May 23, 2019

Barriers to Adopting Electric Buses

World Resources Institute

Electric buses seem to be the mode of transportation of the future, yet not every fleet has transitioned. Why is that so?

The transport sector accounts for approximately one-quarter of all GHG emissions worldwide. Public transport alone can be responsible for over a quarter of CO2 , hazardous particulate, and/or nitrogen oxide emissions in some cities in the global South. Even though electric buses (e-buses) can help cities address air quality issues and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (along with a clean grid), the transition, however, has been subject to growing pains as industries and governments alike struggle to nurture the nascent e-bus marketplace into maturity. One of the aims of this report is to present the barriers facing the adoption of e-buses, so that policymakers can consider and act on these barriers early in the implementation process.

This paper explores in detail different barriers to adopting electric buses, be it technological institutional or financial. It also underlines the difficulties linked to vehicles and batteries, agencies and operators, and grid and charging infrastructure. The common obstacles identified in this report include lack of operational knowledge on electric bus systems; unfamiliar procurement and financing schemes; and institutional deficiencies in terms of authority, funding, and land for the adaptations needed. One of the large themes that cut across many of the identified barriers was the issue of scalability. While many cities have been able to implement small-scale projects, many barriers (such as the limitations of e-bus technology, financing business models, and the current grid capacity) make it very difficult for pilot projects to be scaled

The key findings in this report are:

  • Key technological barriers are created by the lack of relevant information for decision-making and the current operational limitations of e-buses and charging infrastructure.
  • Key financial barriers emerge from the difficulties agencies face to make the necessary changes to rigid procurement structures and the lack of long-term, sustainable financing options.
  • Key institutional barriers stem from the lack of political leadership and pragmatic public policy, and the lack of institutional authority, funding, and physical real-estate.

By mapping key technological, financial, and institutional barriers from 16 case studies worldwide, the report provides cautionary tales, helping officials to anticipate the challenges they will face and plan accordingly to avoid costly mistakes.

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