Transport / Electrification
Case Studies
Policy Areas


Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and, where renewable electricity generation is on the rise, can be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Policies promoting the electrification of the transport sector include the introduction of battery-powered electric buses and the promotion of trams and trolleybuses – with or without in-motion charging solutions. This also includes policies promoting individual electric vehicles, including private cars and light commercial vehicles. Key policies promoting private electric vehicles include the use of road-user charges in favour of electric vehicles (see policy option T2), parking policies in favour of electric vehicles (see policy option T1), access to bus lanes for electric vehicles and the roll-out of convenient charging infrastructure.

Resource implications and key requirements

A shift to electric buses brings about fundamental changes to the operating model – and the economics. These changes include significant upfront investment in charging and maintenance facilities and higher costs for the purchase of rolling stock. They also include important negotiations with the energy sector to ensure sufficient capacity on the local grid and optimal electricity prices for overnight or day-time charging. Personnel will also be affected, and many staff will require retraining and redeployment. Drivers will need to adapt to new driving techniques and protocols for recharging and battery management, while the maintenance of buses and charging infrastructure will change to the extent that these may be outsourced as part of supply operate-maintain contracts.

Overall, lower fuel and maintenance costs are associated with electric buses compared to diesel buses, but as the relevant market segments are less settled the pricing of these activities is subject to some uncertainties. A less radical approach is the expansion of tram or trolleybus networks as this represents less of a change compared to the existing model in operation. Here, one increasingly relevant hybrid solution involves trolleybuses with battery capacity and in-motion charging using existing or new trolley wires for battery charging. This approach, which is mostly relevant for cities with an existing trolleybus service, enables the buses to operate temporarily outside the network of overhead wires, with moderate battery capacity installed.

Policies aimed at the electrification of private vehicles may include revision to a current road-user charge, to parking regulation or the access of electric cars to bus lanes, which may not have huge resource implications. The installation of charging stations at selected parking places, however, represents a significant investment cost. In concrete terms, in 2015 the cost of single-port, non-residential electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) unit ranged from US$ 300-1,500 for Level 1, US$ 400-6,500 for Level 2 and US$ 10,000-40,000 for direct current (DC fast charging, while the installation costs varied greatly from site to site, with a ballpark cost range of US$ 0-3,000 for Level 1, US$ 600-12,700 for Level 2 and US$ 4,000-51,000 for DC fast charging.[1] In light of this, local initiatives aimed at promoting private electric vehicles will only work well when combined with national policies that support the use of electric and low-emission cars.

Implementation obstacles and solutions

Electrification of bus services requires considerable investments in fleets, maintenance and charging infrastructure and thus significant capital expenditure. The cost of electric buses can be double the price of their diesel equivalents and charging stations are also expensive – they cost about US$ 50,000 for a standard depot-based version used for overnight charging. [2] Nevertheless, several cities have introduced electrification of bus services on a small scale, on the back of a clear green vision for the relevant city and with some financial support from national or international entities. It has also been suggested that electric buses have lower operating costs in the long term and are easier to maintain. For example, in the case of Stockholm, evidence suggests that lower fuel costs for electric buses can balance the high investment costs incurred in building charging infrastructure, while achieving in the bus fleet a reduction of up to 51 per cent in emissions and up to 34 per cent in energy use.[3] In addition to financial barriers, the current state of technology can be an issue. For instance, during early tests in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, electric buses had trouble getting over steep hills with full passenger loads.[4]


[1] M. Smith and J. Castellano (2015), “Costs associated with nonresidential electric vehicle supply equipment: Factors to consider in the implementation of electric vehicle charging stations”, US Department of Energy.
[2] Financial Times (2019), “Number 214 to Highgate leads UK’s electric bus charge – British companies use Chinese technology to power up in new age of public transport”, Financial Times website, November 2019.
[3] M. Xylia, S. Leduc, P. Patrizio, F. Kraxner and S. Silveira (2017), “Locating charging infrastructure for electric buses in Stockholm”. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, Vol. 78, pp. 183-200.
[4] A. Marshal (2019), “Why electric buses haven’t taken over the world – yet”, Wired, June 2019.