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CN631 at Futian Railway Station, Shenzhen. Source: Wikipedia

Electric buses in Singapore to cost approximately double than those in Shenzhen under the same operator?

Shenzhen has placed itself on the map as the world's first – and, at the moment, only – city to have an all-electric public bus fleet as a result of heavy government subsidies to public transport companies.

The initiative begun in 2013, with one Shenzhen public bus operator being granted a total of:

  • 500,000 yuan worth of subsidies every year for each vehicle;
  • 400,000 yuan from Shenzhen authorities; and
  • 100,000 yuan from the central government per vehicle.

The Chinese government foots 8 billion yuan (S$1.59 billion) a year for some 16,000 electric buses through subsidies in a bid to encourage citizens to reduce their car usage, particularly petrol-engined ones, and to instead opt for a "cleaner" and "greener" mode of transport.

While electric taxis do receive subsidies from the local and central governments, the amount they receive appears to be less than that of electric buses at 136,000 yuan (S$27,000) per vehicle per year.

While an electric bus may cost 1.8 million yuan upfront, which is almost twice the price of a diesel-powered conventional bus, the long-term benefits appear to outweigh the initial costs: A single use of every 1,000 electric buses could save 500 barrels of oil consumption a day, which indicates the efficiency of vehicles powered by electricity and their ability to subsequently reduce air pollution in major cities such as Shenzhen.

Vice-general manager of Shenzhen Bus Group’s public bus operation unit Zhang Longwen said: “The purchase price for an e-bus is higher, but the subsidies for its operations are enough to offset the higher expense.

“Businesswise, using electric buses is a good deal for operators.”

Shenzhen-based automobile manufacturer BYD produces around 80 per cent of the electric buses in the city.

Zhejiang-based entrepreneur Qian Kang said: “In Shenzhen, electrifying the public bus and taxi fleets is a money-driven programme and benefits companies such as BYD. 

“The ultimate goal is to help those domestic companies build e-buses with cutting-edge technologies, which are affordable to operators with the absence of lofty subsidies,” said Qian Kang.

Meanwhile in Singapore, 60 electric buses will be deployed progressively in the country starting 2019, with the final batch delivered in 2020, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in its announcement regarding awarding the electric bus tender to three suppliers, namely BYD (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., ST Engineering Land Systems, and Yutong-NARI Consortium.

LTA elaborated on Wednesday (24 Oct) that the allocation will be as follows:

  • BYD (Singapore) Pte. Ltd: 20 single-deck electric buses for a contract sum of about S$17 million;
  • ST Engineering Land Systems: 20 single-deck electric buses for a contract sum of about S$15 million; and
  • Yutong-NARI Consortium: 10 single-deck and 10 double-deck electric buses for a contract sum of about S$18 million.

Under BYD, the cost of an electric bus in Shenzhen is 1.8 million yuan or S$357,700 - while in Singapore, an electric bus will cost around S$750,000. Intriguingly, this indicates that the cost of an electric bus in Singapore will amount to approximately double the cost of an electric bus in Shenzhen.