China, the world’s most populous country and second largest economy, is rapidly emerging as a global leader in the development and deployment of electric vehicle (EV) technology. In fact, with over 116,000 electric buses on its roads, the country seems to be taking concerted steps to capture a significant portion of the growing EV market and integrate electrified fleets as a central component of its transit systems.
With significant support from Beijing, Chinese cities are leading the nation’s electrification revolution. Shenzhen, a city of nearly 12 million inhabitants that lies north of Hong Kong, exemplifies China’s massive investment in and commitment to electrifying its transit systems. With 14,500 zero-emission buses in operation, Shenzhen’s electric fleet is larger than the five largest North American bus fleets combined. In other words, the Chinese city’s electric buses outnumber all buses, not simply those that are battery-electric, in operation in New York City, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Chicago, and Toronto, which run a combined 14,200 total buses.
The Chinese government is supporting electrification efforts, as it recognizes that EV technology will help address issues of pollution and climate change while also modernizing China’s transit system. Chinese manufacturers, often with the help of significant public subsidies, are becoming increasingly important players in the field of battery technology and production. Perhaps most notably, BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, is emerging as one of the most active makers of rechargeable batteries and electric buses in the world. There are over 140 other EV battery manufacturers across China.
As the country of approximately 1.3 billion people revamps large portions of its public transit system, Chinese leaders recognize that electrification, which reduces maintenance costs and harmful emissions, will help address several unique and interconnected challenges related to transportation, pollution, health, and urbanization.
Although not as aggressively, other major cities around the world seem to be recognizing the value and pursuing the implementation of battery-electric buses. Los Angeles, for example, recently committed to creating an entirely zero-emission fleet, and the mayors of 12 leading global cities signed the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration in Paris, which, among other measures, calls for the exclusive procurement of zero-emission buses beginning in 2025.