e-Buses in the MENA region to tackle transportation, pollution and sustainability

Climate change, renewables and battery technology development renew the interest in electric mobility and with it the “new” electric bus! An early version of it was introduced in Berlin, Germany, in the early 1880s.

The Regional Climate and Energy Project at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in the MENA region and the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) launched the policy paper: “ELECTRIC BUS IN MENA” to provide guidance on the implementation of e-buses in the MENA region taking into consideration its unique characteristics.

Having the commitment of the governments is critical for ensuring that other needed support mechanisms are also in place: regulations, incentives, standards, etc. Various governments have developed climate action plans including targets for electric mobility and a gradual phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) technology. Individual and collective initiatives and declarations among governments, cities as well as vehicle manufacturers are essential in driving market and industry maturity.

In the MENA region, Qatar has aspired a 25 percent electric public transit bus target by 2022 in preparation for hosting the FIFA World Cup, while the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is leading Dubai’s Green mobility efforts in procuring Euro VI compliant buses as well as increasing the share of hybrid and electric taxis to 50 percent by 2021. Jordan, which has more than 18,000 electric vehicles on the street, is also looking to electrify its entire public vehicle fleet. While many international authorities have developed clear targets for electric buses, similar commitments and incentives are needed in the MENA region to encourage electric bus supply chain development and gradual market adoption.

“Electric Buses can be a great alternative for MENA cities to tackle transportation, pollution, sustainability and energy efficiency – however there is much information to study. In this paper we approach the topics to introduce all arguments and to help decision makers to know about the different models, technologies and implementation plans.” said Ronja Schiffer, Program Manager at the Regional Climate and Energy Project MENA in FES.

Where are e-Buses now?

The global electric bus market size today is around 500,000 electric buses. China has 98 percent of the market largely due to a strong policy promoting electric buses through subsidies and incentives. Although the number of new electric bus registrations in China have been slowly decreasing after 2016 as a result of the gradual subsidy phase-out, the Chinese e-Bus market is expected to triple by 2025!

The Netherlands is leading EU efforts in electric bus deployments and new orders. Market forecasts predict that 75% of all new bus sales to be electric in 2030, which will put electric buses at about 50 percent of total bus market.

“Electric buses carry the promise of cleaner cities, but to get there it’s more than buying an electric bus! It’s a system’s approach and this policy paper provides the know-how.” said Ayman Smadi, UITP MENA and CTE Director.


The TCO approach provides a comprehensive methodology to calculate all relevant costs over a period of time (usually related to the life span of the product). Such a framework provides the basis for decision makers to choose the most cost-saving product.

Research estimates that an electric bus with daily duty cycles of up to 200km/day can on average be competitive with a diesel bus on a TCO basis, but this will depend on local settings as some costs could be more significant. Optimizing the battery capacity and charging strategy to the route requirements is a first step to achieving TCO advantage.

Addressing the costs concerns, Marwan Hussein, UITP MENA CTE Researcher said: “The pandemic has shown us how cleaner our cities can be. This is the time to invest in sustainable and efficient public transport, this policy paper shows us how.”

“Electric Buses – the MENA cities are extremely different and need different implementation models. This guide shows how to approach electric buses and what is important to consider when planning electric buses – making it easier!” Sarah Hepp, Director of the Rregional Climate and Energy Project concluded.

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