Cities Are Leading An Electric Bus Revolution

By Gunjan Parik,  Head of C40's Transportation Initiative

Today the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan was joined by the Mayor of Shenzhen, Xu Qin at London City Hall, to mark the delivery of 51 new electric buses. Manufactured by the Shenzhen based company, BYD, the new addition to the fleet will be the first electric buses running on routes through central London. London now has the largest electric bus fleet in Europe and represents a significant step in Mayor Khan's campaign to improve air quality in the capital.

Mayors understand that in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the modern day bus system needs to be revolutionized. Demand for affordable transport is growing in cites worldwide and at the fastest rate in the cities of the Global South. By 2030 the number of bus journeys taken in cities will grow by nearly 50 percent from today’s levels, playing a key role in shifting people away from private cars. Yet bus systems can be major contributors to the carbon emissions of cities, as well as having a major impact on their air quality. Buses travel up to 10 times further than the average passenger vehicle, and therefore their emissions impact over a lifetime is much greater. Buses also run for a longer period of time (10-20 years+), so the impact of new buses that are put on the road with poor emissions performance can persist for decades.

Recognising these challenges, cities in C40’s Low Emission Vehicles (LEV) Network came together last year to launch the C40 Clean Bus Declaration. This raised the level of ambition amongst cities and demonstrated the scale of global demand for clean buses, particularly electric and hybrid vehicles. Today, 26 global cities have signed the Declaration – if these 26 cities deliver on their plans to shift part of their fleets to clean vehicles it will save 1 million tons of GHG per year. If these 26 cities could instead switch their entire bus fleet to LEV the savings could be 2.8 million tons each year, the equivalent of taking almost 590,000 cars off the road.

C40 cities like Shenzhen and London are already paving the way to a low-carbon bus future – Shenzhen boasts an impressive number of electric buses, and announced plans to convert its entire fleet of 16,000 buses to be battery powered by 2017. Recently, London Mayor Sadiq Khan outlined an updated plan for the city’s bus fleet – by 2018, all new buses on London’s roads will be hybrid, electric or hydrogen. Additionally, the proposal outlines a requirement for all 3,000 double decker buses operating in central London to be zero hybrid-electric by 2019 and 300 single deck buses to be zero emission at tailpipe. So far, 1,800 hybrid-electric buses have joined the London fleet making it the largest hybrid fleet in Europe.

Just this week, Mexico City announced that it will implement a Green Corridor on the major thoroughfare of Eje 8 Sur, by purchasing a fleet of at least 100 electric buses. The project was one of the first two pilot cities selected to receive up to $1 million each in technical support from the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF). Bogotá will also receive support from the CFF to build a first-of-its-kind 25-kilometre bicycle highway traversing the city.

Signatory cities of the C40 Clean Bus Declaration continue to collaborate through C40’s LEV Network, by sharing data on plans and targets, technology performance and how challenges in introducing these technologies at a large scale are being overcome around the world. And the CFF is supporting pilot projects that, when scalable, can help reduce GHG emissions and support cities’ efforts to become sustainable. Cities are committed to transforming urban transportation and their ambitious actions thus far send a strong signal to bus manufacturers across the world – manufacturers and cities need to work together to decarbonize buses and clean up the air in cities. Cities and mayors are leading the way and they invite manufacturers to join them in delivering this modern-day electric bus revolution.