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How Policies & Decision Makers Impact the Implementation of E-Bus Projects?

How Policies & Decision Makers Impact the Implementation of E-Bus Projects?
Passengers boarding a white electric bus in the streets ofAfrica.

Although E-Buses are attractive for cities, various barriers can arise. One of these are institutional barriers, such as a need for policies or hesitant decision-makers, which can hinder the electrification of public buses. In this article, we examine these potential barriers in more detail and provide examples from global case studies collected by the World Resources Institute, focusing on the positive impact that is or will be made in the coming years.

Institutional Barriers

Lack of Leadership & Appropiate Policies:

When there is a need for more incentives and motivation from politicians and other influential decision-makers, fostering and initiating E-Mobility projects is challenging. Many cities need laws or plans to help finance or support E-Bus project implementation. When programs are present, there need to be more precise goals, timelines, or financial incentives, otherwise these plans are ineffective and unsuccessful. There may be multiple reasons, such as the need for more knowledge and experience on E-Buses and their benefits. Since policies and decision-makers have an enormous impact on E-Bus project implementations, this lack of interest can create a significant hindrance and frustration among community members (Sclar et al., 2020).

Example: Mexico City

Political turnover significantly impacted E-Bus efforts in Mexico City, which created a lack of leadership and policy toward E-Bus project initiatives. The shift of political administration often comes with decision-makers implementing different plans and strategies, which do not always prioritize E-Bus projects and do not perceive them as necessary. Political turnover can create additional uncertainties in E-Bus implementations. This has hindered E-Bus projects in Mexico City in the past due to political priority shifts, changing partnerships, and evolving administrative working direction and goals (Sclar et al., 2020).

Now, Mexico City has an ambitious target to have a 100% electric bus fleet by 2035. It is one of the 20 TUMI E-Bus Mission’s Deep Dive Cities. This factsheet highlights the current mobility situation and the future targets of electrifying buses in the city.

The 20 Deep Dive Cities Program comprises cities selected based on specific criteria related to readiness, potential for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, and sphere of influence. These cities receive support for developing and implementing individual E-Bus roadmaps. If you’d like to learn more about this program, you can click here TUMI E-Bus Mission City Network.

Overview of a crowded street in Mexico City. Mexico City. Melogiza, J. (2019)

Stakeholders in Mexico have stated that to gain and maintain support from political stakeholders, the project timeline must fit within a six-year mayoral and/or presidential term. If projects exceed this timeline, they may receive different support from new political leaders and therefore fail to execute the projects. Lack of political incentives due to political turnover does not just create a barrier within Mexico but can limit E-Bus project implementations worldwide (Sclar et al., 2020).

Absence of Funding and Land:

Some city governments need more resources that will help them execute E-Bus projects. For example, governments may need more access to land to install charging and grid infrastructure for E-Buses. Owning and having access to land for E-Bus implementation is crucial when scaling up bus fleets (Sclar et al., 2020).

Additionally, there may be a need for more funding initiatives, and since E-Bus projects have a considerable startup cost, this can impact their implementation. Due to the high upfront costs, conventional buses are usually preferred since procurement models mainly focus on up-front investment (Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2018). Unfortunately, these cost models often do not consider the total cost of ownership (TCO), which is typically cheaper for E-Buses than standard buses. Cities may also need more funding initiatives to scale bus fleets to meet community demands (Sclar et al., 2020).

Example: Madrid

Madrid serves as an illustrative case of a city that effectively executed E-Bus pilot projects but struggled to expand a dedicated fleet beyond the experimental stage. In 2007, Madrid successfully deployed 18 electric minibuses citywide, demonstrating their viability. However, the subsequent decade saw little growth in the city’s E-Bus fleet. Despite having ambitious goals and a successful initial introduction of some E-Bus projects, the city needed to establish a scalable, sustainable financing framework to extend its separate E-Bus pilot program (Sclar et al., 2020).

In 2018 a new wave of E-Buses was introduced under a separate pilot program. Regrettably, Madrid encountered challenges in transitioning beyond pilot projects to a larger scale, resulting in an unsuccessful outcome for the expansion plan.

Fast forward to 2023, Madrid now operates a fleet of 180+ E-Buses, with plans to constitute 25% of the total fleet by 2025. This achievement is attributed to robust government backing for progressive electrification. Madrid aspires to emerge as a premier hub for managing 100% electric fleets powered by dedicated solar installations.

Presently, EMT Madrid operates an impressive 19 zero-emission bus lines, holding the highest count in Spain. A pivotal moment occurred in May 2021 when they procured 150 electric buses, signifying a significant advancement. The target is for a quarter of municipal buses to be electric by 2025.

A crowded plaza in Madrid, Spain. Madrid. Navarrete, S. (2020)

Informal Transit:

Generally, systemic weakness in the national and local government impacts transit systems when governments fail to manage transit services adequately. This neglectfulness and lack of often governing results in informal transit systems also referred to as popular transportation. Popular transport systems are sustained and administered by private owners.

They emerge in many countries of the Global South to meet the demand for affordable, flexible mobility, especially where government that run public transportation is absent or inadequate. Examples of popular transport systems based on minibuses are the famously colorful “jeepneys” in the Philippines or “matatus” in Kenya and Uganda. As most operators of popular transport systems are small businesses, they lack the resources to renew their bus fleets and upgrade to E-Buses regularly.

An E-Bus and an urban landscape in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Urban Landscape in Addis Ababa, Ethopia. Stanley, (2019)

Example: Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, is an example of a city dominated by a popular transit system. The city’s transit system was established around 50 years ago when entrepreneurs saw an economic opportunity to create a transit system in areas that had poor bus systems implemented by the city.

The network of minibus operators has grown since then and now performs up to 79% of all transportation in the city. Therefore, the ‘blue donkeys’ have become the dominant mode of transport for urban dwellers due to the need for formal transport alternatives. Although this popular transit system may have enhanced overall transportation in Addis Ababa at the time, it can act as a barrier to implementing E-Buses. This barrier stems from one-person operators needing more finances and general governmental support to transition their fleets to E-Buses (Sclar et al., 2020).

Course Mascto saying "These examples show you the impact decision-makers have on E-Bus projects. However, there are also positive examples of how decision-makers have driven the implementation of E-Bus projects. Course Mascot. PEM Motion (2023)

How decision-makers have supported the implementation of E-Bus projects?

The government of India has supported the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme, launched in 2015, to encourage the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles through subsidies.

The project’s second phase (FAME II) is now supporting the electrification of buses. Due to these programs, 300 E-Buses have already been implemented in Delhi this year (2022). The program has also financed a total of 532 charging stations. The government plans to continue supporting this program and aims to support the implementation of around 7,000 electric and hybrid buses (Mehta, 2021).

Conclusion:

While E-Buses can provide numerous advantages to cities, they also encounter several obstacles. Institutional barriers, such as a lack of policies or hesitant decision-makers, remain among the most significant challenges to adopting and implementing E-Bus projects in cities around the globe.

But despite these so-called ‘barriers’, E-Bus projects are being implemented in various parts of the global south and promise to continue growing in the coming years.

References:

  • Mehta, A. (2021).* Ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises. * Government of India. Retrieved from: Link
  • Sclar, R., Gorguinpour, C., Castellanos, S., & Li, X. (2020). Barriers to adopting electric buses. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from: Link
  • Global Network Popular Transportation (2023). Why we’re calling it popular transportation. Retrieved from: Link
  • Intelligent Transport (2023). Madrid becomes the first major European city with 100 percent clean bus fleet. Retrieved from: Link
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