenio announced. The buses will come in three sizes, for an average capacity of either 80, 50, or 40 passengers.

A number of bus manufacturers have made a “shortlist” for the bid so far, including: BYD, Miysui – Caetano, Siemens, Sunwin, Youtong, Yinlong, Dongfeng, Sinotruck, Foton, and Zhongtong.

TransMilenio has often been regarded as a success story in public transport, with a daily ridership of about 2.4 million people in 2018. Bogotá’s population is around 8 million.

But the bus system has drawn criticism for service and safety issues. The City Paper of Bogotá cited figures from the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce’s Security and Perception Index that Transmilenio is considered unsafe by 60% of the public.

María Consuelo Araujo, director of TransMilenio, said the electric buses would improve customer service, though the connection there is unclear.

Electric buses have been on the rise in Latin America recently. Bogotá’s expected 600 buses may take the lead for the largest electric bus fleet next year, but it depends when those buses go into service — Santiago, Chile added 200 buses to its fleet recently, with plans to add 500 more next year.

Electrek’s Take

Again, we’re unsure if Bogotá will get its 594 electric buses before Santiago is expected to add 500 more, but as we’ve said in the past, this is the kind of competition we like.

It’s time for US transport agencies to invest in the necessary infrastructure and step up their adoption of electric buses — cities like Colombia and Chile are competing with fleets in the hundreds, and China is far, far beyond that. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s local transportation authority made a claim last week for the largest East Coast electric bus fleet with an addition of 25 new all-electric buses.

States can do their part by using Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement funds the right way.

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