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Clean Buses in Asia Pacific: Highlights from our Singapore conference in October 2019 [free access]

December 1, 2019

On October 14–15, 2019, Global Mass Transit (GMT) Research organised a conference on ‘Clean Buses in Asia Pacific 2019’ in Singapore.


The conference brought together several experts from the government and from industry, who are directly involved in the deployment of zero-emission buses in cities in Asia Pacific. Transit authorities, operators, technology providers, bus manufacturers, multilateral agencies, university project heads, and consultants attended the conference. Five sponsors – ABB, Volvo Buses, Asian Clean Fuels Association, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Vertech Capital – supported the conference.


The key takeaways from the conference are discussed below.


Greg Balkin, General Manager, New Technologies, Transit Systems, Australia spoke about moving from conventional diesel transport towards zero-emission passenger transport in Australia. In Sydney, four battery electric buses have been deployed, which operate around 50,000 km each year. These are capable of operating 300 km or 16 hours on a single charge. The pilot was conducted for two years before being deployed.


Marcin Seredynski, Head of Innovation and Research - E-Bus Competence Center, Volvo Buses spoke about the three levels of electrification of buses and described the implementation of these three levels in Luxembourg. He also discussed the difference in energy efficiency of buses, depending on the fuel type. Figure 1 shows the difference in energy efficiency.


Figure 1: Comparative distance travelled using equal amounts of energy (50 kWh)


Source: Volvo Buses


Ulrich Schmidt, Managing Director, initplan GmbH, initperdis GmbH and inola GmbH spoke about the transition to electric buses in public transport. Figure 2 outlines the changes in planning processes that have an impact on the transition to electric buses.


Figure 2: Changes in planning processes


Source: initplan GmbH


New challenges in planning have emerged over the last 35 years. Some of the challenges for the deployment of electric buses are as follows:



Chris Liang, Head of International Development, Shenzhen Bus Group, China spoke about the deployment of the world’s largest electric bus fleet in Shenzhen, China. He discussed several economic and environmental benefits of deploying electric buses and elaborated on the key lessons learnt by the Shenzhen Bus Group. He also described the process of electrification of public transport in the city and the infrastructural support required for the deployment of electric vehicles.


André Burdet, Group Vice President, Product Management and Marketing, Grid Integration Business Line, Power Grids Business, ABB, Switzerland spoke about the electric bus-charging infrastructure. He focused on charging strategies, cost, and hardware. He also evaluated the benefits of on-board and off-board charging options. Figure 3 shows the difference in the two charging options.


Figure 3: Charging options



He compared depot charging, terminal charging, and flash charging on the basis of several criteria like operational costs, battery size, and initial investment.


Manoj M. Desai, General Manager - Automotive Electronics Department, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), India spoke about the deployment of electric buses in India and the mission of the Indian government to substantially change mobility to cater to the country’s large and rapidly growing population. India can save 64 per cent of its anticipated road-based mobility-related energy demand and 37 per cent of its carbon emissions in 2030 by pursuing a shared, electric, and connected mobility, resulting in a net savings of approximately USD60 billion by 2030. Mr Desai also described the key e-mobility initiatives adopted by the Indian government since 2011. Finally, he discussed Phases I and II of the Faster Adaption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) India Scheme.


Ean Sokhim, Governor, Phnom Penh City Bus Authority, Cambodia spoke about the current status of city buses in Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh City Bus Authority started with City of South Perth lines and 57 buses in 2014 and had grown to 13 lines and 235 buses in 2018. The authority has introduced a bus operation management system and a mobile application (app) to make the bus service in Phnom Penh more efficient. Mr Sokhim spoke about certain challenges faced by the authority, outlined in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Issues and challenges faced by Phnom Penh City Bus Authority


Source: Phnom Penh City Bus Authority


Finally, he spoke about the authority’s future plans to increase bus ridership.


Alan Kneisz, Business Development Director, Hydrogenics, Malaysia spoke about the advantages and progress in the development and adoption of fuel cell buses. The advantages of deployment of fuel cell buses include:



He also compared the use and performance of fuel cell buses with battery-powered and conventional combustion engine-powered buses.


Figure 5: Fuel cell vs. battery and gasoline 

Source:  Hydrogenics


Alfred Wong, Managing Director, APAC region, Ballard Power Systems spoke about the 2019 update on fuel cell electric buses. He outlined the roadmap for hydrogen mobility to increase the total number of fuel cell vehicles from 25,000 before 2018 to 10 million by 2030. Finally, he considered the factors driving the movement for hydrogen mobility:



Craig M. Knight, Chief Commercial Officer, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies spoke about hydrogen fuel cell buses and the need to accelerate their deployment. He focused on the following benefits of fuel cell buses:



He also spoke about hydrogen mobility as a service (MaaS), which involves offering zero-emission vehicles on a full-service operating lease basis.


