Electromobility: Why buses take the lead?

I frequently get asked the question:

Why are bus manufacturers tapping into the electromobility market, when much bigger industries, such as cars, have been waiting for a breakthrough for the past ten years?

Given the higher volumes of cars, surely there would a cost advantage compared to buses…

To that I respond:

  1. Buses run through urban areas, such as city centres and towns, where noise and emissions have the most critical impact on everyday life. Electromobility raises the attractiveness of buses as a transportation option and, therefore, their demand.
  2. Buses have the highest cost efficiency per passenger kilometer, with the exception of bikes. In the long term, this is expected to become the most important demand for transportation all over the world.
  3. Different to its competitors,  Volvo Buses has found and taken a path, which will step-by-step lower the cost even further.
  4.  The strength in our offer is the modular system (of hybrids, plug-in and electric buses) that will match the demand for different routes with a common infrastructure.
  5. Considering different duty cycles*, buses best match the demands for profitability of electromobility:

Daily Duty (hours)

Predicatable route

Charging opportunity
time between opportunities





Delivery trucks











*Let me just remark that of course there are lots of different types of duty cycles and usage within each category. This is an oversimplification that only servea as an example on how to think when comparing technologies.

In terms of total cost of ownership, the conventional diesel bus used to provide the lowest cost. Today, we can see a change in cost by the opportunities provided by electromobility: depending on what kind of operation the diesel bus is running in, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric buses will ultimately provide the lowest total cost of ownership during the lifetime of the vehicle.

Buses run in planned routes with foreseeable traffic conditions. The operating hours are long enough to enable favorable pay-back time for the initial investment. At the same time, however, buses are sensitive to disturbances and failure is not acceptable. The management of disturbances is a key success factor. Volvo provides a telematics solution that helps to manage any delays in traffic or conflicts at charging stations to optimise productivity and uptime.

The development of the new technology has been very rapid. What seemed impossible just a couple of years ago, has now developed into a complete commercial offer. Volvo Buses continues to develop the new technology in close cooperation with leading public transport providers all over the globe. Therefore, Volvo Buses and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg recently announced a common understanding on the establishment of Luxembourg as a test arena for new public transportation systems. Read more here.

The sustainable mobility sector has been identified as one of the most promising sectors in Luxembourg’s strategy for the diversification and “greening” of the economy. As a consequence, a long-term partnership between the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructures, operator Sales-Lentz and Volvo Buses has now been initiated.

Luxembourg has been in the forefront of the development of electromobility. Sales Lentz was one of the first operators using the new generation hybrid buses in Europe. Today, all public transport operators in Luxembourg utilize the new technology. As a result of the plans in Luxembourg, we can anticipate an emergence of electromobility services and competencies in the market.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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One Response to Electromobility: Why buses take the lead?

  1. Besides the environmental and cost advantages, there is a third very important driver that will push bus electromobility in public transportation fast than cars – politics. Unlike private car ownership, politicians often can specify what type of bus can operate in their city. There is growing pressure from the electorate on the politicians to act on global warming, pollution, and city noise. Specifying electric buses is an easy way for a politician to show his or her green credentials, and actually get something done for the city environment.

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