Subscriber Login


Clean Bus Deployment in Asia: Opportunities in electric bus market [free access]

January 1, 2018

On December 27, 2017, Shenzhen city in China became the first city in the world to fully transition to a 100percent electric bus fleet. Several other Asian cities are quickly moving ahead with the deployment of clean buses, in particular electric buses, as they struggle with congestion, traffic accidents and high pollution. In 2017, several Asian cities made significant headway in the deployment of clean buses. Many cities announced major plans and policy changes to facilitate the deployment of clean buses.


This is Part 1 of a two-part feature, which focuses on the deployment of electric buses in Asia in 2017.


Box 1 describes the various types of clean buses.


Box 1: Types of clean buses


Buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), second-generation bio-fuels, electricity and hybrid configurations (combining electricity with hydrogen or diesel) are considered clean and environment-friendly. Diesel-fuelled buses, compliant with the recent Euro VI emission standards, are also in the ‘clean bus’ category. 


Fossil fuel buses (diesel, CNG): Diesel buses compliant with the Euro VI standard and buses fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) are the cleanest amongst buses operating on fossil fuels. Diesel and CNG buses have several advantages. Operators have data on the efficiency of these buses, the maintenance and exploitation costs are known, the filling infrastructure is in place and buses can be adapted easily for the usage of bio-fuels.CNG refuelling systems can be transformed to hydrogen refuelling systems. However, the fuel source is not sustainable because both diesel and CNG are non-renewable sources of energy.

Bio-fuel buses (first and second generation): First-generation biodiesel (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester or FAME) is one of the most common first generation bio-fuels to power buses. It is not recommended for long-term use because the production is not sustainable but it provides an option because second-generation bio-fuels are not widespread. Research, development and implementation focuses on second-generation bio-fuels,especially hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO).HVO’s main advantage is that only slight modifications of the diesel bus enable the use bio-fuels.

Full electric buses: Electric buses use batteries as the main power source. Batteries can be recharged overnight at the main bus location (overnight charging powertrain) or at fixed spots along the bus route (opportunity charging powertrain).Open charging interface can be used by any manufacturer. It uses an automated pantograph on the charging infrastructure to connect the bus to the charging point. Electric buses are considered to be one of the cleanest available technologies. However, the buses have a high purchase price and require greater investment in infrastructure.

Diesel/electric hybrid buses: Two diesel-hybrid bus technologies are in use. These are parallel hybrids with electric and conventional drives (small electric motor assists diesel motor), and serial hybrid configuration with dominating electric system (full electric motor powered by diesel generator).Hybrids (especially serial hybrids) also offer the opportunity to cover short distances in purely electric drive.

Hydrogen fuel cell buses: Three types of bus technologies running on hydrogen are already available on the market: fuel cell engine without battery, hydrogen internal combustion engine and combined hydrogen with electric battery. Hydrogen buses require specific filling infrastructure that includes specific equipment in fuelling stations and supply infrastructure.

Source: Civitas, European Union


Key electric bus deployments


Several cities in Asia took initiatives to introduce electric buses and build charging infrastructure in 2017.


Developments in China


Cities in China led initiatives in the deployment of electric buses and development of charging infrastructure in Asia. Table 1 describes the electric bus initiatives undertaken in various cities in China in 2017.


Table 1: Key electric bus deployments in China in 2017



No. of electric buses introduced in 2017

Bus type and infrastructure

Month and year


Beijing Public Transport Group


- Each bus is 18 metres long, low-floored, and equipped with PM2.5 filter and security pre-warning system. The bus takes 15 minutes for a full charge and has a range of 130 km.

- Beijing has 1,300 electric buses.

- A hundred charging stations were supplied by end-2017

October 2017


Hefei Public Transport


- Ankaihas supplied 240 buses.

August 2017


Transportation Bureau of Luohe City


- Yutonghas supplied fully electric buses

- Each bus is 10.5 metres long

December 2017


ShaoyangXiangyun Group


- CRRC has supplied 400 electric buses as of date

December 2017


Shenzhen Municipal Transport Commission


- A total of 16,359 electric buses have been deployed.

- Shenzhen has 510 bus charging stations with a total of 8,000 charging points.

- The charging station at the Qinghu Bus Terminal has more than 30 charging poles. A bus can be fully charged within two hours and the charging poles can serve 300 buses a day.

December 2017


Tangshan Public Transport Corporation


- The first batch of 24 electric buses was put into operation.

November 2017

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Developments in other Asian cities


Chandigarh, India: In June 2017, Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) and the State Transport Department commenced trial runs of the 9-metre long Tata Ultra ELECTRIC bus. These trials were part of Ministry of Road Transport’s agenda for the electrification of the public transport system.


Mumbai, India: In November 2017, Goldstone Infratech, a joint venture of Hyderabad's Goldstone Group and BYD, delivered six e-Buzz K7 electric buses to Mumbai Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) service.


