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Lessons to Be Learned For E-Buses Applications in Megacities

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Expert Independent Consultant ,Electric Power Systems Engineering Free lancer

Summary Full Academic Qualification by obtaining B.Sc. (1971), M.Sc. (1980) and Ph.D. (1991) of Electric Power Engineering. Active continuous education by participating in long periods of...

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  • Mar 9, 2020

Lessons to Be Learned For E-Buses Applications in Megacities


The World Health Organization (WHO) lists air quality as the greatest environmental risk to health at a global level and estimates that outdoor air pollution exposure is responsible for almost 7 million deaths every year. Urban areas are disproportionately contributing to global transport emissions. Growing global urban populations and their high population densities result in a significant share of total passenger journeys and goods deliveries. Therefore, a substantial positive environmental impact can be made by decarbonizing urban transport emissions globally.

Megacities around the world face different challenges depending on if they are located in highly industrialized or less developed countries. Regardless of their location and development status, cities can learn from each other. The progressing electrification of transport creates a strong nexus between the energy and transport sectors. This interaction is both a challenge and an opportunity, creating new business models, new market participants, and different technical solutions transforming both sectors and their respective industries. Successful electrification of transport will depend on the ability of the electric system to support the energy transition.

1. China

(i) Shenzhen City's Total Buses Electrification

Shenzhen is a young, fast-growing, industrial Chinese megacity with severe air quality problems. It was choked with diesel pollution in the early 2010s. Though City's buses were 16,359 just 0.5 percent of the city’s vehicles, they were responsible for 20 percent of the air pollution. Therefore, Shenzhen Authorities focused its mobility strategy around the electrified city and fleet vehicles (e.g., buses, taxis). This process followed miniature S-curve and took only seven years (2010-2017). In late 2017 it completed a transition and converted its entire bus fleet (16,359 vehicles) to e-buses. As of mid-2019, nearly 100% of the city’s 21,000 taxis are electric. Shenzhen now has the world's largest fleet of BEBs.

(ii) Chinese Public Electric Vehicle Charging Poles

A similar story played out nationally over the same time frame, according to a  report on BEBs from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), China was bopping along with 1,700 Battery Electric Buses (BEBs) in 2013. In next year BEBs sales reached 30,000 and nearly doubled to 65,000 in 2015 before hitting a record of 132,000 in 2016 with 16% of total bus sales. 

Coping with this, China has built the largest number of public Electric Vehicle (EV) charging poles worldwide as new energy cars are gaining momentum in the world’s largest car market. In 2015, economic planners rolled out a proposal to install a total of 4.8 million EV charging ports, known as “piles,” across China by 2020, when it was expected that the country would have around 5 million EVs on its roads.

By the end of 2017, China was home to 213,903 public EV charging poles, ranking No 1 in the world. There were also 231,820-private EV charging poles, which has pushed the total number of charging poles available in the country to over 440,000.

Nationwide, the average usage rate for electric chargers is 15%, that would mean a charger was being utilized for only 15% of a given 24-hour period.

(iii) Lessons to be learned are

(a)  Having adequate charging infrastructure in place enabled these electrification projects to be implemented at scale. Shenzhen city has 300 e-bus chargers and about 8,000 EV charging stations integrated with street light poles.

(b) Overall, aggressive EV targets, e-bus, and e-taxi subsidies, strong regulatory policies limiting private car ownership and use, and using a nearby EV factory (BYD Company Ltd.) resulted in a successful electrification transformation for the city.

(c) The success of this program was recognized in the 2019 Union International des Transports Publics (UITP) Awards for the category of Outstanding Achievement.

 2. Santiago, Chile   

- Inspired by Shenzhen’s complete public bus electrification program, Santiago is now Latin America’s leading city for bus fleet electrification, boasting the highest number of electric, zero-emissions buses for the region. Santiago is one of the most polluted cities in Latin America, frequently experiencing dangerous levels of air pollution. The Chilean government has actively addressed this by looking to decarbonize the city with zero-emissions public transport.

Schemes include the deployment of e-scooters, cars, taxis, and trucks to increase the number of EVs tenfold by 2022 and the full electrification of public transport by 2050. Switching a diesel bus to electric can accrue annual savings of up to 60 tonnes of carbon emissions.  

- Following the relevant success from a pilot test with two e-buses promoted by Enel X in 2016, the first lot of 100 e-buses was commissioned in Santiago in December 2018. This resulted from a tender launched by the Chilean public transport company (Metbus) that Enel X won. Leveraging the success of the first phase of fleet electrification, Enel X will supply an additional 183 e-buses to Metbus and 70 additional charging stations at the depots. The 285 e-buses in Santiago are the largest fully electric public transportation fleet in operation across Latin America, among the largest globally outside China.

- The supply of this electric fleet came with the construction and management of two fully electric terminals (bus depots) designed, built, and operated by Enel X. They are equipped with 100 charging points. The electricity feeding the e-bus is provided by Enel from 100% renewable source and moreover solar panels have been installed at bus depots to serve the auxiliary consumption of the buildings. The e-bus depots can also leverage smart charging technology that intelligently optimizes consumption and power demand when the buses are charged. This results in a reduction of peak power consumption by 40%and a reduction of 50% in cost savings while ensuring that the buses are fully available for dispatch.

- In addition to the reduction in pollution and costs, the e-buses benefit travelers and the citizens of Santiago with substantially lower noise levels. High levels of passenger satisfaction have been reported about the e-buses. This is due to benefits such as the air conditioning system, the relative spaciousness, seat comfort, low noise, and reduction in pollution.

- In addition to the technical and product innovations, this program has been recognized for its innovative business model and funding scheme. It received a UITP 2019 award for Smart Funding, Financing, and Business Models.

