Subscriber Login


Clean Buses in Asia Pacific: Highlights from our Singapore conference in October 2018 [free access]

December 1, 2018

On October 22-23, 2018, Global Mass Transit (GMT) organised the conference on ‘Clean Buses in Asia Pacific 2018’.


The conference brought together many experts from the government and industry directly involved in the deployment of zero-emission buses in cities in the Asia Pacific. Transit authorities, operators, technology providers, bus manufacturers, multi-lateral agencies, university project heads and consultants attended the conference. Five sponsors – Ballard, Faurecia, Hydrogenics, JBM Group and Volvo – supported the conference.


The key takeaways from the conference are the following.


Key trends, issues and market outlook


Gopi Rengasamy, Director – Global Strategy Group, KPMG, Singapore discussed the popularity of electric buses amongst various types of clean buses that are being deployed in the region, the environmental benefits of deployment of electric buses, the growth in China’s e-bus market since 2014 and the market share of local bus manufacturers, and trends in the deployment of charging infrastructure in the region.


He also spoke about the e-bus market trends (change in battery prices, prices and market outlook) and challenges (upfront costs, infrastructure requirements, financial support as well as the range of vehicles). He concluded the session by highlighting the deployment of e-buses in Shenzhen and the three key pillars required for full e-bus adoption.


Initiatives by C40 Cities


Milag San Jose-Ballesteros, Regional Director for East, Southeast Asia and Oceania, C40 Cities, Singapore discussed the importance of the deployment of clean vehicles to ensure environmental sustainability and the fact that the increasing demand for e-buses can reduce battery prices, which will enable cost parity with diesel by 2025-27. She explained the total cost of ownership (TCO) for an e-bus in a medium size city, which is depicted in Figure 1.


Figure 1: TCO comparison for e-bus configurations in a medium city


She also highlighted the barriers faced in the deployment of e-buses (upfront cost, financing, charge point standardisation, space for infrastructure, support from government, and electricity supply and grid issues) and business models to lower upfront cost. Further, she discussed the C40 cities’ goals and initiatives in the region and across the world, the political and technical challenges faced in the deployment of e-buses, and plans and goals for sustainable environment.


Economics of electric buses


Ki-Joon Kim, Principal Transport Specialist, Sector Advisory Cluster, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Development, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Philippines began the session by comparing the performance statistics and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of low carbon buses (diesel hybrid, natural gas, fuel cell electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles) with diesel buses. Further, he gave an overview of the electric vehicle (EV) market, which was focused on chargers, e-buses, electric two-wheelers, electric trucks, and electric boats. He also discussed the impact of EV in reducing carbon dioxide and GHG emissions.


He listed the key policy interventions such as fiscal benefits, infrastructure and electric price subsidies, non-financial incentives and EV targets that could be taken set by relevant authorities and governments.


Fleet renewal and second life


Lars Tinggaard Johannesen, Product Line Manager for ASDS Retrofit, Amminex (subsidiary of Faurecia) provided a detailed insight into Amminex’s ASDS Technology, its working principle, field performance and results. He shared the company’s experience from the ‘Copenhagen Clean Air Retrofit’ project, in which the company upgraded 299 Euro III/IV/V/EEV buses for Trafikselskabet Movia, the public transport agency in Zealand (Denmark). These buses were supplied by Scania, Volvo, Solaris, VDL Bus & Coach (DAF), etc.


In addition, Mr. Johannesen also spoke about the retrofit of London’s Metroline fleet. Amminex retrofitted 250 vehicles to reach Euro VI emission level.


Figure 2 depicts Amminex’s process of retrofitting a bus.


Figure 2: Process of retrofitting a bus


Source: Amminex


E-Mobility – Electric Buses and Charging Infrastructure


Anders Berger, Director Public Affairs, Volvo Group, provided extensive details of Volvo electric buses and the company’s electro-mobility offering, which included product portfolio, complete system offering, flexible interface and an extended range.


