230322_E_Bus_Radar_PwC. Quelle: PwC

Decarbonization of public transport: e-bus fleet in Germany grows by 50 percent

The pace of expansion of the e-bus fleet in Germany remains high: more and more cities and districts are converting their bus services to zero-emission, electrified vehicles. In concrete figures, 620 e-buses were added across Germany in 2022 (2021: 581). That represents an increase of almost 50 percent. At the same time, transport companies already have concrete plans to procure around 6,600 more e-buses by 2030. That would mean almost 8,500 e-buses on German roads. However, the overall share of e-buses in the bus fleet in Germany is still low: In 2022, exactly 1884 e-buses were in operation – which corresponds to a share of 3.5 percent.

Exactly 1884 buses with zero-emission, electrified drives were on Germany’s roads in 2022 – 620 more than in 2021, representing an increase of almost 50 percent. The 2,000-vehicle mark will thus soon be reached. Between 2017 and 2021, the number of new buses purchased each year even grew exponentially: from 10 to 586 buses. In 2022, growth remained at a high level, even if the growth rate of 6 percent was no longer as strong as in previous years.

These are some of the key findings of the sixth E-Bus Radar, which is compiled annually by the auditing and consulting firm PwC Germany. The analysis looks at buses with more than eight passenger seats (vehicle class M3), electrified drives and external energy supply, which are considered “clean” or “emission-free” within the meaning of the European Union’s Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD).

Cities and counties must also electrify regional transport more strongly

For Maximilian Rohs, an expert in the Infrastructure & Mobility practice at PwC Germany, it is good news that the pace of growth is continuing and that more and more cities and counties are switching to zero-emission bus transport: In the end, they also have no alternative, because the decision to decarbonize public bus transport has been made at the European and national level. After all, the EU’s Clean Vehicles Directive, which was implemented in Germany through the Clean Vehicles Procurement Act, includes mandatory minimum quotas for the procurement of zero-emission buses – both for public transport companies and at the level of municipal public transport authorities.”

Around half of the e-buses operate in three German states

Around one in two buses (912 out of 1,884) with electrified drive systems is in operation in the top three states of North Rhine-Westphalia (382), Hesse (292) or Hamburg (228). Lower Saxony (193), Bavaria (156), Berlin (149), Schleswig-Holstein (140) and Baden-Württemberg (119) follow. In the other states, a total of 225 buses with electrified drive systems are in operation.

What is striking here is the clear west-east divide: With the exception of Berlin, e-buses have so far been used to a greater extent in the states in western Germany. However, e-buses can be found in more and more cities and regions. In 2022, the total of 1,847 all-electric buses analyzed separately by the E-bus Radar were already distributed among 131 cities and counties (2021: 116 cities and counties). 85 of these vehicles are trolleybuses; they are in operation in Solingen, Esslingen and Eberswalde.

Three newcomers in the top 20 ranking

The three cities with the most e-buses (battery and fuel cell drive) – as in 2021 – were Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne (225, 149 and 133 vehicles). New to the top-20 ranking are Nuremberg, Hanover and the Ludwigslust-Parchim district. Maximilian Rohs of PwC Germany comments, “The fact that new cities appear in the top-20 ranking every year shows the increasingly wide geographical spread – and I am pleased that with the Ludwigslust-Parchim district a rural region is also included, because decarbonization is not just a task for large cities. We are living in the decade of the e-bus and these will soon enrich the image of public transport throughout Germany as pioneers in environmental and climate protection.”

Set stronger incentives

For Maximilian Rohs, however, the framework conditions must be right for this to succeed: “I see the municipalities and transport companies as having a duty to develop appropriate decarbonization strategies. But the federal and state governments must also play their part. This relates in particular to providing the necessary financial resources for this far-reaching transformation.” For example, he said, investment support was useful at an early stage to stimulate the market ramp-up on the industry side; now, consumptive support for the operation of electric buses could provide a further boost. “This could create stronger incentives on the part of operators to use as many zero-emission buses as possible,” says Maximilian Rohs.

More than 6,000 new purchases planned by 2030

By 2030, the transport companies want to purchase many more vehicles to expand their electrified local transport services. Plans are already known for 6,600 more e-buses, which would then mean around 8,500 e-buses in operation. Berlin and Hamburg are planning particularly extensive purchases. In Hamburg, Verkehrsbetriebe Hamburg-Holstein (VHH) announced just a few days ago that it had ordered 350 e-buses – the largest tender in VHH’s history. BVG in Berlin plans to convert its entire bus fleet to zero-emission drives by 2030.

Then, in the top 10 ranking of planned e-bus purchases, Cologne and Nuremberg, Duisburg, Frankfurt am Main, Potsdam, Leipzig, Munich and Kiel follow at a considerable distance. But despite rising numbers, Maximilian Rohs warns against excessive optimism:

“With a current share of 3.5 percent, the proportion of e-buses nationwide is still low. There is still a lot to do here for all stakeholders to make their contribution to emission-free public transport.”

And he emphasizes: “The switch to e-buses must not be at the expense of public transport services. After all, the mobility revolution is much more than just a drive revolution.” A comprehensive range of public transport services forms the foundation for achieving climate protection targets in the transport sector.

Maximilian Rohs is Senior Manager Infrastructure & Mobility at PwC Germany, www.pwc.de

Read this and other articles on electromobility and autonomous driving in the current eMove360° magazine in german language. Download it here free of charge or order the print version in the shop.

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