Just one in 10 urban buses sold in Europe now fully electric – analysis

Fully electric buses only account for 9% of urban bus sales in Europe – despite being cost competitive with diesel buses when the costs of air pollution and noise are taken into account. That’s according to a new analysis of urban buses by T&E focusing on orders received by bus-makers and the total cost of ownership of different bus types.

More than 95% of the urban area in the EU is affected by air pollution with much of it caused by diesel fumes.[1] Diesel buses impose heavy costs on society and the climate through air pollution, noise and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cleaning up the bus fleet, which is almost all diesel today, can contribute significantly to lessen the air pollution crisis in European cities.

Electric and diesel buses are already at parity in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO) when the health costs imposed by air and noise pollution are included. Add climate costs, and electric buses have today a lower TCO than diesel buses.

Lucien Mathieu, transport and e-mobility analyst at T&E, said: “Electric buses are the superior choice in every respect now. They have no tailpipe emissions, they’re quiet, comfortable and economical. If mayors and regions are serious about tackling the air quality and climate crises, the only rational decision is to buy electric buses from now on.”

According to the analysis there are two key barriers to the electrification of buses in Europe. First challenge is the higher upfront cost (up to twice the price of a diesel bus), which makes it difficult to buy electric buses without some financial help, in particular for less wealthy cities which are usually the ones with the worst air quality. The second barrier is the lack of strong policy support that stimulates both supply and demand, thereby increasing economies of scale, and pushing down the cost of zero-emission buses.

Last month MEPs supported public procurement targets for “clean” urban buses by local authorities. However, the targets also include gas buses– despite gas showing little or no air quality or climate benefits compared to diesel.

The environment committee of the European Parliament has adopted a much better approach, backing a sales target requiring busmakers to sell 50% zero emission urban buses by 2025, and 75% by 2030

Lucien Mathieu concluded: “For cities struggling with the higher capital cost of zero-emission buses, a grant could be made available through the new EU budget from 2020. To further drive down the purchase price of e-buses, we need a Europe-wide zero emission sales target for new buses. That’s why we urge the full parliament to support the zero emission bus proposals when it votes on new standards for trucks and buses next week.


[1] Ozone is at harmful levels for 95 - 98% of the urban EU population according to the EEA. Moreover, nitrogen dioxide, which comes mainly from diesel engines, was responsible for the premature death of an estimated 79,000 people across 41 European countries in 2015.

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