Lessons to be learned

(a) Metbus coordinated deeper integration of the entire supply chain, partnering with Enel to supply the buses, charging infrastructure, and program finance. It also partnered with BYD to provide a high-performance maintenance agreement.

(b) The success of this initiative has inspired three other Latin American countries to adopt similar programs. The initiative is expected to be a catalyst for more widespread decarbonization of public transportation in Santiago.

3. Bogotá, Colombia

- Following Santiago, Bogotá also decided to move forward with the operation of 379 Integrated Transportation System e-buses. Through its advanced energy services business line, Enel X will be responsible for the design, construction, and supply of three terminals where the e-buses will be charged. Constructions of the three terminals started in November 2019, and are due to be delivered in the second half of 2020. The terminals will have an installed capacity between 8 MW and 10 MW and can simultaneously charge all buses through connected fast chargers.

- As a complementary service, Enel X will build and manage three smart bus shelters adjacent to the three terminals where smart city services such as video surveillance, digital signage, and smart lighting will be offered to the passengers waiting to board e-buses. The company will also install 177 smart-charging points and related infrastructure to ensure charging for the city’s fleet. The integration of this fleet into the city's public transport system will place Bogotá among the cities with the largest e-bus fleet in the Latin American region.

4. Indian Local Manufacturing of Electric Buses

- In India, Hyderabad-based Goldstone Infratech Ltd, and Chinese electric bus manufacturer BYD Auto Ltd, have a strategic tie-up for selling BYD electric vehicles in India. At present, 31 BYD buses are operating in India, and Goldstone has orders for an additional 165 buses.

- Lack of charging infrastructure has so far been a major challenge to India’s electric mobility dreams. Goldstone and BYD plan to install their own charging stations along the routes where their buses are set to operate. In addition, they have plans to localize BEB's production and work with both local and global suppliers according to a specific plan.

5. Zero-emission Transit Buses in the USA

In the USA, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008 requires greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from all sectors of the economy to reach a 25% reduction by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050, using the 1990 emission level as the baseline. The transportation sector (road, rail, air, and marine) released about 40% of GHG in 2014. Therefore, deploying zero-emission transit buses (ZEB) is one approach to decarbonize the transportation sector to achieve the GHG reduction goal.

The zero-emission transit bus (ZEB) program aims to implement a plan that would deploy 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles across the USA by 2025. Up-till December 2017, there were more than 70 implementations including a total of 600 electric buses. Electric bus manufacturers are Proterra, Build Your Dream, Complete Coach Works, and New Flyer.

The buses were configured with batteries specific to the chosen charging strategy. Three types of charging are plug-in, conductive, and inductive charging. Plug-in charging usually occurs at the depot and takes few hours, while high-power conductive and inductive charging are most frequently used on-route and take only a few minutes.

To date, the main challenges reported for the electric buses are the range and consequent needs to coordinate charging infrastructure decisions with route assignment and operation scheduling.


- The recent plan to shift to electric buses was thoroughly discussed during the sessions of the first international conference held in Cairo under the name of Sustainable Transport in Egypt (STE 2018), Cleaner Mobility and the Advent of Electric Vehicles. The event co-organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German foundation that promotes social democracy, the Egyptian Ministry of Environment and the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab region and Europe (CEDARE).

- It has been thought that electric mobility deployment, especially in public transportation, can be a cure to Egypt’s pollution problem as it is a very good way for reducing CO2 emissions in the future.

- As a result, On January 24, 2018, Egypt's Alexandria Passenger Transport Bureau (APTB) and China's BYD Company signed an order for 15 units of K9 pure electric buses, which was the first electric bus order from Egypt. The capacity of this electric bus is 90 passengers while cars normally take from one to five passengers. This means that one bus can replace dozens of cars and thus help reduce traffic and pollution at the same time.

Huang Zhixue, the BYD's general manager of auto sales division in the Middle East and Africa revealed that the 15 electric buses are only preliminary pilot operations, and more vehicles will be released after passing the market test. BYD's outlook in Egypt is to realize bus electrification in Egypt through bringing in the electric buses, electric taxi and "cloud rail" products, and hopes to solve the problem of local traffic congestion and pollution, boosting the local application and sustainable development of new energy transportation.

- By the end of 2018, the first electric bus has arrived in the port of Alexandria coming from the port of Shanghai, China, as part of a supply contract that includes 15 electric buses. The new bus went through a three-month trial to ensure the highest performance under the local weather conditions in Egypt. Upon trial's results acceptance, the 14 other buses which were agreed upon made their way to Egypt.

- In April 2019, Egypt signed an agreement with China’s Foton Motor Company when a delegation of ministers accompanied President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to China. The two sides agreed to transfer the technology for manufacturing electric buses to Egypt, and 2,000 buses will be manufactured in an Egyptian factory over four years, with a local manufacturing rate of up to 45 percent.


The World Health Organization (WHO) lists air quality as the greatest environmental risk to health at a global level.  Megacities around the world face different challenges depending on if they are located in highly industrialized or less developed countries. Regardless of their location and development status, cities can learn from each other. Urban areas are disproportionately contributing to global transport emissions. Therefore, a substantial positive environmental impact can be made by decarbonizing urban transport emissions globally.





Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 9, 2020

Keep in mind, too, the developing cities have the benefit of being able to integrate e-bus necessities into their urban planning. It's harder for an established city to rework its infrastructure around them (e-bus lanes and other clean public transit), but in areas that are urbanizing fast these principles should be brought up ASAP

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Mar 9, 2020

Hi, Matt.

Absolutely, you are quite right. The New Administration Capital of Egypt is intending to apply fully electrified traction to, from and inside it. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 9, 2020

Great to hear!

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Thank Dr. Amal for the Post!
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