Electric Mobility | CaetanoBus X Mitsui

Mitsui, one of Japan’s leading general trading companies, formed a strategic alliance with Portuguese manufacturer of buses, CaetanoBus in December 2017. Together, they have the vision to contribute to the reduction of air pollution by promoting the sales and expansion of electric buses worldwide.

The partners

CaetanoBus: the world's first creator of electric airport buses

Caetano bus

Source: CaetanoBus Website

Founded in 1946, CaetanoBus is a leading Portuguese manufacturer of buses and chassis, specialising in transport for cities and airports. Their products are exported to countries worldwide and CaetanoBus also manufactures buses under the COBUS brand name - the market leader in airport buses.

Whilst CaetanoBus produces many types of buses and coaches, electric mobility has been a core focus of theirs since 1980. The company aims to contribute to a sustainable society by creating buses that use renewable energy, are less polluting and minimise noise in cities. In 2014, CaetanoBus revealed the e.Cobus, the world’s first 100% electric bus for exclusive use in airports. It currently also has two other electric models on the market. The e.City Gold, introduced in 2016, and is a 100% electric bus for urban areas, designed to meet cities sustainability needs. The H2.City Gold is an electric bus powered by hydrogen, made in partnership with Toyota.

Mitsui, one of the largest Japanese trading houses

Mitsui & Co., Ltd. is a general trading company - or sogo shosha in Japanese, with experience in areas including iron and steel, machinery, chemicals, foods, energy, and general merchandise. Founded in 1947, Mitsui is part of the five biggest sogo shosha giants. Besides its trading activities, it also operates real estate and overseas development projects.

As part of their mission, Mitsui aims to “build brighter futures, everywhere” which includes initiatives to create an eco-friendly society.  They have received countless recognition for their commitment to sustainability, including the World Index in the Dow Jones sustainability indices in 2020, as well as FTSE4Good Index series which they have been selected for annually since 2004. Mitsui has been interested in electric mobility over the last decade as it began to shake up the auto industry. Mitsui sees electric vehicles as a key to a cleaner, greener society and Kohei Umeno, current director of Caetano, believed that EV’s were the starting point for new businesses for Mitsui.


The partnership: ‘Assembling an Electric Vehicle Value Chain’

Negotiations for the partnership first began in 2016, spurred on by Mitsui’s interest in developing electric mobility and driving the green revolution. They were on the search for an OEM which could fulfill the goals of their three step roadmap for electric vehicles value chain, which is introduced below.

Today, the use of electric vehicles is expanding rapidly across the world, especially in Europe and China. The bus market particularly represents an area where electrification is expected to boom. Mitsui believed that a huge opportunity awaited innovative companies able to craft end to end mobility solutions, and as a response created a three step roadmap that encompassess the whole electric vehicles value chain. The first step involved establishing a foothold in OEM business. Secondly, using the technological expertise of said OEM to become a Tier 1 supplier of core components. Finally, they aim to develop services for the sharing economy.

Caetano plant

During the hunt for potential OEMs to partner with, Mitsui were particularly attracted to multiple aspects of CaetanoBus’ business model. Firstly they were drawn to the idea that public buses are used much more intensely than privately owned vehicles,  meaning their environmental and economic merits were immediately clear. Furthermore, buses will play a central role in green public transport in the coming years to form smart cities. Thirdly, and described as most important, CaetanoBus’ management stance was flexible and forward leaning. So much so that two of CaetanoBus’ five directors currently come from Mitsui. They are placed there to focus on promoting CaetanoBus’ products to Mitsui’s global network of partners.

CaetanoBus represents a key component in Mitsui’s overall mobility strategy. Utilising Mitsui’s global network Mitsui & Co., Ltd. will promote the sales and expansion of electric buses produced by CaetanoBus to Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. The target is to have 1000 units of e.City gold and electric chassis sold worldwide by 2025. This is hoped to help realize a sustainable and decarbonised society, a united goal for both companies. Mitsui also hopes that CaetanoBus technologies could form the basis for a push in becoming a Tier 1 supplier.

The results of this have been rapid and impressive. In July 2019, CaetanoBus secured a deal to produce 34 single-decker e.City Gold buses for two bus routes in London, beating fierce competition from China. The bid was made together with Abellio, a Europe-wide public transport operator with whom Mitsui already runs two UK franchises. The batteries for CaetanoBus’ buses were provided by French company Forsee Power, another of Mitsuis affiliates. The buses came into operation in March 2020.

Winning the bid to supply a large number of the globally idolised red London buses was a tremendous triumph for the image of the CaetanoBus Mitsui partnership. This success is likely to aid CaetanoBus’ next goal: to export the buses around the world. One potential export market is Japan, who like the UK, is left-hand traffic and has very similarly sized buses.


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