China dominates global electric bus market, but US builders still have a tech edge

China dominates global electric bus market, but US builders still have a tech edge (Charged)

  • A growing number of cities is gradually adding electric buses to their fleets.
  • Unlike the small Western pilot programs, China has been adding electric buses to its fleet by the thousands, with 18% of its total bus fleet now electric (2018).
  • According to BNEF’s estimates, China will have more than 600,000 municipal e-buses on service by 2025 (vs. c. 5,000 in the US).
  • However, the US still has a technological advantage.

Analysis & Comments

  • The electric bus sector is reaching saturation in China where already 60% of the city transit buses are electric.
  • Analysts expect the global growth in electric buses to be muted at 3-5% p.a. over the next 5 years. However, India (along with Europe) could become the next growth centre for electric buses. India plans to spend a massive $1.35bn over the next 3 years and is providing up to 60% subsidies on the purchase of electric buses.      
  • With the local market in gradual contraction, the Chinese bus OEMs are being forced to expand into Europe, US, India and other regions. BYD has opened manufacturing centres in Europe, US and India and has been winning large contracts.  
  • Analysts think that Western bus OEMs will struggle to compete against their Chinese counterparts which now have substantially larger manufacturing scale, expertise and lower cost. European and US bus OEMs should instead focus on higher value long range electric buses for regional transportation. 
  • US company Proterra is targeting this market and is manufacturing long range buses using highly energy dense batteries.

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