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What's sad is that the majority of electric buses being purchased both in America and around the globe aren't manufactured in the US.

We have a Silicon Valley company, Tesla, that kicked off the world-wide move to battery powered autos. Why is there not a US company recognized as the leader in buses?

There are a few California companies on this list but they're tiny. Here in Michigan the leading player is French and they're self-driving as well. I wonder how American manufacturers failed to grab this market. Detroit should have owned this industry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_electric_bus_makers_an...




John Delorean's project before the stainless steel car was a city bus, aiming for the level of comfort of inner-city buses. At the time, GM city buses had no air conditioning, windows that didn't open, and were generally unbearable. He claims, in his autobiography, that GM intentionally made shitty buses to push people to car ownership (which made a lot more money per passenger than bus sales) and sold them to city councils with as many expensive lunches as it took. GM saw the threat from his bus and sent saboteurs to cut the fuel lines of his prototype the night before the launch at the industry show. The last part is hard to credit, but it certainly made sense for GM to fill the world with uncomfortable buses.


> Why is there not a US company recognized as the leader in buses?

The US barely uses buses! It'd be surprising if a US company _was_ big in buses, really. Bus innovation mostly happens in countries with extensive public transport systems, as you'd expect; in all but a few cities, the US's is very limited.

The US is also not particularly enthusiastic about tackling global warming relative to the rest of the developed world, or at least it isn't consistently; the Obama administration was quite good on this, but the Bush II and Trump administrations are practically denialist.


That might be true for city buses, but I think every public school operates at least one school bus. Especially in the rural parts of the country. School buses seem like an easy target for electrification ("think of the children", etc.).


>Why is there not a US company recognized as the leader in buses?

Culture, policy and structure.

Culture: The US considers public transport to be "for the poor". How many investors and founders in SV take the bus to work? Buses are seen as an outdated mode of transportation. Why create a company for a technology that you expect to be replaced by hyperloop/flying cars/ jetpacks.

Policy: Chinas political leadership made a decision that they want electric buses in their cities and that they want them to be built in China. Then, they created the environment that would enable this using directives or subsidies or whatever.

Structure: China is the manufacturing hub of the world. They have good engineers and they know how to make stuff. They have a deep, cheap, local supply chain. Things that the US may not have as much.


> What's sad is that the majority of electric buses being purchased both in America and around the globe aren't manufactured in the US.

Detroit should have gotten started on this, sure. But who in Detroit? There just aren't that many American coach builders left in the transit space. GM's bus division got sold off in the 80s, and eventually got sold to Volvo. Flxible eventually went out of business in the 90s (not helped by safety issues). Mack got out of coach building ages ago (and is owned by Volvo these days). Neoplan just built German designs, and went out of business about ten years ago. NABI just built Ikarus (Hungarian) designs and got bought out and shut down by Volvo. Ford and Kenworth haven't built buses in ages. Crown imported some Ikarus buses, but they went out of business a while ago. Blue Bird doesn't do transit buses to the best of my knowledge. Gillig is still around but has mostly been a bit player in the Bay Area at least.

That said, Reagan's Buy American mandate has ensured the opposite, at least within the public transit sphere. Major components that are not American made need waivers if DOT funds are used.

Trolley coaches (what many may think of when they think of electric buses) are pretty rare in the United States. Out here our trolley coaches are mostly Orion (Canadian, bought by Mercedes-Benz, now defunct) and New Flyer (Canadian). Both assembled their vehicles in the United States. Hell, even our decrepit Skoda buses were assembled in San Francisco.

Battery electric buses are almost unheard of in the United States (unsure if this the chicken or egg part of the problem), and the only ones I've seen in person were in Madrid and those were tiny.

Diesel-electric hybrids are becoming quite a bit more common, and for the diesel part of the hybrid equation you'll generally find American motors (e.g. Cummins, Detroit Diesel).

So, sure, it'd be nice to see American companies leading the way with electric buses (at least domestically). I'd argue there's just not enough critical mass for that to happen. It's the same reason Sukhoi's SSJ hasn't sold well. They have such minimal presence outside of Russia that it's hard to get parts and support for them. Even Mexico's Interjet which has reportedly been quite happy with their SSJs has had to ground them.


Here in Los Angeles, LADOT has a handful of battery electric buses in their fleet, for the short DASH routes near downtown [1]. LADOT is the smaller, municipal counterpart to the county's Metro system. The buses themselves are a bit shorter than an average city bus, though that is typical for DASH. I wouldn't call them tiny.

I guess that because they're so quiet, when the bus makes a turn, a loudspeaker on the front of the bus calls out, "Bus is turning right." Pretty funny to hear the first time.

[1]: https://la.streetsblog.org/2017/01/12/electric-dash-buses-to...


Well tiny is relative, they were probably 25-30ft long which is fairly standard in the US. Meanwhile San Francisco has 40 ft and 60 ft hybrid and trolley coaches.


Seattle + King County has battery-electric busses now. They had a trial run over the past few years but this year they’re rolling out more BEV busses without the hype vinyl wraps (I.e. they’re permanent): https://www.kiro7.com/news/all-electric-zero-emission-buses-...


Well, BYD has a factory with a capacity for 1500 electric buses per year opened in California last year: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/07/c_136662718.htm So I imagine the majority of their buses sold in the US in the near future will be built there. Of course that's a small proportion of the number of buses they sell in China...


That's some good capacity, comparable to the Tesla model 3. What's their secret to success?


Well, to be fair that's the theoretical capacity. But if I'm being snarky, BYD considers employing American workers a feature (helps selling buses to the state), while Elon considers it a bug.


I think Proterra is doing a pretty good job.




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