While the slow sales of electric cars are in the headlines, there is one segment of vehicles – e-buses – that are adopting electric drivetrains at a rate that makes for a healthy business. In North America, hybrid models have captured 40% of new transit bus purchases.
According to a study from Pike Research, the global market for electric-drive buses is expected to grow steadily during the next six years, with a compound annual growth rate of 26% from 2012 to 2018. By 2018, the report concludes that more than 75,000 e-buses will be in service around the world.
Electric drivetrains – whether for hybrids, battery electric or fuel cell vehicles hold the same promise for the bus market as they do for light duty vehicles: moving from oil, efficiency gains, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and, in many cases, lower operating costs.
“The biggest challenge for electric drive technologies has been the cost premium over conventional diesel buses or buses that run on compressed natural gas,” says senior research analyst Lisa Jerram of Pike.
“This premium has maintained for hybrids, even as they have seen significant adoption in the North American market. Fuel economy savings are critical to making the case for bus operators to pay more, especially in developed countries that are facing increasing austerity in their public budgets.”
In the U.S., hybrid buses need fuel economy improvements of around 40%, at current diesel prices, to pay off the price premium over the life of the bus. Hybrid buses have already captured significant marketshare in the United States, and China is also adopting the technology. (See Windsor, Canada to Buy Chinese BYD Electric Buses) Hybrid buses will also begin to increase in Europe, but at a slower rate than in the United States or China. Lithium ion batteries, the primary battery chemistry for battery buses, will supply a significant percentage of the energy storage needed in hybrid and fuel cell drivetrains.
While growth in the e-bus market will accelerate strongly in certain regions, including Eastern Europe and Latin America, by far the largest sales volumes will come in Asia Pacific, the study claims. More than 15,000 electric buses will be sold in Asia Pacific in 2018 – 75% of the world total. North American sales are expected to reach just fewer than 2,500 in the same year.
The report, “Electric Drive Buses”, examines the opportunities and challenges in the global market for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell buses. The report covers the range of bus applications including transit, motor coach, shuttle, school buses, as well as the most prevalent bus sizes: full-size, articulated, medium duty or midi-buses, and minibuses. Market forecasts are included for hybrid, battery, and fuel cell buses in heavy duty and medium duty segments through 2018, and key market players are also profiled.