Netherlands leads the dance in electric buses in EU
While the vast majority of newly registered medium and heavy buses in Europe in 2020 were still diesel propelled (72,9%), electrically charged vehicles (ECV) increased by 18,4% from 1 448 units in 2019 to 1 714, representing a market share of 6,1%.
According to ACEA’s latest figures, the Netherlands clearly leads the dance with 446 new electric buses, before Germany (388) and Poland (200). Belgium still prefers to invest in diesel with 485 buses – although nearly half less than the year before – compared to a ‘meager’ 12 electric ones and 277 hybrids.
Although diesel still accounts for nearly two-thirds, the decline (-27,1%) is undeniable. In 2019, diesel buses made 82,9% of new registrations. Alternative fuels – nearly exclusively natural gas today – saw an increase with 24,3% to 3 206 buses, a market share of 11,4% of all new buses sold. France embraces gas most: 1 002 buses or an increase by +71,3%, followed by Sweden (464 or +63,4%).
Dutch are leading
Like in electric cars, the Netherlands confirms its lead in electrification in the public bus sector, too, with a share of 69,4% of new registrations in 2020. There are now some 1 200 electric chargeable vehicles on a total bus fleet of around 5 200. More than 20% of buses in the Dutch public transport system have become ‘green’ in only five years.
The province of Friesland was the first public transport authority in Europe to introduce battery buses in 2013. The province first launched six emission-free buses in Schiermonnikoog. Later, another three induction buses followed. Other similar initiatives followed in 2016.
Belgium is trailing
In Belgium, Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, has suspended a public contract tender to purchase 970 electric buses in the summer of 2020. They were due for 2023. In December, De Lijn has restarted the dossier. It launched an invitation to tender for 200 e-buses, estimated at 180 million euros, saying the bus company now prefers a ‘phased approach’.
De Lijn started in September 2020 a pilot project with 13 fully electric buses in Leuven, Antwerp, and Ghent. By 2025, Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) wants public transport in city centers to run entirely emission-free and, by 2035, extend this to the whole of Flanders.
Betting on hybrid
Brussels’ public transport operator, Stib/Mivb, ordered in May 2020 an additional 128 plug-in hybrid buses from Volvo. These vehicles will add to the Stib/Mivb’s fleet of 140 Iveco articulated hybrid buses, 25 full-electric buses, and 110 Volvo electric hybrid buses.
The Walloon bus operator, TEC, is betting on hybrid buses rather than full-electric. The hybrid TEC fleet of some 300 buses consists mostly of Polish Solaris Urbino Hybride buses and Swedish Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid buses.
Exponential growth expected
According to a study in October 2020 by international management consulting firm Arthur D. Little, the market for electric buses will see exponential growth in the next two decennia. By 2040, they estimate half of the world bus market to be electric, with 1,3 million driving around.
So far, it’s China that is the undisputed champion in electric buses in the world. In 2019, China accounted for some 421 000 of a global total of 425 000 e-buses, being 99%. The government pushed a rapid transition from diesel to electric.
A city like Shenzhen replaced its entire fleet of 16 000 buses with electric ones, claiming the latter is cheaper to operate: approximately $98 000 annually, compared to $112 000 for diesel. But as these buses have to charge every 200 km, Shenzhen had to invest massively in charging infrastructure, providing some 4 000 megawatt-hours (MWh) for this entire fleet.