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Electric Vehicles Research
Posted on October 28, 2010 by  & 

The future market for electric buses and taxis

This article shares some of the research carried out for the new IDTechEx report, Electric Buses and Taxis 2011-2021. This is the world's first report forecasting the global market for electric buses and taxis both hybrid and pure electric, a sector served by Siemens AG, Fiat Group, BAE Systems and AFS Trinity Power Corporation with new arrivals KPIT Cummins and Bladon Jets and others also offering breakthroughs.
It separately forecasts the market in the most important country, China, and it takes a detailed look at technologies present and future with a blunt assessment of reasons for failure and threats for the future, not just the positive aspects. The market for electric buses and taxis will rise 8.7 times from 2011 to 2021, approaching $60 billion not long after that.
The buses will be designed exclusively for purpose, though some will have power trains used for trucks as well. The taxis will largely consist of regular cars - the Nissan Leaf will be a candidate but hybrids will be more popular - and people movers with modest adaptation. As with cars, this is the decade of the hybrid but with pure electric versions coming up fast in later years.
Rapid growth
We forecast the global demand in detail, excluding open buses and those holding less than ten passengers. For example, in 2021 there will be 442,000 electric buses and taxis sold. That includes 81% of all taxis made because these electric taxis will nearly all be minor modifications of the profusion of hybrid and pure electric medium and large cars, crossovers, SUVs, people movers etc that will be on the market then.
Electric buses will be 24% of all buses made -a lower but still substantial figure - because these are specially developed. Creating the desired choice of size and performance and reducing the eye watering upfront extra cost of up to 100% more than the cost of a conventional bus will take time.
Nonetheless, any major bus manufacturer not offering competitive hybrid models over the coming decade is painting itself into oblivion. The United States is the global leader in hybrid bus manufacture and it has the largest demand, including New York City Transit, the world's largest hybrid transit bus fleet. About one third of the large buses being purchased in the USA are already hybrid. Europe and East Asia are catching up by also subsidising manufacture and use of green buses and imposing new regulations.
Fuel cells
Some manufacturers plan major sales of "fuel cell buses" within the decade. These will usually have batteries still managing the fast start and varying load but fuel cells at steady load supplying extra electricity. This is because fuel cells are, as yet, poor for the entire task. They also need extra fuelling infrastructure - hydrogen with its safety challenges.
Those offering battery electric buses with the new range extenders such as turbines are on a surer footing in the medium term, because they use existing fuelling infrastructure and have low cost over life. Some leading bus manufacturers will strengthen their market position by excelling in power trains that employ alternatives to fuel cells such as pure battery electric and range extended series hybrid buses.
Different skills
The leading bus manufacturers manufacture globally and design and make their own power trains, a capital intensive business with major long term research and development. Other participants do only the labor intensive coachwork. They buy a power train from specialist power train manufacturers that usually do not make complete vehicles.
However, with the smaller buses, it is practicable for manufacturers to buy in parts rather than a complete power train. All this applies to the new electric buses too. Indeed, small buses may be viable from small companies and local manufacture. However, hybrids are particularly complex for now, making it difficult for new entrants to penetrate the hybrid power train business.
Today's leading electric bus manufacturer
Daimler of Germany has the largest gross sales value from electric buses today, manufacturing globally. Increasingly, it concentrates on hybrids. Orion, a subsidiary of Daimler that is based in North Carolina USA, had about 60% of the US transit hybrid bus market in 2009.
China in the ascendant
The Chinese leaders will overtake Daimler within ten years as the primary market growth moves there and Chinese local manufacture continues to be protected by the government controlled exchange rate, cheap labor, major foreign manufacturers being limited to minor shareholdings and the practice of buying Chinese for major contracts in this, the largest national market for buses. No foreign manufacturer will be able to match that fistful of aces, particularly if they are located in one of the many countries that owe China a great deal of money because demands for a level playing field will be muted.
66% of the manufacturers of electric vehicles in the world are already in China mainly thanks to the huge number of manufacturers of electric bicycles, where the Chinese buy over 90% of global output. Many of the bicycle manufacturers later migrate to greater things. China has the largest potential market for electric vehicles and it mines and controls 95% of the rare earth reserves used in many of the electric vehicle batteries, electric motors and other key components.
In 2010, it temporarily shut off supplies of these minerals to Japan in an unrelated political dispute. China now has the world's largest car market and, in 2025, it is expected to be the world's largest economy.
China will increase its share of the global bus market by leapfrogging the old technology to dominate its national bus market with electric versions in order to reduce local pollution and build an electric bus exporting industry. In China, we expect the demand for buses to rise at 6% yearly to 2020, faster than in the world as a whole, but starting to saturate in 2021. Within this, electric bus demand will rise much faster at about 25% yearly.
China will become by far the largest market for both electric buses and electric taxis within the decade. China is the most populous nation, with 20% of the people on earth. Indeed, its frenetic level of economic activity means that much larger percentages keep appearing in the statistics. For example, China built 50% of the world's new accommodation last year and it made and purchased about 37% of the world's buses last year - 139,210 of them, up 7.8% on the previous year compared with a collapse in US production of heavy buses, which dropped 42.5%.
China already has more buses and taxis than any other nation at over one million. That policy of leapfrogging the advanced nations in technology will have to include more emphasis on hybrids, as in the West and in Japan, FIAT bus making subsidiary Iveco being another example. However, pure electric versions are coming up fast, particularly small, short range buses that are pure electric. We forecast that China will be buying 40% of the world's electric buses in ten years from now and making more.
Less focus on taxis
Governments take less interest in taxis than in buses: indeed, one Chinese city has cut the number of licensed taxis by two thirds to encourage use of its new subway. In addition, taxis are less likely than buses to be owned by federal or local government or companies under intense pressure to be green.
In some countries, rickshaws and similar vehicles not covered in this report are part of the culture and are preferred to conventional taxis. That said, China wishes to lead the world in car and commercial vehicle manufacture, sectors where it drew level with global leader the USA in 2009. Another pull is the legislation in some US cities that the taxis must be hybrid.
Taxis become part of the car market
Specially designed taxis such as the London black cab are increasingly being replaced by regular cars and people movers used as taxis with little modification. The most popular electric taxi today is based on the most popular hybrid car, the Toyota Prius.
Unique event
The forthcoming conference Future of Electric Vehicles in San Jose California 7-8 December looks at all forms of electric vehicle by land, water and air with an emphasis on future breakthroughs and cross fertilisation of ideas. See
Speakers include bus and car manufacturer Fiat, hybrid bus powertrain leader BAE Systems, Trinity Power Corporation on the next hybrid powertrains, KPIT Cummins on commercial vehicle conversion to hybrid, Bladon Jets for those range extenders, Siemens and a host of developers of next generation components for buses, cars and taxis. Several presentations look at the statistics and forecasts. Early Bird Bookers get a free copy of the new $3000 report, "Electric Buses and Taxis 2011-2021" and there are visits to KleenSpeed (200 mph Formula One pure electric racer, family EVs) and SunPods (solar powered charging stations).

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Posted on: October 28, 2010

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