Electric Buses A Crucial Portion Of Our Mobility Needs

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In the race to electrify vehicles, electric buses (e-buses) and other utility platforms have been kept in the specialized news media. Despite the low profile, this market segment has the industrial and financial might to catapult EVs into mainstream use earlier than predicted.

Electric Buses Solve Major Urban Mobility Challenges

E-buses can take on a large portion of our transportation needs, so both OEMs and startups are rushing to offer their versions of the most competitive electric mobility mass transportation vehicles.

So far, the electric news limelight has been around electric sedans and SUVs. But vehicles for industrial use, fleets, and true utility services are alive and well. This was proved to us again on our last visit to the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo (ACT) in Long Beach, California.

The e-bus market grew beyond expectation between 2016 and 2017, and we expect more of the same in 2018. The offerings are only getting more competitive.

As we transition into driverless cars, many argue that personal vehicles will more or less become obsolete. We often think of private robotaxis shuttling us around, but what about other size vehicles? Large buses, medium buses, mini buses — they can all be part of the solution.

City transit buses are ideal electrification candidates and have already proven faster returns on investments than diesel fleets, at least according to what the Long Beach Public Transit Authority told us. They could also be ideal for autonomy thanks to their fixed or semi-fixed routes.

Electric Buses Solve Urban Problems

In the short term, e-buses in cities mean no tailpipe emissions, which quickly tackles local air health problems plaguing cities around the world. See our story on the U.S.’s most polluted cities are in California.

After that, cleaning up power plants’ emissions, switching to renewable energy, and electrifying cars (of course) are critical next steps.

Ultimately, even if an e-bus is powered by coal-generated electricity, it averages less pollution per mile than a comparable diesel bus. And the effect is more dramatic right there on the street where the buses are running. That is something cities can take on right now to address pollution problems while saving on operation costs and saving money overall in the long run.

Electric Buses Solve Urban Problems And Open UP Exponential Business Potential

Predictions range as to how we’ll transition 800,000 to over a million buses to electricity over the next decade. China certainly has done its fair share of converting some of its massive cities to e-buses, and is now actively switching taxis and delivery vehicles to electricity. And regardless of whether we’ll see 22% by 2027 or 22% by 2021, analysts agree that growth of cleaner energy buses will be fastest in China and India where air pollution issues are worst and political leadership is strong.

Ryan Popple, CEO of local e-bus startup Proterra, has a much more optimistic view and believes that in the US alone e-buses will represent about a third of all new transit sales by 2020, or roughly 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2030, a sharp contrast from other predictions.

Proterra isn’t alone pursuing the e-bus route. Longtime competitor BYD recently unveiled massive expansion at its Lancaster, California, facility — more than quadrupling its surface. The fundamental difference between both startups is their approach to fast charging. Proterra is sticking to tried-and-true DC fast charging, while BYD argues that onboard AC fast charging is even more flexible and efficient. After all, cities have plenty of industrial AC current at every lamppost.

Today’s startups are a few of the heavier EV fleet players, challenging the likes of Volvo, Daimler, Peterbilt, and other mainstream heavy-duty vehicle makers.

E-buses play and will grow to play an even more integral part of our electric mobility future. After decades of deferred mass transportation care, the industry is coming back with a vengeance.

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Nicolas Zart

Nicolas was born and raised around classic cars of the 1920s, but it wasn't until he drove an AC Propulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Ever since he has produced green mobility content on various CleanTech outlets since 2007 and found his home on CleanTechnica. He grew up in an international environment and his communication passion led to cover electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, renewable energy, test drives, podcasts, shoot pictures, and film for various international outlets in print and online. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he has forged in those industries. His favorite taglines are: "There are more solutions than obstacles." and "Yesterday's Future Now"

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