He also highlighted the ability of electric buses to enable smart city zone management. He pointed out that bus batteries can be used for storing electricity from solar panels, promoting sustainable urban (second) life. In addition, he also discussed Volvo’s initiative with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to test two 12-metre long autonomous buses in Singapore.


Volvo has operationalised and secured contracts for around 3,850 hybrids, 166 electric-hybrids, and 151 electric buses.


Azhar Othman, Head of Development Plan & Planning Research, Sustainable Development Division – City Planning Department, Putrajaya Corporation, Malaysia spoke about implementation of Putra-NEDO Electric Vehicle Bus Demonstration Project in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Mr Othman discussed the background of the project, its objective, framework of co-operation, past and future timelines, operational routes, charging system, lifespan of storage batteries and benefits of the project to the city and community. Figure 3 depicts the framework of the Putra-NEDO EV Bus Demonstration Project.


Figure 3: Framework of co-operation


Source: Putrajaya Corporation


Further, he added that the project is contributing towards the Putrajaya Green City 2025 (PGC2025) targets, the Malaysian Automotive Policy of deployment of 2,000 EV buses by 2020 and the federal government’s target to make the country an ASEAN EV Hub.


Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group began the discussion by shedding light on the current Indian energy market scenario, the urbanisation rate, air pollution and the preferred mode of public transport. Further, he explained the reasons for cities’ preference for e-buses, electric vehicle adoption being influenced by a mix of pull and push factors, and the impact of e-buses.


He also discussed the need for policy makers in Asia Pacific to support the introduction of electric mobility, pointing out that partnership among cities, operators, energy suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can help build a robust e-mobility solution. He concluded the session by highlighting the EV evolution in public transport, adoption, opportunities, potential supply chain, and bus charging options.


Deployment of Clean Buses in Japan


Yosuke Ogawa, Deputy Director of Transport Planning, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), Japan, provided an insight into Japan’s bus market. He presented an overview of the bus industry, recent trends and policy initiatives for the deployment of clean buses, and the deployment of hydrogen buses towards Olympics 2020.


He discussed Japan’s basic strategy on hydrogen, which was finalised on December 26, 2017. The strategy aims to increase fuel cell buses to 100 by 2020 and 1,200 by the 2030s, the number of hydrogen stations to 160 by 2020 and 320 by 2025, and the number of fuel cell vehicles to 40,000 by 2020, 200,000 by 2025, and 800,000 by 2030.


Currently, five fuel cell buses are being operated in Japan.


Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Buses


Alan Kneisz, Business Development Director, Hydrogenics, discussed the fuel cells technology and solutions provided by the company. Hydrogenics offers an advanced proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell electric buses, and has built the world’s first and only megawatt (MW) single stack solution for electrolysis systems.


He pointed out that fuel cell buses could approach TCO parity with battery electric buses in 2025. By 2030, the fuel cell bus will have a 10 per cent premium relative to a diesel bus, and the electric bus is expected to have an 11 per cent premium with limited expansion.


David Yorke, New Technology & Projects Manager, Tower Transit London spoke about Tower Transit’s extensive experience in the deployment of hydrogen fuel cell buses.  Tower Transit has been operating fuel cell buses in London (United Kingdom) since 2011. Wrightbus and VanHool have supplied the latest hydrogen fuel cell buses.


He discussed the various challenges and lessons learnt during the deployment. These lessons related to understanding safety concerns, the need for comprehensive risk evaluation, the need to provide for potential hidden infrastructure costs, technology issues that may emerge, an immature supply chain and other non-technical issues, the need for proper co-ordination among stakeholders, and the importance of staff training.


Nicolas Pocard, Director of Marketing, Ballard Power Systems discussed affordability and operations of fuel cell electric buses. More than 1,100 fuel cell electric buses are expected to be in service worldwide by 2020. Of these, around 800 buses will be in China and more than 322 buses in Europe.


