Comprehensive global decarbonization will require that transportation services cease to rely on fossil fuels. Here we develop a generic life-cycle cost model to address two closely related questions central to the emergence of sustainable transportation: (i) the utilization rates (hours of operation) that rank-order alternative drivetrains in terms of their cost, and (ii) the cost-efficient share of clean energy drivetrains in a vehicle fleet of competing drivetrains. Calibrating our model framework in the context of urban transit buses, we examine how the
comparison between diesel and battery-electric buses varies with the specifics of the duty cycle (route). We find that even for less favorable duty cycles, battery-electric buses will entail lower life-cycle costs once utilization rates exceed 20% of the annual hours. Yet, the current economics of that particular application still calls for a one-third share of diesel drivetrains in a cost-efficient fleet.