The buses can cover up to 200 km in a single charge, operate at a speed of up to 70 km/hr, and have a capacity to accommodate 31 passengers. Each bus is priced at INR16.1 million.


Fast charging stations at BEST's Backbay depot fully charge the vehicle in 3-4 hours.


Okinawa, Japan: In January 2017, 10 pure electric buses manufactured by BYD were deployed as a shuttle service to and from the Okinawa Naha Port.


Putrajaya, Malaysia: In August 2017, Malaysia’s Putrajaya and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) launched the Putra-NEDO EV Bus project to replace buses fuelled by fossil fuels with super-quick charge electric buses.


The project involves an investment of JPY 3.6 billion over five years. NEDO is funding the project as part of its International Demonstration Project of Energy Consumption Efficiency Technology and System Demonstration.


Eight single-deck buses branded ‘Nadiputra’ were introduced on two 23-km circular routes in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. The fleet size is planned to grow to 13 buses by 2018.


DRB-HICOM Defence Technologies Sdn. Bhd. (DEFTECH) has supplied the buses and Putrajaya Public Transport Travel and Tours (PAPTT) operates them. The buses are equipped with Toshiba's SCiBlithium-ion rechargeable battery. Chargers are installed at the bus terminal of Putrajaya Sentral station. IoT systems monitor battery temperature and status as well as the electronic characteristics of the buses and chargers during operation.


The project partners include Japanese companies Toshiba, PUES Corporation (provider of electric power trains), HASETEC Corporation (provider of super-quick chargers) and Oriental Consultants Global Company Limited (responsible for environmental and economic evaluation).


Singapore: In October 2017, the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) awarded an SGD30-million contract to Volvo Buses to supply 50 Volvo 7900 diesel-hybrid buses. The buses will commence service by the second half of 2018.


Key policy developments


Central government initiatives and incentives are playing a key role in the introduction of electric buses in the region.


India: In 2017, the Indian government expanded the incentives for electric buses as part its drive to make India a 100percent electric-vehicle nation by 2030.


The government modified the scheme for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME-India scheme) and increased the quantum of subsidy given to agencies purchasing full electric buses. It also extended the first phase of FAME to March 31, 2018 (FAME has a corpus of about INR8 billion to invest in electric mobility based initiatives and was earlier due to expire in 2017).


- A fully electric bus, which has minimum local content of 15 per cent, will be eligible for incentives amounting to 60 per cent of the cost of the bus orINR8.5 million, whichever is lower.

- The government will give additional financial assistance for the purchase of charging equipment up to 10 per cent of the total eligible demand incentive for the purchase of electric buses. The incentive amount will be decided based on the supply order issued by the purchaser of the electric bus.


Thailand: In March 2017, the Board of Investment approved incentives for electric bus manufacturers including tax breaks of five to eight years.


In addition, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), Thailand Research Fund, Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to evaluate the use of electric public transport in Thailand.


Future plans


Several cities announced major plans for the deployment of electric buses and installation of charging infrastructure in 2017. China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam were some of the key countries where plans were announced. Table 2 provides a summary of the future plans of cities.


Table 2: Future plans of Asian cities announced in 2017

Agency, country

No. of electric buses to be deployed

By when

BeijingPublic Transport Group, China



Union Government’s Department of Heavy Industry, India for Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Jammu and Guwahati, India


Not available

Delhi government, India


Not available

Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation, India



Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport, India



Putrajayacity government, Malaysia



Government of Sindh, Pakistan


Not available

Singapore LTA



Taichungcity government, Taiwan



Source: Global Mass Transit




Beijing: Beijing Public Transport Group has announced plans to increase the number of electric buses in the city from the 1,000 currently to 10,000 by 2020.The proportion of fully-electric buses in the total public transport fleet is expected to increase from 10 percent currently to 60 percent by 2020.




On October 31, 2017, the Union Government’s Department of Heavy Industry invitedexpressions of interest (EoI) from million-plus population cities and special-category states for multi-modal transport. TheEoIproposed additional incentives to augment charging infrastructure for public transport. In response to the EoI, the Department received 47 proposals from 44 cities across 21 states, having a requirement of 3,144 buses.


Eleven cities, namely Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Jammu and Guwahati, were selected for funding under the EoI. Pilot projects are planned to be launched in these cities for multi-modal electric public transport under the FAME India scheme. Jammu and Guwahati will receive subsidy for 15 buses each, while the remaining nine cities will receive subsidy for 40 buses each.


Selected cities are required to finalise the tendering process and issue supply orders before February 28, 2018.


Bengaluru, Delhi and Navi Mumbai also announced plans to deploy electric buses besides those stated by the union government.





Putrajaya: In October 2017, the city government announced plans to deploy 150 electric buses in Putrajaya by 2025 as part of an initiative to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2025. 




Karachi: The Government of Sindh has announced plans to introduce around 3,000 electric buses in Karachi. China-based Eco-bus has proposed to undertake a USD600-million project to supply 2,000 electric buses and construct 500 charging stations in Karachi. Initially, the company will supply two electric buses free-of-cost for trial and evaluation. Later,it will either establish a joint venture with the government or local transport authority to supply and operate the buses or only sell buses.




