CEO Update

Route to net zero for buses approaches a fork in the road

18 August 2023 #CEO Update

The HGV and bus and coach markets were sources of optimism this week, with both demonstrating dynamic growth and, for trucks, a welcome return to pre-pandemic levels of demand in the year’s first half. New truck registrations were just shy of 500 days of growth as the market cements its recovery, while the number of new buses in operation grew for the first time in a year.

Good news all round, and, for the bus sector blighted for so long by cuts to operating routes and falling ridership levels, the growth is particularly important. It is evidence, too, of the benefits government intervention can deliver. Short-term measures such as the Bus Fare Cap Grant and Bus Back Better have encouraged more passengers onto buses and helped shore up operator viability. Now we seek long-term measures that will deliver affordable zero emission public transport into the future.

The Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) fund is a prime example of long-term thinking but, with 48 regions yet to benefit, it is far from delivering on its potential. If the entire country is to benefit from green powered buses – and the removal of older, more polluting stock from the roads – a streamlined application process must be introduced.

We also need the facilities to keep these new vehicles charged and operational – which means mapping out and rolling out appropriate infrastructure. Depot charging is not suitable for all buses or, indeed, coaches, while grid connection delays and arcane planning regulations pose their own unique challenges. For HGVs, which as a rule require out-of-depot pitstops, those challenges are exacerbated by the absence of even a single dedicated public HGV-suitable charge point.

A coordinated government strategy and action plan – for HGVs, buses and coaches, as laid out in our Charging and refuelling requirements of the HGV sector position paper, published this spring – is now an urgent priority given the significant pressure to decarbonise at pace.

These critical sectors will be central to the debate at SMMT Electrified 2023, taking place on 18 September. Now in its third year, this agenda-setting event is a must-attend for anyone with an interest in zero emission mobility, with expert insights from across the automotive and associated industries, and government.

Spaces are limited so, to avoid disappointment, get your booking in now. Contact and remember that SMMT members are eligible for one complimentary ticket per organisation.

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