The barriers faced by Ballard in implementing fuel cell technology include lack of technology awareness, TCO, and lack of infrastructure for hydrogen.




Anshuman Tripathi, Programme Director, Future Mobility Solutions (AVEM), Energy Research Institute, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, spoke about the initiatives undertaken by NTU Singapore towards digitalisation of transport. To make transportation more connected, NTU is working with various industrial partners, such as BMW and NXP Semiconductors, on transport technology and solutions such as transport intelligence, vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, etc.


Currently, NTU is focusing on three transport mechanisms, namely individual bike mobility solutions, autonomous vehicles, and fast charging for trams and buses. NTU’s experience of testing autonomous bus and its technology was discussed in detail.


Paul Booij, Lead Scientist, TNO Singapore spoke about TNO’s view on smart and sustainable mobility. He explained the process of establishing a safe, efficient, comfortable and sustainable traffic and transport situation through balanced interaction between humans, vehicles and the environment. He also explained the transition from diesel-operated buses to electric buses, which is depicted in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Transition from diesel buses to electric buses


Source: TNO Singapore

Further, he presented a vehicle level analysis and comparison to explain the best choice for clean bus deployment based on a city’s circumstances. Later, he extended the analysis and comparison to fleet size. He concluded the session by sharing TNO’s experience in cities such as Amsterdam and New Delhi.


Moving from CNG towards Zero-Emission Electric Buses in Thailand


Padet Praditphet, Director, Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), Ministry of Transport of Thailand, spoke about Thailand’s plan to develop a sustainable transport network and to modernise and expand the existing bus network towards this end. He also explained the country’s goals for transport development, the master plan to support sustainable transportation, travel needs in Bangkok, integration of the public transport network and the current approach towards selecting the most appropriate public transport system for a city.


Figure 5 provides an overview of the development of the bus system and Figure 6 depicts the bus development plan.


Figure 5: Overview of bus system development


Source: Ministry of Transport of Thailand


Figure 6: Bus development plan


Source: Ministry of Transport of Thailand


Further, he discussed the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority’s (BMTA’s) plans to procure and lease buses (natural gas, electric and hybrid); development of a bus organisation and five bus rapid transit (BRT) routes; and deployment of fleet management system, real-time bus management system as well as bus signal priority.


Electric Buses and Charging Infrastructure in India


Jaishree Jindel, Lead – Urban Mobility, Urban Mass Transit Company, India, discussed the current Indian bus market scenario and provided an insight into the country’s plans to deploy clean buses. The deployment of electric buses in India has been promoted by various policies at the federal level, such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 and Faster Adaptation and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme. 


In terms of TCO, she said that electric buses have proven to be more viable than diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), and hybrid-electric buses. Further, she highlighted the trends in recent tenders (such as lowest bids, net cost, number of buses, supplier, cost of procurement, etc.) across various cities. She concluded the session by summarising the current market potential for urban transport in eight cities.


Siddharth Shirole, Director, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), India, spoke about the existing bus transport system in Pune and the city’s plans to deploy clean buses, which are supported by the state government of Maharashtra. In 2017, the state government announced that the procurement of diesel buses for public transport would be stopped.


He discussed PMPML’s plan to scrap all buses over the age of 10 years, which is around 200 buses every year. The authority will procure almost 2,000 buses in the next five years. In September 2018, the authority had launched a tender to procure 500 electric buses.   




The conference provided a platform to discuss the current status, emerging trends and future outlook for clean bus deployment in the Asia Pacific. Most cities in the region are looking beyond traditional diesel-fuelled buses to more environment friendly public transport buses. Electric buses are the most preferred type of clean buses in the region. However, countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia are exploring the option of hydrogen buses.


The participants were able to learn about the policies of governments, plans of transit agencies, new case studies for technology deployment in transit, lessons learnt and upcoming trends and opportunities.