Pike Research forecasts that the global market for all electric drive buses is expected to grow steadily over the next 6 years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.4% from 2012 to 2018.
Over the past few years, government stimulus funding has helped drive adoption of alternative fuel buses around the world, including buses with electric drivetrains. Hybrid and battery buses have both benefited from these initiatives, while fuel cell buses have had support from government programs designed to support transit fuel cell systems.
All three bus options come with higher price tags than diesel or CNG buses, and bus operators must either offset these costs with government subsidies or achieve sufficient operational savings to offset the price premium.
This cost premium will be a challenge for both battery and fuel cell buses in securing significant market share, but both segments will continue to see growth as countries subsidize new bus technologies.
Hybrid buses have already captured significant market share in the United States, and China has also been strong in this technology. Hybrid buses will also begin to see more uptake in Europe, albeit at a slower rate than in the United States or China. Lithium ion batteries, the primary battery chemistry for battery buses, will also supply a significant percentage of the energy storage needed in hybrid and fuel cell drivetrains.
This Pike Research report examines the opportunities and challenges in the global market for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell buses.
The Chinese market will constitute the majority of global electric drive bus sales, while some of the more developed markets will see fluctuations in electric bus uptake. This is due as much to the fact that developed bus markets may experience a general slowdown, due to austerity measures and the end of stimulus funding, as to any changes in demand for electric drive buses.
North America will experience a rebound in a few years, as it is expected that the economy will have stabilized and so will public transit funding levels.
Sales of electric drive buses in Western Europe will experience steady growth (around a 20% CAGR), as the hybrid market begins to take off and there is continued interest in building the electric and fuel cell bus markets.
The Latin American market will be driven largely by uptake in Brazil, but other countries will also spur adoption, notably Uruguay which recently indicated it would purchase 500 battery electric buses.
The Africa/Middle East countries will see very little uptake due to the high cost of electric buses and infrastructure.
Global demand for Li-ion batteries in electric drive buses will be over 162,000 kWh in 2012. Pike Research expects that demand to grow to more than 1.3 million kWh by 2018, a CAGR of 42%. In 2012 the hybrid bus segment is expected to provide the greatest demand, with around 91,000 kWh needed to fulfill hybrid bus orders. This does not correspond directly to hybrid bus growth, because NiMH and ultracapacitors continue to take a significant part of the energy storage market share for hybrids. At the latter part of the forecast period, Pike Research expects lithium ion to capture more of the hybrid market share as the batteries’ prices come down. Indeed, the bus market represents an early opportunity for Li-ion battery companies looking for additional markets but who are not necessarily focused only on automotive size production quantities.
By 2018, it is perhaps not surprising that battery electric buses will drive the most demand for Li-ion batteries. Since battery buses are expected to be almost 100% powered by lithium ion, and they require much larger batteries than hybrids, this market offers the greatest growth potential. It is expected that Li-ion battery capacity for battery buses will grow from 69,472 kWh in 2012 to over 1 million kWh in 2018, a 57% CAGR.
Finally, fuel cell buses will drive demand for Li-ion batteries as well but to a much lower degree. Pike Research estimates that they will require around 1,600 kWh in 2012, but will grow to 22,240 kWh by 2018.[source: Pike Research]