Economics of electric buses

We see a lot of marketing blah nowadays about electric buses, much of it
being driven by propagandistic stuff coming out of China which is accepted
uncritically by many of the newbies to electrification in the industry. We
don't see much comparative study that should be mandatory when approaching
new technology. This work is normally done in Europe which, of course, has
had well over a century of experience with electric transit, but that is
typically ignored outside Europe as being "outdated", with the trolley bus
being a particular laughing stock.

We do have a basic picture that the WOL cost of a battery electric bus is
similar to that of a diesel bus, but it's not so publicised that a battery
electric bus costs a lot more upfront (though much cheaper to maintain),
has a restricted passenger capacity because of its weight, has significant
downtime and needs a battery bank renewal at eye-watering cost around
half-life of the bus, thus also shortening the life of the bus because it's
uneconomic to replace the batteries a second time late in the life of the

We rarely see this quantified, because it doesn't suit the marketing agenda
of the battery-electric bus proponents, but recently a Czech manufacturer
of electric drive equipment, Cegelec, has released a short paper comparing
the relative costs of battery-electric (overnight charge), battery-electric
(opportunity charge) and trolley (in-motion charge) buses.

Particularly interesting is the bar chart which contains the sort of
information that the authorities in Wellington and Brisbane, for example,
should have properly considered before they made the decisions they did. If
due process had been followed properly, Wellington should still have
trolleybuses and Brisbane should have built a trolleybus system for the
fixed routes traversed by its double articulated buses. (The Hess bus model
that they're buying actually has a trolleybus version as well.)

Of course, it's difficult to convince a city to build a system with
overhead wires from scratch, but some cities like Prague and Berlin are
because they have a power supply already in place from their tram systems
and, with the modern dynamic charging trolleybus, the whole of a route
doesn't need to be wired any longer.

This has its parallels in the tram sector where not dissimilar irrational
proposals are argued and implemented, despite the fully overhead-wired
method being the cheapest (in both capex and opex) and most reliable to
operate. The in-motion charging (e.g. Parramatta) option is second best,
but the fully battery/opportunity charge method (e.g. Newcastle) is a poor

The 350 or so cities with trolleybuses are extremely fortunate to have
their existing asset because they have a large and more cost-effective head
start on bus electrification compared with non-trolleybus cities.

Tony P