Battery Electric Bus Vs Fuel Bus: Which is Better?


Hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric buses are powered with stored energy and have comparable propulsion systems.

The limited availability of petroleum fuel and concerns over harmful gas emissions have compelled us to search for alternative modes of transport such as EVs and hydrogen fuelled vehicles. The debate between hydrogen fuel cells and battery-electric buses has been ongoing for years, with both offering unique advantages over the other. Let’s do a comparative analysis between electric buses and hydrogen fuel cell buses to help you decide which might suit you better.

Battery Electric Bus Vs Fuel Bus

Before diving into their comparison of battery electric bus vs fuel bus, let’s understand them first.

Battery Electric Bus

In simple terms, an electric bus is a type of electric vehicle that operates on electricity instead of any kind of fuel such as petrol or diesel. Battery Electric Buses (BEVs) are basically powered by electricity taken from high-capacity rechargeable batteries, typically lithium-ion batteries. The installed battery in the bus gets charged at the charging station to deliver power to the motor to propel the wheels.

Electric buses are becoming increasingly popular and common on roads because of the advancement in battery technology and low dependency on fossil fuels.

BEVs are mainly classified into two types, one that is composed of range extenders and the other without. Range extenders are little gasoline engines that produce electricity which increases the range of BEV by reducing complete dependency on batteries alone. On the other hand, BEVs without any extender are sometimes considered actual electric vehicles.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Hydrogen fuel cell buses have evolved into an efficient and clean alternative to conventional diesel-powered buses. Fuel cell electric bus operates on electricity produced from the fuel cell to propel the motor inside the bus.

In a fuel cell bus, a pressurized tank discharges hydrogen in the presence of oxygen, and the chemical energy gets converted into electrical energy. It also produces heat and water as a byproduct. Now, in the next segment, let’s delve deeper and compare battery electric bus vs fuel bus.

Also Read: A Move Away from Diesel to Hydrogen Trucks is Catching Attention

Comparison Between Electric Bus and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Battery Electric Bus Vs Fuel Bus 2

In the table below, we have given a glimpse of the major differences that you would notice between these two buses.

Electric BusesHydrogen Fuel Cell Buses
Higher efficiencyEfficiency is less than e-buses
No use causes zero emissionCauses emissions when not in use
Energy storage is lowEnergy storage is high
Total Cost of Ownership is lessTotal Cost of Ownership is high
Long charging timeLower refueling time
Have a limited range and are not suitable for longer distancesHave a higher range and are suitable for long distance

Let’s dive into a detailed comparative analysis of battery electric bus vs fuel bus.

1. Energy Efficiency

The battery-electric bus is much better in terms of energy efficiency than the hydrogen fuel cell bus. The major reason behind this is their source of energy. Battery electric buses run on a single source of energy that is electricity while the fuel cell bus depends on two sources of energy to produce electricity that is oxygen and hydrogen.

Battery-electric buses hold an overall efficiency of about 85-90%, while hydrogen-fuel buses have only about 60-70% efficiency.

Also See: What is EV Range Anxiety? Is it Real? How to Overcome it?

2. Carbon Dioxide Emissions

While comparing the electric bus vs hydrogen bus, the battery-electric bus is also more effective than the hydrogen fuel cell bus when it comes to emissions. Both the buses produce emissions while running.

However, there is no gas emission when a battery-electric bus is not running while the hydrogen fuel cell bus, even when not in use emits gas. This causes a constant requirement for hydrogen refilling.

3. Energy Storage

While exploring hydrogen bus vs electric bus in terms of converting stored energy into usable energy, hydrogen fuel buses are more efficient. This implies that most of the stored energy in the fuel cell bus can be utilized to power the vehicle.

On the other hand, electric buses lose their stored energy during the conversion process in the form of heat. Hydrogen fuel cell buses are also efficient and superior to battery-electric buses when it comes to reserving extra renewable energy resources.

4. Total Cost Of Ownership

The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for fuel cell buses is almost double that of battery electric buses. The heavy price of green hydrogen acts as a major challenge for the deployment of fuel cell buses on a large scale.

However, cost equivalency will be possibly achieved by the years 2025 and 2030 due to advancements in the manufacturing of FCEB components.

5. Range and Refueling Time

In comparison to electric buses, hydrogen buses are more beneficial and efficient when it comes to refueling time and range.

Hydrogen electric buses can run for 500km and take around 7 -8 minutes to refuel while electric buses can cover 350km distance and recharge in about 30 to 40 minutes.

They also have a larger range and longer traveling time than electric buses. This makes hydrogen-powered buses more suitable for longer runs.

Also Read: Do Electric Cars Lose Range Over Time?

Electric Buses Vs Diesel Buses

hydrogen fuel bus

After exploring electric buses vs hydrogen buses, let’s compare electric buses vs diesel buses and find out why electric buses are better than diesel buses through a comparative analysis.

Electric BusDiesel Bus
Powered by electricityPowered by diesel
Low emissionHigher emission
Reduce noise pollutionCause noise pollution
High upfront costLower upfront cost
Low maintenance costHigh maintenance cost
Requires a dedicated charging infrastructureNo separate infrastructure required

Let’s discuss the differences in more detail.

1. Renewable Energy

Electric buses powered by batteries are renewable in nature. This makes them the most preferable and sustainable mode of transport than traditional diesel buses.

