How have countries around the world electrified public transport?

The unstoppable rise of electric public transport is well underway around the world.  Countries that have taken the lead in eMobility, have done so with supportive policies and government subsidies to stimulate uptake.

The benefits for scaling electrified public transport are clear. Cleaner air, quieter urban centres, and less planet-heating carbon emissions are just a few of the reasons countries have adopted e-Buses and electric fleets. This blog looks at how a number of European nations and the US sates leading the eMobility revolution have made progress in the journey to Net Zero, and what will come next.

The rise of public eMobility in Europe

Across the continent, the electrification of public transport has outpaced private passenger cars.

Data on EU countries Net Zero progress puts the Netherlands at the front of the pack with over a quarter(27%) of city buses being electric. 2023 is set to see more electric buses than diesel - marking a significant shift in the sector. The country also has among the best access to public chargers, and ambitious plans to further phase out fossil fuels by 2030 in the public transport network.

Other European success stories include Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany with others following suit - likely influenced by the European Green Deal. Under the scheme, pioneered by the European Commission, is a number of proposals with the aim making the EU's climate, energy, transport and taxation policies capable of supporting a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, against benchmark 1990levels.

The initiative mandated that all large and medium-sized cities are required to put in place their own sustainability mobility plans by 2030.

It has been a cornerstone of the trading bloc’s political efforts to decarbonise transport that has seen more and more electric vehicles hit European roads each year - with double-digit year-on-year market growth in some countries.

To further accelerate the adoption of zero and low emissions vehicles, the EU commission is investing in public access to charging infrastructure, and from 2026, introducing emissions trading for all road transport - putting a fiscal price on the carbon emissions from fossil fuel cars in the hopes of enticing more to shift to EVs.  

Other important initiatives have sprung up further adding to the call for zero emissions transport in the EU. Among these are:

•  The ZEV Declaration: signed at COP26 the declaration mandates that all sales of new cars and vans are zero emission by no later than 2035 in leading markets — and globally by 2040.

•  The Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council: launched by the UK with the aim of increasing collaboration between Ministers from governments that represent over 50% of the global car market.

• The Marrakech Partnership’s Climate Action Pathway for Transport: a detailed strategy aimed at decarbonising the transportation sector that outlines measures to promote low-carbon transportation systems, including promoting electric vehicles, improving public transport infrastructure, and encouraging the use of alternative fuels.

This shows an encouraging amount of momentum behind the move to fully electrified public transport and latest research shows that electric buses (BEVs and PHEVs combined) accounted for up to 20.8% of new buses on the road in the EU in 2022.  With France being the largest market for new eBuses, followed by Germany and Denmark.

But for European cities to reach their 2030 targets, OEMs and public transport operators will have to maintain their double-digit annual growth in the electric city bus market for the next seven years.

Following the progress made in electrifying public transport, the need to deploy more zero emission vehicles for passengers and freight across the continent will likely be the next big shift.

Electric public transport in the USA

 Over in the United States, there has been a similar concentrated push toward electrified public transport in a number of states though not yet to the same degree as the EU.

In terms of green public transport, California was an early adopter of the EV trend and now leads the race to net zero transport emissions in the US in infrastructure investment, access to EV chargers and green public transportation.

As of September 2022, across the United States, the total number of electric buses has reached 5,480 representing a 66% increase up from 3,297 in 2021. . This is an impressive scale of growth of which California represents the lion’s share.

 According to Californian state law, the sale of all new transit buses must be net-zero emission by 2030 under the Innovative Clean Transit (ICT) regulation. This has spurred early uptake in the state, which boasts 1977 eBuses - over a third of the country’s total.

 In fact, the West Coast as a region- including California, Washington and Oregon represents almost half (41%)of the total number of zero emission buses across the nation. Washington state has emerged as a supporter of green transport, with a sales tax exemption for new or used alternative fuel passenger vehicles. It has also opened a zero emission vehicle grants scheme which further encourages the shift to EVs across the Pacific Northwest.

Over on the East Coast, New York is leading the way with political support for public EV charging and a commitment to install 50,000 new chargers across the state by 2030. Despite its relatively small size, Massachusetts also has notably favourable electric transport policies and the second highest number of EV chargers in the country. It also has funding in place to incentivise the uptake of EVs.

Nationwide, as of June 2022,school districts across 38 states have committed to powering 12,275 of the countries iconic yellow school with electricity.

This could lead to a significant are of market growth for eBuses, if the rollout of electric school buses takes hold, as there are around half a million school buses active in networks across the states.


Greener transport pathways

Electrified public transport has seen impressive growth over the last decade in both the EU and US, but there is significant work still to do to fully embrace a transformative shift from diesel-powered city buses and rail networks to electric alternatives.

Through successful implementations in cities like Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Glasgow and New York, policymakers and public transport authorities are realising and delivering the environmental and societal benefits of this EV transition.

While the road ahead remains challenging, global, and national commitments to sustainability, investment in infrastructure, and collaborative efforts have laid a solid foundation for a cleaner, greener future in European urban transport.

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