A global first: China’s Shenzhen to greet New Year with all-electric public bus fleet

cityscape Shenzhen traffic roads

By 2018, all public buses in Shenzhen, China will run on electricity. Source hfzimages/Shutterstock

AT the start of the New Year, all public buses plying the streets of Shenzhen – one of China’s wealthiest cities – will run on electricity, making global history as megacities around the world grapple with deadly pollution emitted by fuel-fed vehicles.

The local government of Shenzhen two years ago directed its bus operators to shift to electric vehicles in response to the growing air pollution that poses health hazards to the hugely populated metropolis.

To date, there are more than 14,000 electric buses (e-buses) plying Shenzhen and the few hundred remaining buses running on diesel are due to be taken off the streets by December 2017.

The feat will put Shenzhen ahead of not only Beijing, Hangzhou and Nanjing, but also Paris, Oslo and London, and will earn the city the dis­tinc­tion of becoming the first in the world to have an all-electric public bus fleet, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

With a population now of more than 11 million, Shenzhen has grown into a bustling metropolis after the Chinese government established the country’s first special economic zone in 1979.

A generation ago, Shenzhen was a quiet fishing village populated by 30,000 people. Its close proximity to Hong Kong – which is just 35 kilometers away – has helped its reputation as a fast-rising manufacturing hub, driving the influx of laborers and migrants seeking greener pastures.

Now touted as the “city of the future,” Shenzhen is dotted by sleek museums, sprawling technology marketplaces, and chic breweries and bars.

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With the rapid urbanization, fuel-fed buses were deployed to address the transport needs of the growing population, and with it came the emission problem threatening the health of the people.

Going e-bus was seen as the fix, and the first company to offer such product was BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams.”

BYD, whose investors include American mogul Warren Buffett, produces 80 percent of the e-buses now riding the roads of Shenzhen. The rest are by other Chinese manufacturers.

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Ji Chilong, executive vice-director of Shenzhen Bus Group, one of the city’s major bus operators, lauded Shenzhen Communist Party chief Ma Xingrui for pushing the shift from diesel-fed to electric-run buses in 2015.

“Part of our fleet at the time was poorly main­tained and could not be replaced because we lacked the funds. [The push for an electric fleet and the subsequent subsidies] presented an opportunity for us to renew our entire fleet of 5,300 buses,” Ji told SCMP.

The operator estimates that phasing out diesel buses will annually reduce exhaust-pipe carbon emissions by 400,000 tonnes and other pollutants like carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide by 2,000 tonnes.