Features & Interviews

Decarbonising SME transport: new phase of ScotZEB launches

08 June 2023 #Features & Interviews

Given the importance of timely adoption and flexible collaboration to bring more zero emission buses and coaches to the road, Transport Scotland has launched the second round of its Scottish Zero Emission Bus challenge fund, ScotZEB2 – with a larger pool of applicants, from financiers and infrastructure providers to manufacturers and community transport, able to bid for a share of £58 million.

Drawn up with SME businesses in mind, ScotZEB2 will provide grants from £60,000 for a zero emission bus or coach that has at least nine passenger seats and one wheelchair-accessible space, while applications for those with 60 or more passenger seats are eligible for £135,000.

For electric charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, meanwhile, the grant will cover up to 70% of the total upfront cost.

Submissions must be from consortia, with each consortium required to include at least two SME coach or bus operators and/or community transport operators, in addition to at least one private finance supplier.

As a result, it is hoped to plug the funding gap that can prevent community-level charities, groups and social enterprises from investing in zero emission vehicles.

Transport Scotland defines an SME as an operator with fewer than 250 employees, and either a turnover of below £43m or a balance sheet value of less than £37m.

Other bodies such as vehicle suppliers, energy companies and local authorities may also be represented.

“Bus plays a pivotal role in meeting net zero targets,” said Paul White, Director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in Scotland. “It is sustainable, flexible, accessible and as the fleet further transitions to zero emissions, its green credentials only grow.

“This further round of ScotZEB will help support operator investment in Scotland, which is already leading the charge to net zero across the UK.

“We welcome the scheme and, in particular, its inclusion of coach, which plays a crucial role for many residents and visitors and supports our ‘green tourism’ ambitions.”

The new round follows the first phase of ScotZEB, introduced in 2021, which awarded £62m to nine bus operators and local authorities, helping to deliver 276 buses and associated charging infrastructure to regions across the country.

ScotZEB2 will be administered by the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of Transport Scotland, with application guidance stating that funding for new vehicles will, where appropriate, be provided on the condition that space is provided for bikes, wheelchairs and buggy users.

Drawdown of funding allocated to the winners will be available over the financial years 2023/24, 2024/25 and 2025/26. Per-vehicle thresholds are:

  • £50,000 for a bus that is repowered from diesel to zero-emission
  • £60,000 for a zero-emission coach or bus with at least nine passenger seats and at least one wheelchair user space.
  • £105,000 for an accessible zero-emission coach or bus with a capacity for 32 or more passengers
  • £135,000 for an accessible battery-electric coach or bus with at least 45 seats
  • £135,000 for a zero-emission coach or bus with a total capacity for at least 60 passengers.

David Kelly, Director for Scotland at the Community Transport Association said: “We hope this vital funding will build on the success of the Plugged-In Communities Grant Fund to close the net zero funding gap faced by local charities, community groups and social enterprises, delivering accessible transport solutions across the country.

“We welcome the changes to phase two which will require consortia to include smaller and non-profit operators and lead to greater investment in community transport. Our members look forward to closer collaboration with partners across the bus sector to ensure no community is left behind in our journey to net zero.”

Companies that offer repowering, which replaces the diesel engine of a vehicle with an electric powertrain, welcomed the news that phase two will provide £50,000 in financial assistance towards such conversions.

Kleanbus’s ePowertrain Module combines components from leading Tier 1 suppliers with its own integration technology and proprietary software which can convert a bus, whether single or double-decker, from ICE to fully electric quickly and cost-effectively.

Once the e-drivetrain solution has been designed and tested, it takes less than two weeks to repower an individual bus, and Kleanbus says it is already in advanced talks with multiple Scottish bus and coach companies to convert vehicles.

Joe Tighe, Co-founder and CEO of Kleanbus, said: “I am delighted the Scottish Government has recognised the role repowering has in the transition to a zero-emission bus and coach fleet.

“The £50,000 incentive towards the cost of an individual repower is a highly significant sum which makes the case for repowering even more compelling, and will result in a real and rapid difference to Scotland’s air quality.

“Repowering existing buses with the latest in electric powertrains is quick, cost-effective and the optimum use of resources. It is an ideal upcycling solution for diesel vehicles, avoiding unnecessary scrappage as operators move to electric fleets.”

Meanwhile, Equipmake’s repower technology is tailored to specific operator requirements, with service routes simulated to ensure the correct battery power level is selected for optimum performance and efficiency, with driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles.

According to the company, each conversion comes in at less than a third of the price of a new electric bus with the new ScotZEB grant included.

Ian Foley, CEO of Equipmake, said the new round of funding will speed up the transition and support jobs across the UK.

“This innovative initiative will enable fleets to go electric quickly and even more cost-effectively, helping them bridge the gap between diesel and a new electric bus fleet,” he 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.”

Applications to ScotZEB2 close on 15 September.

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