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Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK.

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The World’s Big Bus Electrification Plan

  • Electric buses are projected to be adopted faster than electric cars due to government support for green public transport.
  • With shorter routes, electric buses can rely on charging stations at depots, making them more practical than electric cars initially.
  • From school districts to entire countries, ambitious targets are being set for electric bus adoption with a focus on decarbonization.
EV charger

Buses could overtake passenger cars when it comes to EV adoption, as countries worldwide race to make their public transport greener to support decarbonisation efforts. In addition, reports have found that shifting away from a reliance on private vehicles to shared public transport could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to two-thirds per passenger, per kilometre. Therefore, recent estimates suggest that global public transport capacity needs to double by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement climate aims. As the demand for electric cars increases, so too does the demand for electric buses and other forms of passenger transport, with huge a sharp uptake of EV bus fleets for public and private use expected in the decade. 

In 2023, it was predicted that around half of the world’s bus fleet would be entirely battery-powered by 2032, as well as around three out of every four buses sold by that time. Meanwhile, the global EV fleet of private vehicles is only expected to reach 50 percent by around a decade later, and electric truck and scooter uptake is taking longer. 

Most electric bus orders were coming from China until recently, but since 2022 there has been a surge from other parts of the world. Lots of the orders are coming from the local level as the current range of electric buses is more suited to local routes, allowing for charging at dedicated bus stations rather than third-party charge points on longer routes. In Berlin, the local government aims to switch 1,600 diesel buses for 1,700 electric buses by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, New York hopes to make its 5,800-bus fleet all-electric by 2040

Related: Oil Prices Remain Under Pressure Despite Rising Gasoline Demand

In Europe, the electric bus market is expanding rapidly in line with EU aims for a green transition. There are up to 87 million regular bus users across Europe, showing the impact that a shift to electric could have on decarbonization efforts. The region saw a 53 percent growth in electric bus registrations in 2023, with 6,354 registered in the EU, as well as Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. More than 42 percent of city buses were zero-emission, both battery electric and hydrogen, marking a sharp increase from just 15 percent in 2020. 

In the U.S., school and university districts are taking particular interest in electric buses. Oakland became the first school district in the U.S. to switch all its buses to electric, with 74 in total. In May, The Oakland Unified School District announced it was partnering with the student transport company Zum to sell power stored in EV batteries back to the California utility grid. It will be the first school district to test vehicle-to-grid (V2G) bidirectional charging, which allows school buses to send the power in their batteries back to the grid via Zum’s charging points. The company estimates that around 2.1 GW hours of energy could be sent from batteries to the grid every year through this project. If successful, the project could be expanded countrywide to cover a fleet of around 10,000 school buses. Cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles could soon follow suit, followed by other districts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Utah, and Virginia. 

Ritu Narayan, the CEO of Zum, stated “We at Zum strongly believe it is time to move beyond pilots and deploy sustainability solutions at scale. Converting the Oakland Unified school bus fleet to 100 percent electric with virtual power plant capability is the right step in that direction.” 

In the Middle East, Qatar is even more ambitious in its electric bus aims, having launched an autonomous electric passenger transport pilot program, with the hope of a larger rollout of the vehicles in the coming years. In February, Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and the company Mowasalat unveiled the country’s first self-driving electric bus. The pilot project ran on a route in the capital city of Doha, with the aim of analyzing data for the wider rollout of the technology. The buses are capable of carrying up to eight passengers and traveling at a speed of up to 40 km per hour. The bus is fitted with advanced onboard sensors, high-definition cameras, lasers, and ultrasonic radars to make it autonomous. 

In addition, Qatar’s Lusail Bus Depot recently won the Guinness World Record Certificate for becoming the largest electric bus depot in the world, with a capacity for 478 buses. The country aims to shift to a 100 percent electric bus fleet by 2030, including some autonomous bus routes. This echoes goals across the region, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia also aiming for the widespread electrification of public transport over the next decade. 

As the global demand for private EVs is growing, so too is the demand for electric buses. Governments worldwide are looking for ways to decarbonize in line with climate pledges and an overall green transition, which includes transitioning public transport away from fossil fuels to green fuels and clean electricity. We can expect to see a sharp increase in the global electric bus fleet over the coming decades, as local and national governments worldwide invest heavily in the sector.

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By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 26 2024 said:
    This one good idea that can take off brilliantly in major cities of the word based on relatively shorter distances within cities and having their own charging stations in their own depots.

    Electric buses are already a success in many major cities of the world

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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