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Europe becoming Chinese bus makers’ second home market

There is a Chinese saying that “one’s accomplishments are easily known outside his or her own unit.”

The original Chinese phrase translated literally means the blooming flower inside the garden smells sweeter outside of it, which is a way to describe companies performing much better or are better known outside of its own home market.

This is exactly the case reflected at the recent Busworld Europe Kortrijk, where leading Chinese bus makers such as Yutong, BYD, Ankai, King Long and Higer showcased their latest bus models, many of them catered specifically to the European market and some of them global debuts.

BYD, which has the largest presence in Europe among its Chinese compatriots not only in terms of export volume but also local manufacturing presence, in fact unveiled its first ever electric bus built in Europe – the 12-m ebus built 100 percent at its new Hungarian plant in Komarom, with a number of design and ergonomic features dedicated for the European market. It also debuted an 8.7-m Midibus which immediately received an order for 21 units from a Dutch bus operator, and augments BYD’s ebus range in Europe which already covers the 10.2-, 10- and 12-m single deckers, an 18-m artic, double-deckers and electric coaches.

It was the fourth time that BYD exhibited at the biennial trade show after becoming the only Chinese electric bus maker to exhibit at the show six years ago.

Yutong, which claims to be the world’s largest bus maker, put nine buses of six models on display including two fully electric bus models, and also announced a European-cloud based telematics systems for local fleet operators. Like BYD, Yutong is not a stranger to the European market, having had a presence there since 2004 and now exports about 1,000 buses annually to regions such as France, the UK, Russia and Bulgaria. Clearly, Yutong is using its 13 years of operational experience to “export” dedicated smart connectivity platforms to fleet operators in Europe, rather than just exporting buses.

Ankai, on the other hand, presented the world’s first 12-m battery electric double-decker open top sightseeing bus with a range of 200 km, while Zhejiang CRRC Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. debuted the world’s first methanol hydrogen fuel cell city bus, which will begin trial operation late this year at Aalborg, Denmark. Its 18-m super capacitor bus that was presented at IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hannover last year has already operated on a trial basis in Graz, Austria for close to a year.

The simple reason that these Chinese bus makers “smell sweeter” outside China is because they have had a head start on development of electric buses driven by China’s push for electrification and offer quality products with innovative features at affordable prices that European customers just cannot refuse. Their European counterparts, on the other hand, are relatively behind and cannot respond as fast as Europe starts to quicken its efforts to electrify bus fleets. 

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