Taiwan's three-phase plan to electrify public buses

Andy Lee, special to DIGITIMES 0

The car industry is going through unprecedented changes that are led by government policies on renewable energy and by innovative development of electrified smart driving and shared rides (namely connectivity, autonomous, sharing/subscription and electrification; or CASE). The world's car sales have been dropping mildly every year since 2018, but sales of electric vehicles (EV) have been growing. According to International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), EV sales reached 2.963 million cars in 2020, rising 46.3% on year. It's expected to continue rising every year.

Bloomberg New Energy Financial estimated that the golden cross - when sales of EV exceed sales of ICE cars - will occur in 2035. Electrification is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming. Government and businesses all take environmental sustainability as their mission as the world has been getting hotter and hotter by an average of 0.18 degree Celsius every year. Every day, an average of 3,205 buses hit the road of Taipei city. Electric buses are meant to reduce the noise and air pollutions in the city. In light of its positive impact, electrifying public buses has become one of the Taiwanese government's key policy.

By 2030, city and intercity buses will be completely replaced by electric buses in Taiwan. Safe, efficient and comfortable buses are expected to promote usage of public transit. Out of the existing total 15,000 city and intercity buses, there are about 600 electric buses right now. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has made a three-phase plan to replace the rest. In the first two phases, from 2019 to 2022 and from 2023 to 2026, the goal is to develop the technologies needed and to learn from experiences. By 2030, city and intercity buses should be all electric. The Taiwanese government, meanwhile, is thinking how to cultivate the electric vehicle industry in Taiwan. Electric bus suppliers could open up overseas market in the future based on their experience in Taiwan.

Taiwan's electric bus supply chain mainly works developers of entire vehicles for which they integrate parts and components, and assemble the architecture and bodies. Afgter assembly, the buses will be supply to bus service operators. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), over 1,000 electric buses can be produced locally every year. The architecture mainly consists of the chassis, suspension, steering, braking, battery and electrical control systems. Among them there are three key components: the motor, the battery cell and the control unit. Buses need higher motor power than passenger cars becasue it contains more passengers and runs long hours every day. Electric buses use digital control system and provide connectivity and smart applications on board for both driver and passengers.

Taiwan's EV industry follows three directions - technology development, smart device integration and cloud configuration. Technology development refers to the whole process of planning, designing and testing. With full understanding of the process, product quality and safety are ensured. Smart systems help reduce traffic accidents. Drivers use imaging and warning systems to avoid blind spots. More systems will be developed to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the streets. The network and cloud could raise fleet management efficiency and power consumptions.

For the longer term, one of the goals is to test out self-driving public bus. Taiwan's cutting edge semiconductor and software industry sectors are great development grounds for self-driving technologies and diverse transportation systems. With cloud computing and data collected from passengers, cars and roads, there are more and more possibilities in the cities.

International energy administration (IEA) estimated that there will be 1.6 million electric buses in the world by 2025, up from 600,000 in 2020. Taiwan has excellent suppliers poised to develop electric bus, including RAC EV, Master Transportation Bus Manufacturing, and Tron-e Tek. Foxtron is launching its first electric bus with visions that public transit should be a pleasing and comfortable experience.

(Editor's note: Andy Lee is CEO of Foxtron Vehicle Technologies, a joint venture established by Foxconn Electronics and Hua-chuang Automobile Information Technical Center. Foxtron operates the MIH open platofrm for EV development.)