Globally, the transportation sector is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), transportation accounts for approximately one-quarter of all energy-related GHG emissions and is a major cause of urban and regional air pollution.The growing need to reduce reliance on conventional energy sources, mitigate GHG emissions and control pollution levels are the primary drivers of the Southeast Asian electric bus market.

Growing public awareness of the nexus between climate change, pollution and personal consumption has resulted in a surge in demand for green transportation solutions, including electrified public transportation such as e-buses.

Country-wise market progress

Singapore

The electric bus market in Singapore is projected to register growth throughout 2020- 24. Additionally, favourable government policies and activities are boosting the country’s market. BYD (Singapore) Private Limited, ST Engineering Land Systems, Volvo, and Ebus are the key players in the electric bus market. To remain competitive in the country’s electric bus business, major companies are developing sophisticated technology and launching new vehicles.

Singapore is deploying new fully electric buses for public transportation as part of a whole-of-nation effort to advance its national vision on sustainable development by 2030. This is part of a longer-term goal of electrifying all of Singapore’s 5,800 public buses by 2040, including hybrid buses. These new buses, supplied by ST Engineering Mobility Services, are charged using overhead pantograph chargers with a maximum output of 450 kW and a charging time of 30 minutes for a bus with a range of 130 km per charge.

To encourage more Singaporeans to purchase electric vehicles (EVs), the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) will install 620 EV charging stations in public car parks islandwide with plans to generate additional solar energy from transportation infrastructure.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, there has been a shift in market players’ focus from diesel and petrol buses towards electric buses in response to growing environmental concerns. Additionally, high pollution levels in cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are another motivation to switch to EVs. VinBus Ecology Transport Services Limited Liability Company has launched the first smart and fully electric bus, branded “VinBus”, in Vietnam.

The first electric bus route commenced commercial operations in Ho Chi Minh City in March 2022. The D4 route will span from Vinhomes Grand Park to Sai Gon Bus Station and buses on the line will have a service frequency of 20 minutes. In the near future, VinBus Ecology has plans to deploy 150 to 200 electric buses in Phu Quoc, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The VinBus models will have a battery capacity of up to 281 kWh and will be fitted with a driver behaviour surveillance system that provides alerts about potentially dangerous activities such as distracted driving and signs of exhaustion, as well as bus stop announcement screens, free Wi-Fi on board and a set of LCD entertainment screens. The smart buses will be managed and operated through centralised monitoring.

Malaysia

Increased pollution from motor vehicles, such as carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions, has resulted in a 70.4 per cent worsening of Malaysia’s air quality, resulting in a boom in demand for electric buses in the country. Malaysia is a market leader in the APAC area for electric buses; the market is predicted to expand further due to the presence of a mature market for electric cars. Additionally, government measures such as zero-tariff import and excise levies on hybrid and electric vehicles will result in an additional rise in demand during the projection period (2019-25).

Last year, in April, Malaysia’s Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit (IMBRT) launched its pilot programme to test the performance of high capacity electric buses. The three-month programme evaluated the buses’ functionality and showcased the use of renewable technology. The buses, which are manufactured by the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), can transport more than 300 passengers in three carriages. The capacity can be expanded to 500 passengers with the addition of two more carriages. The buses have a maximum speed of 70 km per hour and can drive themselves by interpreting virtual tracks with their sensors, though a driver can still control the vehicles if necessary.

Indonesia

The electric bus market in Indonesia appears to have a bright future with prospects in both public and private transportation. The primary drivers of this industry are rising gasoline prices, government subsidies in the form of tax breaks to encourage the use of electric buses, and strict environmental rules aimed at reducing air pollution. Emerging trends that have a direct impact on the industry’s dynamics include the development of low-cost lithium-ion batteries and integrated software solutions for better bus performance optimisation.

Trans Jakarta, the city’s land transport provider, has begun operating 30 electric buses, marking a watershed moment in the city’s effort to transition to emission-free vehicles. The electric bus, which measures 12 metres in length, has a maximum capacity of 60 passengers. The electric buses produced by Chinese auto firm BYD were imported by local company Vektr Mobiliti Indonesia. Vektr has completed trial runs in Jakarta, Aceh and Bogor. All of the trial runs equalled a whopping 24,000 km. By 2025, the capital city intends to operate at least 100 electric buses.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology has partnered with PT Industri Kereta Api Indonesia, a train manufacturer, to deploy nine red and white electric buses in Indonesia for the 2022 G20 Summit. The project is expected to cost approximately IDR 45 billion, which will be borne by the two agencies.

Thailand

Thailand’s government has declared a roadmap to make the country a regional hub for 3,000 electric public buses in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by 2025.Thailand and South Korea have teamed to develop electric buses in the country, cutting the cost of buses and assisting in the market’s development. Owing to the government’s policy of substituting ageing fossil fuel-powered buses with electric buses, Thailand’s Nex Point, an electric bus manufacturer, is expected to have a successful year in 2022. Its new manufacturing facility in Chachoengsao is capable of producing 6,000 units per year.

Currently, Thailand’s highways are home to 151,550 registered buses. Within a decade, up to 40,000 of them will be replaced with electric buses. Nex Point intends to manufacture electric trucks as part of its second phase of EV manufacturing.

Country-wise product design

The electric bus market in Singapore is categorised by seating type (up to 30-seats, 31-40 seats, and above 40), battery type (lead acid, lithium-ion), application (intercity, intra-city, and airport bus), bus length (6-8 metres, 9-12 metres and above 12 metres), region (South West Community Development Council [CDC], North East CDC, Central Singapore CDC), and manufacturer. Due to its high energy density and improved power per mass battery unit, the lithium-ion battery segment is predicted to expand faster than other categories. Moreover, the market is projected to be dominated by the 9-12 metre bus length category, as this is the standard bus size.

The Thailand, Malaysian and Vietnamese electric bus markets are based on market segments like vehicle type (plug-in electric bus, hybrid electric bus and battery electric bus), end users (public and private) and charging infrastructure (ground contact, roof pantograph, gantry pantograph, plugonly and induction). Thailand’s market is segmented into the Northern Region, the North Eastern Region, the Central Region, Bangkok and its vicinity, and the Southern Region, whereas Malaysia’s market is divided into the Northern Region, the East Coast Region, the Central Region, the Southern Region, and the Eastern Region.

Vietnam’s E-bus market is divided into five regions, namely, North Central, North West, North East, South East, and South Central. The Indonesian market can be divided on the basis of vehicle type (battery electric bus, plug-in hybrid electric bus, hybrid electric bus), battery type (lithium-iron phosphate [LFP] and nickel manganese cobalt oxide [NMC], end user (public or private), length (small bus [<10 metres], and large bus [>10 metres], and charging infrastructure (plug-in and conductive).

Rechargeable batteries used in electric buses include LFP, NMC, lithium metal polymer, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium titanate oxide. The low cost and long cycle life of LFP will keep it a front runner. NMC batteries are expected to grow the fastest by 2025 due to faster charging and increased energy density.