Purchases are driven by EU subsidies. Experts point out, however, the high costs of purchase and subsequent operation.

The Polish bus market is gaining momentum. In October, the number of newly registered vehicles increased by more than 100 percent compared to the previous year. According to the report of the Polish Automotive Industry Association (PZPM) and the specialist company JMK Transport Market Analysis, October sales reached the level of 281 units. “This is the second highest monthly result this year after June and, at the same time, by 141 busses more were sold than a year earlier (+100.7%), when 140 vehicles were sold as the report states.

Within ten months, the number of registrations on the bus market has already exceeded last year’s result, in which carriers purchased 2,292 new buses. The current cumulative result is 2,366 vehicles, almost 30% better than at the same time in 2017, when 1,827 buses were registered by the end of October.

EU support

According to PZPM, such a large increase in purchases is a result of the execution of large orders of municipal carriers benefiting from EU support. Already in September local governments collected 152 vehicles, while in the same month last year only 42. In the first three quarters, 849 such vehicles were registered, which meant a 79% increase year-on-year. The high dynamics of registration should be maintained until the end of the year, especially that in the fourth quarter the number of deliveries is expected to be the highest.

The number of eco-driven buses purchased this year is growing particularly fast. This is a trend that is getting stronger and stronger on the Polish market. Still in 2016, out of the total number of 1,942 registered new buses, only 42 were equipped with ecological drives: 19 buses were powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), 17 were hybrids and 6 were electro buses. In total, they accounted for 2.2% of all purchases.

But already last year, the share of such „green” options increased to 7%. The number of registered hybrid buses soared to 85, that of electric buses to 63, while the number of gas tankers decreased to 12. Meanwhile, during the three quarters of this year, as many as 274 eco-buses appeared on the market, including 52 gas-powered vehicles (CNG), 50 electro buses and as many as 172 hybrids.

Self-governments go shopping

And the pace at which orders are placed is bound to increase. In mid-October, Miejskie Zakłady Autobusowe (Municipal Bus Operator) in Warsaw announced a tender for the purchase of 130 electric buses. This is one of the largest proceedings for the supply of electric buses in Europe.

“In the coming years, MZA will buy only gas and electricity-powered busses,” said Renata Kaznowska, deputy president of Warsaw, at the beginning of this year. Krakow is waiting for large deliveries: in 2019-2021 it is to collect over 150 electro buses. A large order has been placed by Zielona Góra, where 47 vehicles are to be delivered by Ursus.

Poznan also decided to electrify the fleet. The city authorities decided to order 21 electric buses to be delivered by Solaris. MPK in Poznań allocated PLN 69.7 million for the order, but Solaris’ offer was about 4 million PLN higher. Finally, the budget was increased. 15 buses are to appear in the city by mid-December next year. The rest will be delivered in February of 2010. 6 buses are 12-metre long vehicles, the rest are 18-metre long articulated busses.

The tender for the purchase of 11 electric buses was launched in October in Szczecin. Vehicles are to appear on the streets in the first quarter of 2020. They will run in places where air pollution is particularly high.

The fleets are also being electrified in smaller cities. Today 23 out of 60 buses in Jaworzno are electric vehicles. By 2020, the city intends to buy another 20. In two years’ time, such vehicles will account for as much as 80% of the city’s rolling stock. “In a few years’ time, Jaworzno may be the first Polish city with completely emission-free public transport,” said Jadwiga Emilewicz, Minister of Enterprise and Technology.

Analysts estimate that already in two years’ time about 7% of all city buses in Poland should run only on batteries. The consequences will be wider: the replacement of vehicles will be followed by investments in new depots and service stations. For example, in Zielona Góra, as part of the electrification of rolling stock, a new interchange centre will be built and the layout of streets near the railway station will be reconstructed.

However, it should be remembered that the creation of demand for electric buses is due to EU subsidies. When they are over, the number of entities interested in purchasing such vehicles may fall sharply. The price of such a bus is twice as high as in the case of busses equipped with standard combustion engines. The construction of infrastructure will also undoubtedly prove to be a major challenge for local governments. In addition, electric buses may generate problems for some cities. The Centre for EU Transport Projects is already warning that carriers may have problems with breaking even after buying and operating EU-subsidised electro buses.

Meanwhile, the government assumes that a programme to develop electromobility in urban public transport will not only bring environmental effects, but will also boost the business associated with the production and operation of electric buses. This, in turn, could contribute to increasing the rate of development of the whole economy. Already at the first presentation of the electromobility programme, assumptions were presented on the basis of which it would be possible to build a domestic market for electric buses worth PLN 2.5 billion annually. This, in turn, would translate into the creation of about 5,000 new jobs  –  both at direct manufacturers and suppliers of parts and components, as well as companies operating in the industry.