In the U.S., the transportation industry is responsible for around 14% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as per an article published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019, which also said that the country was the second-largest GHG emitter in the world, after China. Thus, the focus on reducing the emissions and, ultimately, the rate of air quality degradation, is high here. This is why governments at the federal, state, and county levels are providing heavy funding to procure electric vehicles (EVs), majorly for the public transport system.
This is the primary reason the U.S. electric bus market is predicted to grow to $1,554.5 million by 2024 from $445.7 million in 2018, at a 23.9% CAGR during 2019–2024 (forecast period). Some of the prominent policies under which the state governments have been offered grants for purchasing such automobiles are the Low or No Emission Grant, Urbanized Area Formula Funding program, School Bus Rebate program, and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant program.
Currently, the focus on adding electric buses to the fleets of schools is rather high in the country. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) estimated that in 2018, more than 95% of the school buses in the country were running on diesel. With the rising concerns about air pollution as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels in vehicle engines, numerous states are taking initiatives to convert the school bus fleets to electric variants. In March 2018, the EPA provided funding of $8.7 million for the purchase of 450 electric buses for 141 school fleets, in 32 U.S. states.
Battery electric buses (BEB), hybrid electric buses (HEB), and plug-in hybrid electric buses (PHEV) are available in the country, of which BEBs would register the faster sales growth in the coming years. This is because they only have an electric battery and motor and no internal combustion engine, which is why they are cleaner than HEVs and PHEVs. This is why the subsidies and purchase incentives offered on BEBs are the highest, making them more affordable to public and private transit bodies. In addition, the price of battery packs is declining fast, which would be another reason for the rapid uptake of pure-electric variants.
The electric buses available in the country either have small batteries, which need frequent charging during the journey, or larger batteries, which need to be charged overnight at a depot. Of these, the demand for depot-charging models is increasing fast here, as they are similar to diesel buses in operational characteristics, which makes them more convenient for drivers. With advancements in the battery technology, the driving range of depot-charging buses is improving, which is enabling non-stop, long-distance transportation.
There are three ways by which these automobiles can be charged: inductive, pantograph, and plug-in. Till now, the sale of plug-in variants has been the highest, as they were the earliest-available models in the country. In the coming years though, the U.S. electric bus market is predicted to witness the rapidly rising popularity of inductive-charging alternatives, as this technology enables fast charging, which allows the vehicle to travel long distances.
Therefore, with continued government support, the sale of electric buses will keep rising in the U.S.