By André Schwämmlein, Founder and CEO of FlixBus
As the debate on Capitol Hill continues over how to rebuild and advance America’s infrastructure, there has never been a better opportunity to invest in sustainable solutions for the country’s economy and the world’s environment. President Biden has set an aggressive agenda to build-back-better from the COVID pandemic. At FlixBus, we are answering that call with more affordable, sustainable travel options.
Pent-up demand for travel following a year and a half of pandemic living is leading more Americans to take their first trips in a post-COVID-vaccine world. People are eager to visit family and friends, and to travel for work and pleasure. International borders continue to open allowing for an increase in tourism both here and abroad, and with it comes a demand for affordable modes of transportation. Low-cost, reliable intercity travel is an essential part of ensuring that as demand increases, the ability to travel is accessible to all. In addition to lower prices and new connections, travelers are increasingly seeking out sustainable transportation in a world where human activity is contributing to climate change – and intercity buses are an integral, scalable, and efficient solution ready to meet this environmental crisis.
Since launching service in the U.S. in 2018, millions of passengers have used FlixBus and our network has grown to more than 30 states across the country. We have leveraged our nearly ten years of experience in Europe as the market leader to deliver an innovative, customer-centric business model that prioritizes environmental stewardship. For example, FlixBus is proud to have been the first intercity bus company in America to pilot an electric bus option in 2019, and similarly in Europe in 2018. Looking ahead, we are aggressively working alongside our partners to build upon our already low-carbon network and to add more sustainable technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on a permanent basis in the near future.
However, there are current limitations to the distance that electric buses can travel before needing a recharge. Combined with investments in the infrastructure needed to support EV and FCEV buses, continuous developments in the underlying technologies of EVs and FCEVs will make widespread adoption of these decarbonizing solutions in the intercity bus industry more and more viable on a wider scale.
To support these innovations, President Biden and Congress are rightly looking to pass landmark bipartisan legislation that includes desperately needed resources to build out EV charging and hydrogen refueling networks. Investments in these networks through federal, state, and local support are critical to the widespread adoption of zero emission technologies. On the EV front, it’s no stretch to say that the lack of a widespread EV charging network is a prime reason Americans have not yet made the shift to personal and commercial EV use at a large scale. As EV chargers continue to appear in more hubs and along more routes across the country, it will enable more sustainable options to emerge quicker across all our routes, and throughout the entire transportation sector.
Additionally, Congress and the White House should begin to consider incentivization for strong research & development (R&D) into EV and FCEV technologies for intercity buses. FlixBus, along with many of our operating partners, is eager to adopt technologies that will work to decarbonize the long-distance bus industry, but viable solutions are not yet here.
As a leader in America’s intercity travel economy and partner with dozens of small- and medium-sized bus companies across the country, FlixBus applauds bipartisan efforts by the Senate to upgrade our nation’s transportation system, including $7.5 billion in new funding for an electric vehicle charging and fueling grant program and $8 billion allocated toward producing, transporting, and storing lower-carbon forms of hydrogen. These steps will help ensure the necessary infrastructure for zero emission intercity buses, while also creating good paying jobs across the value chain. It will mean more routes for the family-owned bus operators FlixBus partners with, and continued collaboration towards implementing these technologies to support the Administration’s climate goals.
We strongly encourage the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a crucial first step to allow for full deployment of EVs and FCEVs. But more will need to be done. Other opportunities, like the forthcoming budget reconciliation package, can further strengthen investments in a nation-wide electric charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure. These important actions are critical to the future of the country’s low-cost intercity bus industry, and will help create more accessible, equitable travel options for all Americans.