Hybrids capture 40% of transit bus market, report says

Posted on August 22, 2012

No other category of heavy-duty vehicles has seen more adoption of electric drivetrains than buses, according to a Pike Research report.

In North America, hybrid models have captured as much as 40% of new transit bus purchases in recent years. Electric drivetrains — whether for hybrid systems, battery-electric, or fuel cell — hold appeal for the bus market for many of the same reasons they do for light-duty vehicles: the promise of moving away from oil, efficiency gains, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and, in many cases, lower operating costs. 

According to the report, “Electric Drive Buses,” the global market for electric-drive buses is expected to grow steadily over the next six years, with a compound annual growth rate of 26% from 2012 to 2018. By 2018, more than 75,000 electric drivetrain buses will be in service around the world, the report concludes.

“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. “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. Typically, hybrid buses need to show fuel economy improvements of around 40%, at current U.S. diesel prices, to pay off the price premium over the life of the bus.”

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 finds. 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 examines the opportunities and challenges in the global market for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric, and fuel-cell buses and covers the full range of bus applications including transit, motor coach, shuttle, school buses, and paratransit, in addition to the most prevalent bus sizes: full-size, articulated, medium-duty or midibuses, and minibuses.

An assessment of the top markets for electric buses, the likely next markets, and key drivers and barriers to market growth including public policy, cost, domestic content regulations, and competing technologies is available. 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. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.

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