The electric bus is coming to a city near you – how and when?

China is adding a London-sized electric bus fleet to its cities every five weeks. Kent County Council became the second local authority in the UK to complete wide-scale trials of electric buses recently and Go North East are currently running a battery-powered bus between Gateshead and nearby shopping complex – the MetroCentre.

Three global, regional and local examples to demonstrate the march of the electric bus. High streets, suburban city areas and bus stations will be transformed in the next few years. Noisy clattering engines emitting a cloud of diesel fumes will be replaced by the clean, carbon-neutral swish of battery-powered public transport.

China currently leads the way in adopting and manufacturing these green machines. The metropolis of Shenzhen, which links Hong Kong to the mainland, recently became the first city to electrify all of its public buses. That’s over 16,000 battery-powered vehicles and Bloomberg estimate that 99% of the world’s electric buses are in China.

In Chicago, where the city authority is making plans to replace its diesel bus fleet with electric versions, estimated annual savings on fuel costs equate to $25,000 per unit per annum.

The economics of battery-powered fleets are finally starting to add up and assorted authorities across the globe are making initial plans to introduce electric buses, but it will take buy-in from national and local governments to make this happen.

The adoption of the electric bus in China benefits from the policies of a one-party national government which has committed itself to battery power. The up-front cost of electric buses remains double that of traditional ones and it may take significant state subsidies to push the adoption of ‘green’ vehicles in the USA and Europe.

The picture in the UK is complicated by a several hundred local authorities which oversee regional bus services, with scores of operators run on a commercial basis.

London has committed to only buying zero-emission transport by 2025, so whilst passengers will begin boarding electric buses in increasing numbers in the next few years, the provinces of Britain will take longer to follow suit and go all-in.

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