Not The First In Africa: Cape Town To Use Electric Buses

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Cape Town wants to expand its public transport fleet with electric buses, and has plans to start the procurement for bidding around the world by February, but it won’t be the first African city to use electric buses.

The city is commited to lowering carbon emissions, Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille said in a statement.

The successful bidder must also provide the city with the charging stations for the buses and training for bus drivers and mechanical engineers, ITWeb reported.

Cape Town “will be the first city in Africa to use electric buses for public transport,” De Lille said in a prepared statement, Traveller24 reported.

Not exactly true.

France-based Bolloré Africa Logistics had electric buses in use in Cameroon in 2014, the company said in a press release.

An investment company controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, Bolloré employs 25,000 people in 45 African countries through 250 subsidiaries, Bloomberg reported in 2013.

Bolloré claims to be a market leader in Cameroon’s integrated logistics sector and developer of the first electric bus line in Central Africa. The first electric buses went into service in May 2014 in Cameroon and they’ve been used to transport students at the University of Yaoundé 1, Bolloré said in a press release.

Electric buses cost significantly less to operate than gasoline-powered buses, and there are fewer parts to maintain and service, De Lille said.

“Apart from electric buses being eco-friendly with zero carbon emissions if we use solar power charging stations, a green fleet holds numerous other advantages,” she said.

So who’s making electric buses?

Chinese auto manufacturer BYD is the the largest manufacturer of electric buses worldwide and surpassed the U.S. in 2015 for bus market volumes, BusinessWire reported on Dec. 23.

Based in Shenzhen, BYD is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges.

In addition to dominating in the electric bus markets, BYD is No. 1 in the world for sales of batteries for electric vehicles. Globally, BYD expects to deliver nearly 6000 electric buses in 2016, with about 300 zero-emission electric buses scheduled to be built in 2016 at BYD’s North American factory – the Bus & Coach Factory in Lancaster, California.

Cameroon’s Bluebus electric bus service represented a turning point in renewable energy use in Cameroon, according to NGVJournal, which focuses on natural gas and alternative fuels for vehicles. The electric buses, funded entirely by Bolloré, run on solar panels connected to lithium metal polymer electric batteries developed by Bolloré’s Blue Solutions subsidiary.

The system enables solar energy to be stored and used 24/7, so the transportation runs on its own independent energy supply.