According to a new report published as part of a European Union (EU) funded project, an increasing number of cities in Europe and around the world are turning to electric buses (e-buses) in an effort to meet increasingly stringent air quality standards, while also reducing transport emissions and noise levels in urban areas.
The report has been published as part of the EU-funded Zero Emission Urban Bus System (ZeEUS) project, which is coordinated by the International Association for Public Transport (UITP). The study reveals that 19 public transport operators and authorities, covering around 25 European cities, have a published e-bus strategy for 2020. By this date, there should be more than 2,500 electric buses operating in these cities, representing 6% of their total fleet of 40,000. Meanwhile, more than 13 public transport operators and authorities in a further 18 European cities have a strategy up to 2025; by then, they are expected to have more than 6,100 electric buses in service, representing 43% of their total fleet of 14,000.
The eBus Report also includes a market analysis conducted among bus manufacturers, which illustrates that a European series production of electric buses should reach full maturity by 2018-2020. These developments all bode well for the uptake of fully-electric buses in the near future, since demand and supply are now beginning to converge. The report gives an extensive overview of the electric buses in operation in Europe today, along with the different systems available on the market, featuring 61 cities around Europe that operate or test high capacity e-buses, which are defined as being at least 39-ft long (12m) or with capacity for at least 55 passengers. The publication also lists 27 manufacturers that offer this type of vehicle for the European market.
A wide range of technological solutions exists for the electrification of public transport, but every choice is dependent on the local situation and can result in a different total cost of ownership, and the report offers an overview of experiences from various cities regarding the feasibility of implementing e-buses.
Looking further afield, the worldwide e-bus fleet is estimated to have reached approximately 173,000 in 2015. China is leading this global mass deployment, with more than 98.3% of the global total (170,000 buses) operating in its major cities.
These developments are strongly endorsed by Chinese government policy, which includes a ‘new energy buses’ program, aiming to produce 1.67 million electric vehicles, including e-buses, annually from 2010-2020.
In terms of scale, Europe follows Asia with over 1,300 electric buses delivered or on order. This figure includes battery buses (overnight and opportunity charged), plug-in hybrid buses and trolleybuses with batteries for off-wire operation. The greatest number of electric buses can be seen in the UK, with over 18% of the total European fleet, followed by the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland and Germany, with around 10% each.
The report concludes that despite the variety of different electrification technologies available, bus electrification is only set to grow further still in the next few years.