The electric bus market has been tracking quite closely with the electric car market in Europe, with 2019 showing 4% electric bus share across the European Union and a few other countries. That may sound good when you consider the 1–3% share among light passenger vehicles in many markets in 2019, or bad if you look at the 56% plug-in vehicle (42% fully electric vehicle) share in Norway or the 15% plug-in vehicle share (93% of which were full electrics) in the Netherlands.
I won’t lie — I expected a much higher electric bus market share by now. They showed several years ago that they could compete with any conventional buses on a lifetime cost of ownership basis (that’s what the head of Barcelona’s transit agency told me in 2013), while also making the cities where they operate cleaner and quieter — thus saving countless human lives and improving quality of life.
On top of the 4% electric bus market share, hybrid buses (without plugs) accounted for another 4.8% market share, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA — don’t ask). On the flip side of that chart, diesel buses accounted for 85% of sales in 2019.
These figures cover both medium-duty and heavy-duty buses. While the 85% figure doesn’t look uplifting, the good news is that the market is clearly shifting, and 2020 should be even better. “In 2019, EU demand for diesel buses decreased by 3.1% to 34,123 units. Four of the five major EU markets recorded double-digit losses in the diesel segment: Spain (-13.8%), the United Kingdom (-12.0%), Italy (-11.8%) and Germany (-10.1%). France was the only market to post modest growth (+2.4%) in registrations of new diesel buses. Across the entire European Union1, only eight petrol buses were sold in 2019,” ACEA reports.
“Last year, registrations of new electric2 buses in the EU increased by 170.5% from 594 units in 2018 to 1,607 buses sold in 2019. Electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECV) accounted for 4.0% of total EU bus sales. The Netherlands was the biggest market for these vehicles with 381 electric buses registered last year, followed by France (285) and Germany (187). Together, these three countries accounted for more than half of all electrically-chargeable busses sold last year.”
At the same time as I was collecting this information, I found news that Orléans Métropole in France just ordered 29 electric buses and Lublin’s Municipal Transport Authority (ZTM) in Poland just ordered 12. Even in the midst of a pandemic, big orders are coming in.
Orléans Métropole intends to have a fully electric public transportation system in 2025, if not sooner. The 29 electric buses it just ordered are “Irizar ie tram” buses. “The buses are 12 metres long and they have a range of 220 km. They are fitted with technology developed by the Irizar Group in electronics, communications and the main components and systems. The batteries are also proprietary technology and meet the latest European rules on electrical, thermal and mechanical safety: R100.v2, R10.v5 and UN38.3.” The first buses should be delivered by the middle of next year.
In the case of ZTM in Lublin, Poland, it seems the order total may have been chosen based on the name of the bus, or vice versa. The transit operator decided to purchase 12 “Solaris Urbino 12” electric buses. They will be delivered between November 2021 and April 2022. (I know — the timeframes are sometimes agonizingly long in this industry.) The buses will each carry up to 70 passengers (27 seated).
Adding in 7 electric bus chargers, the total cost of the order came to PLN 32 million ($7.6 million). Before this order, ZTM previously ordered 20 Solaris Urbino 12 electric buses (in December of 2019).
“The electric drive axles will be fueled with the power stored in 116 kWh Solaris High Power batteries, adapted to frequent and fast charging. The electric buses will be charged using a traditional plug-in system, as well as in a matter of minutes by means of a roof-mounted pantograph.
“In addition the roofs of the buses will be also fitted with photovoltaic panels, optimizing the use of electric power in the bus. Along with the buses, Solaris will also deliver seven charging devices. Depending on customer needs, dual mode chargers will enable the concurrent recharging of two buses with a charging power of 40 kW or of a one bus with a charging power of 80 kW.”
Aside from the electric bus orders, one more piece of news in this industry is that MAN Truck & Bus has just launched a new electric model, MAN Lion’s City 18 E. This electric articulated bus packs up to 120 humans inside and is 18 meters long, and it puts up 320–480 kW of power. The batteries combine for 640 kWh — for each bus — and use an NMC lithium-ion chemistry. That means a range of 200 km, or 270 km in good weather conditions.
15 demo buses will be delivered across 5 European countries this year, with the first two buses going to Barcelona and Cologne.
“Two electric central motors on the second and third axles give the bus the power it needs for city traffic. In contrast to electric motors positioned close to the wheel hubs, these models are easier to access and have a simpler design. As such, transport operators benefit when it comes to maintenance work and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO),” MAN Truck & Bus writes. “The two driven axles are electronically synchronised and also help to improve the handling of the articulated bus as they boost driving stability and, in turn, the level of safety. What’s more, the articulated bus comes with an anti-jackknifing control system and kink angle control system, which further improve driving stability. Critical jackknifing situations can thus be prevented in advance as the drive torque can be selectively distributed to the two driven axles in line with the specific situation at hand.”
The buses have their batteries — 8 battery packs each — in their roofs. That seemed odd to me, but the company notes, “This is advantageous because it means the batteries are located away from the rear of the vehicle, which is an area at higher risk of a collision. It also means they are easier to access for servicing.”
Max charging power is 150 kW and average charging power 100 kW, taking under 4 hours to fully charge the giant battery packs.
The 15 demo buses will be operating in Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. Series production is expected to start in the first half of 2021.