Features & Interviews

Tartan transition: accelerating bus decarbonisation in Scotland

25 August 2022 #Features & Interviews

In recent months, the Scottish Government has introduced a series of measures designed to accelerate the transition to zero emission buses.

The first phase of the Scottish Zero Emissions Bus Challenge Fund (ScotZEB) scheme saw £62 million awarded to nine bus operators and local authorities in February this year, funding the acquisition 276 buses and associated charging infrastructure.

And earlier this month, government launched a £500,000 Zero Emission Bus Market Transition Scheme through its pathway to zero emission buses, delivered through the Energy Saving Trust.

It is designed to help small and medium sized bus operators, local authorities and community transport organisations prepare collaborative and competitive bids for the next multi-million pound phase of (ScotZEB), opening in spring 2023, that will see more companies and technology suppliers becoming eligible.

Sukky Choongh, Environmental Manager at SMMT, said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government taking the lead in supporting bus operators to decarbonise their fleet through the pathway to a zero-carbon bus sector. Zero emission buses have been in operation in the UK since 2009 with the major bus operators utilising government funding to purchase zero emission buses and install charging infrastructure.

“Support for smaller operators is most welcome, particularly those working within the community with our most vulnerable citizens, and will help to further improve local air quality and reduce carbon emissions.”

Under ScotZEB2, grant funding will also be available for the purchase of zero emission coaches for use on private hire, tourism-related and home-to-school work.

Minister for Transport in Scotland Jenny Gilruth said: “Our smaller operators have great ambitions to respond to the climate emergency and move to zero emission buses, but many simply don’t have the resources available to put in the considered and robust businesses cases that we rightly require for our ScotZEB programme.

“Whether it’s a large or small operator, I want more people to choose bus and know that those buses are contributing even more towards our climate change ambitions than they do now.”

ScotZEB, is also in place to support the transition to zero emission technologies as part of Scotland’s overall target to achieve net zero by 2045.

William Houston, Owner of Houston’s Coaches in Lockerbie, said that with the funding acquired through the ScotZEB phase one, his company has been able to invest in zero emissions vehicles for its fleet and install charging infrastructure.

“It is a huge step for the company and will be a help with the rising cost of fuel and consumables,” he said.

“Any further support for small operators would be welcome.”

Many of the new electric buses funded through ScotZEB will be built at the Alexander Dennis premises in Larbert.

The company says it is developing a new model that aligns with the pathway’s plans to increase the supply of smaller zero emission buses.

While the manufacturer has not yet confirmed further information, it is expected that the small zero emission product will be a built completely in-house and be more compact than the smallest battery-electric BYD ADL Enviro200EV, which is 9.6m long.

Paul Davies, Alexander Dennis President and Managing Director, said: “We pride ourselves on bringing leading products to market that are designed and built in Britain, which allows us to retain our position as innovative leaders of the ZEvolution, the transition to zero emission mobility.

“Making new product development commitments at this time is an investment into the future through an attractive product line up that will continue to attract orders and underpin jobs in bus manufacturing.”

One of the key points in the pathway document is government’s commitment to exploring repowering as an option.

This is where the petrol, diesel or hybrid powertrain of a bus is replaced with a fully electric drivetrain.

Bus repower specialist Kleanbus has welcomed the changes to the ScotZEB in the pathway document, which means that such firms are now eligible to bid for financial support.

Kleanbus works closely with charging technology providers to ensure depots are upgraded with appropriate charging technology, enabling them to transform a diesel bus transportation system into an optimised clean electric vehicle ecosystem.

Joe Tighe, Co-Founder and CEO of Kleanbus said: “Kleanbus welcomes the inclusion of repower technology companies in ScotZEB Phase 2.

“Replacing diesel buses with new electric buses is very expensive for private companies.

“Repowers offer a fast and efficient way towards zero emissions, making buses cleaner, quieter, more comfortable, and more valuable assets for operators.”

Ian Foley, CEO of repowering specialist Equipmake, said the Scottish Government is to be praised for the changes to ScotZEB Phase 2 and calls on the UK Government to now outline an electric bus strategy that will see the purchase price of a repowered electric bus incentivised in England & Wales.

“The opportunity is clear for all to see,” Mr Foley said. “Repowering the drivetrains of existing buses with electric technology at scale can rapidly and dramatically reduce pollution and provide the UK bus industry with a much-needed shot in the arm.

“The UK Government must seize the initiative and make it happen. Contributing to conversions would be an ideal way of doing so.”

Equipmake’s repower technology programme is tailored to specific operator requirements, with guaranteed driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles achievable, allowing buses to be recharged overnight.

As well as bringing environmental benefits, each conversion from Equipmake comes in at less than half the price of a new electric bus.

Foley said that with most buses expected to remain in service for 14 years or beyond, operators can still make significant efficiencies by repowering a bus halfway through its working life.

He added: “Repowering is an important and cost-effective transitionary technology that can bridge the gap between diesel and a new electric bus fleet.

“We welcome newly announced changes to ScotZEB Phase 2, which can play a vital role in making a repowered electric bus even more cost-effective for an operator and accelerating Scotland’s transition to a zero emission bus fleet.”

“By repowering buses with electric power, the technology exists to bring cleaner air to towns and cities very rapidly indeed.”

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