2. Lower Emissions

Diesel buses usually produce higher emissions which makes electric buses a game changer and the most preferred option since they emit zero emissions. This allows passengers to have a pollution-free traveling experience.

3. Noise Pollution

While traveling, one of the commonly seen problems that people face is uncomfortable noise coming from the diesel engines of vehicles. This is where electric buses come into play. Being electric, they produce very low noise, which gives passengers a quiet and comfortable experience.

4. Maintenance Costs

In comparison to diesel buses, electric asks for low maintenance. Electric buses have fewer moving components than diesel buses which results in lower and predictable costs.

5. Health Issues

On one hand, electric buses lessen the possibility of kids getting affected by unhealthy emissions. On the other hand, diesel buses cause emissions that can result in health problems, primarily for vulnerable kids and older people.

Also See: Gas Cars Vs Electric Cars: Pros and Cons

Disadvantages of Electric Buses over Diesel Bus

Battery electric bus

The drawbacks of using electric buses over diesel buses are:

1. Purchasing Cost

In terms of price, traditional diesel-run buses are more affordable than electric. Although electric buses are cost-effective in the long run, they require a high initial investment.

2. Charging Infrastructure

Since electric buses are powered by batteries, they need a charging infrastructure to charge their battery for electricity. The setup expense for a well-equipped charge station is quite high and ensuring proper maintenance is an added burden for operators. On the other hand, traditional buses don’t require any such setup as they run on diesel engines.

Although, there are considerable advantages and disadvantages to both modes. But with the growing challenges of climate and increasing pollution, opting for electric buses over diesel buses is a wise decision.

Also, check out the 10 Reasons Why Gas Cars Are Better Than Electric.

Electric Bus Cost

Battery Electric Bus Vs Fuel Bus 1

The rise and popularity of electric buses in India have increased its demand which has compelled multiple players to enter the market. To meet the demands of the growing population, some of the big manufacturers including in India like Tata, JBM Motors, PMI, Ashok Leyland, Olectra Greentech, and outside manufacturers like BYD, Proterra, etc are making advances in electric buses for public transportation. Now, let’s learn about the electric buses cost in India and in the USA.

Cost of Electric Bus in India

Below we have mentioned some well-known Indian electric bus manufacturers with their bus costs.

1. Tata Starbus EV 4 12 Low Entry Electric Bus is available from Rs 2.20 Crore.

2. The Olectra K9 is starting from Rs. 2 crore.

3. JBM Ecolife Electric Bus, available at Rs. 2 Crore.

4. PMI urban electric bus is available at a starting price of Rs. 1.25 crore.

Cost of Ownership in India

According to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis report of electric buses in India by the World Resources Institute, the TCO for e-buses is much lower than conventional buses.

The Total Cost of Ownership of any vehicle takes the operational and capital cost over the period of service into consideration. The report takes two variants of e-buses with a small battery of 125kWh and a large battery of 320 kWh, and 9-metre and 12-metre high and low-end diesel buses for comparative analysis.

For a 12-metre bus, the Total Cost of Ownership is around 53.77/km for a 125 kWh battery electric bus, which is less than that of both the diesel bus variants.

On the other hand, the TCO for the 320 kWh battery variant is 77.75/km, which is somewhat similar to a high-cost diesel bus variant. A 9-meter bus with a larger battery is a little higher than a diesel bus. While an electric bus with a smaller battery has the lowest TCO per km among all options.

Recently in January 2023, Prices found for 6,465 electric bus tenders in India are 29 per cent less than the operation cost of diesel buses. This tender was first under the National Electric Bus Programme (NEBP). The data was given by State-owned Convergence Energy Services Ltd.

For a 12-metre bus, the lowest price found was around 54.3/km (intra-city) and 39.8/km (intercity). The price for a 9-metre bus was 54.46/km and 61.92/km for a 7-metre bus.

Also Read: Fueling the Debate: Electric Scooter vs Petrol Scooter

Electric Buses Prices in the US

Price pic

After going through the electric bus prices in India, here is a list of a few recently launched electric buses and their prices in the US market to give you a holistic idea. However, prices of electric buses USA may vary based on the required features.

1. Proterra Catalyst 40 Foot Bus: around $ 550000.

2. BYD 8m ELECTRIC Midi BUS: $ 84553 approximately.

3. BYD C10MS electric bus: nearly $ 120000.

4. Solaris Urbino 12 Electric: $ 167900 approximately.

5. Olectra C9: around $ 302606.

6. Olectra Ebus K9: nearly $ 145142.

7. Ashok Leyland Oyster: $ 330200.

8. Ankai 8.5M electric bus long driving range: $ 350000.

9. King Long 9m Pure Electric City Bus: $ 477210.

10. Yutong E9: $ 357589

Electric School Bus Price in the US

Battery-electric school buses in the US of Type A cost around $250,000, while diesel buses cost roughly $50,000 to $65,000.

Type C or Type D electric buses cost ranges from $320,000 to $440,000.

Additionally, take a look at our blog What Factors Affect the Electric Car Battery Replacement Cost?

In light of the above discussion, the transition of the bus segment towards electrification seems essential for a productive shift towards an eco-friendly and efficient ecosystem. Electric buses have proved themselves a worthy investment for school bus operators and city transit systems the most. Though the high upfront cost has slowed down the adoption of e-buses, consistent bus deployments and technological advances suggest that e-buses will become more economical over time.

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