In cities worldwide, buses are morphing into giant battery-powered rolling computers. Equipped with the same technologies as the luxury Tesla sedan, they offer a clean, quiet ride for the price of a bus fare.
In the U.S., he expects the number of zero-emission buses to double in the next year and account for 20 percent of the transit bus market by 2030. His group says 130 were on order or traveling U.S. streets by the end of 2014; most in commercial use debuted within the past three years.
Partly electric buses have already taken off in the U.S., making up 17 percent of the fleet in 2014—up from one percent in 2005, according to the American Public Transportation Association. So far, though, most are gasoline-electric or diesel-electric hybrids, and only a tiny fraction are fully powered by fuel cells or batteries.
That’s changing. Next week, BYD Motors plans to deliver the first five electric-only buses—of a 25-bus order—to LA Metro, the major bus and rail operator for Los Angeles County. BYD is a subsidiary of a Chinese company that has made more electric buses‚ about 5,200 worldwide, than any other manufacturer.
Once focused largely on China, it’s now turning to the U.S. market. BYD opened two factories in California, one to make the batteries and the other the buses, and rolled out its first vehicles last year. Matthew Jurjevich, market research analyst for BYD America, says the company expects to sell 200 electric buses this year in the U.S., creating competition for a nascent growth industry.