This year, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda (MITMA) has allocated €219 million for the purchase of approximately 1,024 electric buses.
The project is funded by the NextGenerationEU European recovery funds, aimed at repairing the economic and social damage caused by the pandemic.
However, Jaime Rodríguez Medal, the Director of the Spanish Confederation of Bus Transportation (CONFEBUS), argues that the design of local subsidies is not ideal.
“We observe that countries like Portugal and Germany provide compensation for the extra cost of technological change,” he explains.
Furthermore, he points out that the investment required to incorporate electric buses into the fleet is significantly higher than that needed to acquire combustion vehicles.
“It’s not only more expensive, but it also entails investments in company facilities, charging points, workshop adaptations, staff and driver training, among others,” he emphasizes.
In this context, he asserts that the two aforementioned European countries compensate for the additional cost of transitioning to zero-emission buses.
“This effect is very encouraging for companies to decide to make investments of this kind. It’s the kind of subsidy design we would like to see,” he mentions.
Currently, Spain has incorporated 1,000 electric urban buses, which amounts to 10% of its fleet.
“Perhaps the design of the subsidies has not been the most appropriate. The incentives were not attractive enough,” emphasizes Rodríguez Medal.
Furthermore, the director of Confebus highlights the insufficient charging infrastructure. Therefore, electric buses “only serve for urban environments.”
According to data from the Spanish Association of Automobile and Truck Manufacturers (ANFAC), in the first quarter of 2023, Spain has 20,243 public charging points.
Of these, 11,517 are urban and 8,726 are interurban.
Only 21% of Spain’s public charging infrastructure corresponds to power levels exceeding 22 kW.
A total of 6,475 charging points, equivalent to 24%, are currently inactive due to various reasons, such as deterioration, breakdowns, or a lack of connection to the electrical distribution network.
“In urban environments, electric technology exists, but in interurban areas, we have no alternative to conventional propulsion vehicles,” emphasizes Rodríguez.
On the other hand, the third concern for the bus operators’ sector is related to public procurement procedures.
As the director mentions, often tenders are awarded “solely to whoever offers the lowest price when providing the service.”
That’s why subsidies should be designed around other aspects, “such as the environment, quality, safety, and innovation, which should be taken into account when incorporating these vehicles.”
Additionally, the contract durations are limited in time but do not consider the additional cost of these new technologies, which require a longer payback period to recover the investment.
As a collective means of transportation, buses play a fundamental role in the fight against climate change, primarily due to their ability to replace private vehicles.
“It can replace between 14 and 30 cars,” he asserts.
“The decarbonization strategy of mobility has to take into account clean technologies because we need transportation to operate daily and reach all populations,” he concludes.