Midi and School Buses will Drive Huge Component Demand

Dr. Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx, writes that growth of the electric school bus market in coming years will drive demand for their required components.

IDTechEx Research

There are over 2 million midi buses in the world. For example, most of the 1.6 million school buses are midi buses though North American ones are mainly larger. The new IDTechEx report, "Electric School Buses and Midi Buses 2019-2039" finds that almost none are electric. It is very different for larger buses, for now at least. Thanks to strong government direction and subsidies in China, 400,000 full-sized buses are electric, about 99% of them being in China. However, market pressure is changing direction. China has sharply reduced bus subsidies and they vanish in 2020 so its purchase of electric buses has dropped. 

What matters now is tightening emissions laws then cost parity where up-front cost drops to match that of dirty buses. At that time, the lower cost of ownership and better rider experience will make the purchase of pure electric buses a no-brainer, given that by then, charging time and range will not be issues any more, says IDTechEx. Cost parity takes longer with large buses so attention is swinging strongly to midi buses, which should achieve the killer blow of cost parity around 2026-8.

There are other reasons for the change. Work on driverless buses is driven by costs, safety and the shortage of drivers. That is ongoing given the decline in people taking driving licenses and rejection of boring work. Driverless systems are initially directed at small and midi-buses because they are easier to get right and have better payback because they can even serve as taxi, regular bus and school bus all in one day.

Another rapidly strengthening market force is outrage and action as a result of the stream of new research revealing that local pollution from internal combustion buses is more deadly in more ways than previously realized. Take just cancer as assessed by the respected U.S. EPA. School bus diesel exposures to children pose as much as 23-46 times the cancer risk considered significant under U.S. federal law. There is no known safe level of exposure to diesel or gasoline exhaust for children. Their weak, developing immune systems get a huge belt when the bus doors open. In the USA alone, the captive ridership is around 26 million poisoned twice daily. U.S. school buses emit 3,000 tons of cancer-causing soot and 95,000 tons of smog-causing compounds every year. Each year, one school bus in Texas emits the equivalent of 114 cars according to the EPA.

The report finds local initiatives building from China to New Zealand and Canada to provide clean air for children in school buses by encouraging electrification. The school electric bus market will jump to $6.9 billion in 2029 provided that cost parity is achieved earlier as predicted in the report.

IDTechEx found a growing view in China that there is potential to electrify their one million or so fleet by making 100,000 pure electric vehicles each year for ten years once the price is right. That alone is over $10 billion yearly. Completion of electrification of large urban buses in China and ongoing pollution in China should even lead to government directives and subsidy to electrify school buses in a few years' time.

Even the component opportunity is considerable and of increasing interest to automotive suppliers as peak car kicks in. Globally, a billion-dollar yearly battery market for school buses emerging from nowhere? Yes, but many may be supercapacitors: these are viably powering buses in seven countries thanks to Chinese innovation. See the IDTechEx report, "Energy Storage for Electric Buses and Trucks 2019-2029."

The report, "Electric School Buses and Midi Buses 2019-2039" predicts that a yearly market for over 1-200,000 electric motors for school and other midi buses could also appear depending on how many are used per vehicle. Adopting at least two as e-axles or e-hubs is now seen. With their controllers, such motors in school and other midi buses will become a yearly market of $400 million.