On October 2, 2017, the LTA launched a request for information (RfI) on electric buses to better understand the latest bus types and charging technologies. It plans to call a tender to procure 60 electric buses in 2018. The buses will be deployed by 2019.




Taichung: In November 2017, the Taichung city government announced plans to replace 50 diesel-fuelled buses with electric buses and construct 45 charging stations during the period 2018-2020. Till date, 70 electric buses have been deployed in Taichung, the city with the largest electric bus fleet in Taiwan.




Bangkok: Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has announced plans to invite bids for 35 electric buses in 2018.


BMTA will also undertake trial runs of an electric bus made in South Korea on five routes in Bangkok in June 2018. The trial will be used to assess the operating efficiency of the bus.




Ho Chi Minh City: The city government has announced plans to deploy 800 buses fuelled by CNG by end-2017. The People's Committee of Vietnam has asked the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PVN) to expand four existing CNG filling stations and develop an additional nine stations.


New entrants and technology developments


Asia is home to some of the biggest manufacturers of electric buses and batteries and accounts for nearly two-thirds of total global production. In 2017, several innovations were introduced and new models were launched in the region.Some manufacturers also entered into tie ups and signed MoUs to enter new markets.


The specific developments recorded in 2017 include the following:


Testing of driverless electric bus in Taiwan: EZ10, a driverless electric bus manufactured by French autonomous driving company EasyMile SAS, was tested at the National Taiwan University campus in Taipei in July 2017.


EZ10 is powered by a lithium LiFePO4 battery and equipped with Level 4 autonomous driving features such as six LiDAR sensors, two cameras, inertia navigation devices and global positioning system (GPS) for sensor fusion. It can carry a maximum of 12 passengers, reach speeds of up to 40 km/hr and operate for 14 hours on a single charge.


Launch of all-electric buses in Taiwan: In September 2017, Efficient Drivetrains, Incorporated (EDI) collaborated with bus manufacturer Master Transportation to develop a plan to replace all 10,000 diesel-fuelled buses in Taiwan with electric buses by 2027.The prototype bus is planned to be launched in 2018, and will be the first of its kind to meet the “made in Taiwan” policy (a government initiative created to establish local supply chain, requiring that at least 70 per cent of the components be from manufacturers in Taiwan).


EDI will provide the PowerDrive EV all-electric drivetrain and powersuite vehicle control software for buses. Local supplier Yiding will supply the battery packs and a Shenyang-based supplier will provide the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells.


Launch of first mass-produced electric bus by Hyundai:Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai) has launched an electric bus with a 256-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, around view monitoring and full-colour digital cluster. The bus has a driving range of 290 km on a single charge.


Driverless electric bus development in China: Test runs on two driverless electric buses developed by Hubei-based DongfengXiangyang Touring Car Company Limited and Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) began in Shenzhen in November 2017. Each bus is 6.7 metres long, accommodates 25 passengers and has a maximum speed of 40 km/hr. The bus has a range of 150 km on a single charge and can switch between manual and automatic operation.


Launch of hybrid, electric buses in India by Tata Motors: Tata Motors launched hybrid buses (the 12-metre long Starbus Hybrid) and electric buses (9-metre and 12-metre long Starbus Electric) at its Pune facility. Each bus costs between INR16 million and INR20 million.


Launch of electric bus in Thailand: In April 2017, Kwaithong Motor introduced its electric bus powered by lithium-titanate battery technology to penetrate the Thai market. The battery allows quick charging so the buses can be charged in 10-15 minutes. The bus is 12 metres long, 2.53metres wide and 3.34metres high.It can accommodate 80 passengers. Germany-based MAN Group has supported the company.


Entry of South Korea’s TGM in the Thai market: In June 2017, South Korea-based TGM Company signed an MoU with Thai bus assembly companies Act One and Bus & Truck, gas installer PLT Green and vehicle components manufacturer Cobra International to enter the Thai electric bus market.


Under the MoU, TGM will provide an electric bus at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi for research and development.




Europe is generally considered the leader in the deployment of clean buses, especially electric buses.However, recent findings suggest that Asia is in fact undertaking path-breaking initiatives in this sector. China is leading the efforts and the deployment of electric buses has increased at a rapid pace in the country. The country has 200,000 electric buses in operation, which was its 2020 target. The total electric bus fleet in Shenzhen far surpasses the combined bus fleet of Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, and Toronto. Other Asian countries, such as India and Thailand, present big market opportunities. Regional bus suppliers (from China, South Korea, Japan, India, etc.) are investing in product development to benefit from the market opportunities created by policies that favour the deployment of clean buses.


(1 INR [Indian Rupee] = 0.02 USD, 1 SGD [Singapore Dollar] = 0.75 USD)


(Part 2 of this write-up will be published in the February 2018 issue of the Global Mass Transit Report. It will cover other segments of clean buses in Asia.)