The Chinese megalopolis of 11 million people will be the world’s first city with a full fleet of electric buses by the end of 2017.
Electric buses are being practically eaten in China, specifically in Shenzen, a metropolis of 11 million inhabitants, which already launched a pilot project in 2011. In just six years, the city will reach a historic milestone. By the end of 2017, its entire public road transport fleet will be electrified.
And they are not insignificant numbers: 16,000 electric buses circulate in Shenzen. In addition to being the first city in the world to have only electric buses on its streets, the southeastern Chinese megalopolis, which connects Hong Kong with the rest of the country, has impressed the world with its incredible transition in such a short space of time.
For comparison, New York has a fleet of 5,800 buses. Only Shenzhen has more buses than New York and five other large American fleets. The city had to develop a new network of thousands of charging stations and find ways to manage the cost of replacing all of the previous diesel vehicles.
Local and national governments have played a key role in organizing the transition: both institutions have received significant grants to make electric buses cheaper compared to traditional buses. But they save year after year because operating and maintenance costs are lower. About 80% of the new electric fleet is produced by BYD, a Shenzen-based automaker. The company sells its cars in 50 countries and surpassed Tesla in 2016, becoming the world’s leading producer of electric vehicles.
This is one of the wide range of policies to clean the air in the city. Just 10 years ago, the people of Shenzhen lived under a thick blanket of smog for half the year. In 2016, the critical situation lasted only 27 days. However, the sustainability of supplies remains a problem: not all the electricity that powers the new buses comes from renewable energy.
By contrast, with a coal sector that remains extremely powerful, China still has a lot of work to do to shift electricity production towards more sustainable electricity. Despite this, forecasts for Shenzen suggest that the transition of the public transport fleet will lead to a 48% reduction in emissions compared to diesel. Not to mention, even taxis, as promised by the administration, will be electric by 2020.
China has gone from having hardly any electric mobility back in the year 2000, to being the world’s largest market for vehicles in 2017.