Jakarta is trialling electric buses on some routes as part of a strategy to make the city more eco-friendly.

With almost 200 million passengers a year, the Indonesian capital has the world’s largest public bus system – as well as some of the world’s worst traffic congestion and air pollution.

To meet demand, the Transjakarta Bus Rapid Transit System is adding more buses to its fleet and increasing the number of routes. But in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government wants to transition to cleaner transport.

Transjakarta has begun testing electric buses, or e-buses, on public roads and plans to allow passengers on board once it has conducted further testing and obtained the necessary permits.

Charging ahead

About four billion people in Asia and the Pacific – 92% of the region’s population – are exposed to hazardous levels of air pollution, according the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

Electric mobility was one of 25 policy and technological measures outlined in a UN Environment report last year for reducing air pollution and saving lives.

Buses are the fastest-growing part of the electric vehicle (EV) market. Global e-bus sales increased by 32% last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Consultancy McKinsey projects the number of urban e-buses will rise by about 18% a year in the European Union. By 2030 they will make up about three-quarters of bus sales in European cities, in line with EU targets.

From next year, London is making all single-decker buses emission-free and all new double-decker buses hybrid, electric or hydrogen. By 2037, all 9,200 buses across the UK capital will be zero emission.

New York City, with the largest bus system in the United States, plans to switch to an all-electric fleet by 2040. California, meanwhile, has set a statewide goal for public transit agencies to transition to zero-emission bus systems by 2040.

But China, easily the biggest market for electric vehicles of all types, is the global leader in the adoption of e-buses. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 18% of China’s total bus fleet is already electrified.

With more than 16,000 e-buses on the road, Shenzhen is home to the world’s first - and largest - entirely electric fleet.

Driven by government subsidies, other Chinese megacities are not far behind. Shanghai is on track for a completely electric fleet by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

Electric mass transport isn't as new as you might think, though - Vancouver has had buses powered by overhead electric wires since the late 1940s.

A Vancouver trolleybus in the late 1970s.
Image: Barry Lewis via Wikimedia Commons

In terms of electric cars, much like with buses, China leads the way. More than half of the one million electric cars sold in 2017 were sold there, according to the International Energy Agency.

As a percentage of overall sales, though, Norway is a clear market leader with electric cars accounting for 40% of total private automobile sales.