Concerns about air quality and vehicle emissions are rising globally. According to the Health Effects Institute, air pollution is one of the top-ranking risk factors for death and disability, with vehicle emissions the main contributor of outdoor pollution. Local and regional governments are increasingly focused on improving their ambient air quality.
Enter the electric bus
While the bus market historically has been dominated by internal combustion engines, electric buses are increasingly popular in transportation headlines. More and more, transportation agencies are setting sunset timelines for the purchase of diesel buses and announcing goals to transition to zero-emission fleets — primarily through bus electrification. The market growth making these goals possible can be attributed to China’s massive drive to establish new manufacturing chains and to electrify its own bus market over the past decade.
China’s electric bus market has seen rapid growth thanks to central and regional government support. Navigant Research estimates that sales have grown from roughly 500 battery electric buses in 2010 to nearly 163,000 in 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 78.4 percent.
China is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, China’s battery electric fleet made up over 99 percent of the global total. As an example of the country’s market strength, Shenzhen, China, has over 16,000 battery electric buses in its fleet — more than the entire bus fleet of the top five transit agencies in North America combined.
Growth outside of China
In the next decade, electric bus sales are expected to grow both in China and abroad. China’s days of rapid market growth are likely numbered thanks to market saturation and China’s recent reduction in EV incentives. Instead, rapid growth of the electric bus market is expected to come primarily from sales in markets that prioritize the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants affecting ambient air quality, while also offering government support for new fleet vehicles.
North America and Europe are primed for battery electric bus growth, as both regions have air quality targets and policies encouraging fleets to replace existing buses. With the Chinese market’s adjustment to gradual growth, Chinese electric bus manufacturers are also looking for additional growth in other markets. OEMs such as BYD and Yutong already have begun shipments to fleets in Latin America.
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