Diganta Sarma, Head of Application Technology & Market Development, Linde Gas Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore spoke about effective hydrogen fuelling technology and highlighted the key components of the hydrogen value chain. He also spoke about certain challenges associated with hydrogen mobility. The main challenges associated with hydrogen mobility include:



Further, he offered insights on the world’s largest hydrogen station for cars, built by Linde.


Dariusz Koper, AT Metro Manager, Bus Services, Auckland Transport, New Zealand spoke about Auckland’s low-emission bus roadmap. Auckland Transport aims to reduce emissions by completely replacing fossil fuels with low-emission alternatives by 2040. Figure 6 outlines the roadmap from 2018 to 2040.


Figure 6: Auckland’s low-emission bus roadmap (2018–2040)


Source: Auckland Transport


Kumail Rashid, Sales Manager, Asia Pacific Electric Vehicle Charging, ABB spoke about the developments in emission-free public transport. He discussed the replacement of combustion-fuel vehicles with electrical vehicles in the future. He highlighted the projected increase in electric vehicle (EV) sales to analyse the projected extent of EV vehicle deployment by 2040. Figure 7shows the projected increase in EV sales from 2018 to 2040.


Figure 7: Projected EV sales, 2018–2040


Source: ABB


He also discussed ‘Project Hamburg Hochbahn’ and explained how ABB powered the first fully electric bus depot in Germany.


Paul Booij, Lead Scientist, Smart Cities, TNO, Singapore spoke about simulation-based decision support tooling for large-scale electrification of bus fleets. He described the transition to electric buses. Figure 8 depicts the factors that influence the transition from conventional-fuel buses to electric buses.


Figure 8: Complex transition to electric buses


Source: TNO


Vijay Jaiswal, Director - Automotive & Electric Mobility, Government of Telangana, India spoke about Telangana and the scope the state has for development of the auto industry. He also discussed the deployment of electric buses in Telangana.


Current status of electric buses in Telangana:



Future plans:



Chun Beom, LEE Vice President, Corporate Innovation Support Division, Korea Automotive Technology Institute, Korea spoke about the deployment of zero-emission buses in Korea and the associated challenges. He also discussed future plans for the deployment of electric buses in the region. The number of hydrogen refuelling stations increased from 15 stations in 2018 to 86 stations in 2019. These are further projected to increase to 310 by 2022.


Lathika Chandra Mouli, Business Development Manager, Vertech Capital, Singapore spoke about blockchain applications for clean buses and transportation in APAC. She gave an overview on blockchain technology and explained its emerging uses in the automobile industry, which are as follows:



She also described the main features of Evergo, a blockchain solution to create a network of renewable energy-based EV charging stations.


Syed Mubasheer Ali, Director, Operations, Cellestial E-Mobility, India spoke about EVs for heavy equipment that have intermittent usages and applications. The key growth drivers for electric propulsion for heavy engineering are:



The advantages of deploying electric propulsion for heavy engineering are:



Anne Still, General Manager, Public Policy, RAC Intellibus, Australia focused on the trials of automated vehicles in Australia. She spoke about the insights emerging from three years of autonomous shuttle operations in the City of South Perth.


The main objectives of the deployment of autonomous vehicles in Australia are:



The main objectives of autonomous trials are to:



Aybike Ongel, Principal Investigator, Individual Mobility Vehicles and Services (IMVS), TUMCREATE, Singapore spoke about the cost and environmental assessment of autonomous electric public transit buses. The mission of TUMCREATE is to provide the most efficient public transport system in Singapore. The company’s innovative road transport solutions aim to provide a high level of passenger comfort and a positive travel experience, to ensure the best protection of the environment, and to offer the maximum benefit to society and the economy.


Mr Ongel also spoke about the Dynamic Autonomous Road Transit (DART) system in Singapore. The DART system is expected to supplement Singapore’s public transport system by filling the ‘gap’ in between the high-capacity, but relatively sparse, fixed rail mass rapid transit system and the slow, low-capacity, but densely distributed, road-based bus system.


Satya Ramamurthy, Head of Management Consulting, Global Strategy Group, and Government & Infrastructure, KPMG, Singapore spoke about the move to AV public transport. He highlighted the importance of electric buses in enabling the future adoption of autonomous buses.


He also spoke about the Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index (AVRI) and discussed the four pillars that can be used to measure readiness. Figure 9 depicts the four pillars:


Figure 9: The four pillars of measurement



Source: KPMG




The conference provided a platform to discuss the current status of, the emerging trends relating to, and the future outlook for the deployment of clean buses in the Asia Pacific region. Most cities in the region are striving to transition from traditional diesel-fuelled buses to more environment-friendly public transport buses. Electric and hydrogen buses are the most preferred types of clean buses in the region. Electric and hydrogen buses not only have environmental and economic benefits, but they also pave the way for the deployment of AVs in the future.