TNB News

No stopping UK bus and truck demand

16 November 2023 #TNB News

With time-critical truck decarbonisation targets must come urgent action, and new SMMT figures show record demand for zero emission models, representing 0.8% of new registrations in Q3. That’s compared with 0.3% in Q1 and 0.4% in Q2, reflecting steady growth in fleet transition, and praise is due not just to OEMs – having now launched more than 20 electric or hydrogen HGV models in the UK – but also to those forward-thinking operators that are taking full advantage of the latest tech.

It is far to early to rest on our laurels, with zero emission vehicles making up just one in 119 new truck registrations, while the figure stands at one in five for the car sector and one in 20 for the van sector. Comparison is said to be the thief of joy, but with the sale of non-zero emission HGVs weighing under 26 tonnes due to end in 2035 – the same date as cars and vans – it is clear the sector has a significant challenge to overcome in the next dozen years.

As we know, zero emission trucks can already perform a huge range of use cases, and as with all technology, they will only improve further – but operators need depot and public infrastructure in order to use these vehicles to their full potential. Such concerns can be more acute than in the car and van sectors, given operators’ existential challenge to streamline their logistics against tight business margins.

The installation of Britain’s first-ever public HGV-dedicated charging point this autumn – a 360kW charger with elongated truck bays located at the southbound Rivington Services on the M61 – represents a milestone moment. It must now be followed by many, many more at depots, truck rest stops and on the strategic road network in every UK region.

SMMT has also published its new figures for the bus, coach and minibus market this week, and the story is hugely positive. Fleet renewal rose by 130.6% compared with the same quarter last year, in the best summer for fleet renewal since 2019, with some 1,739 new vehicles were registered.

It reflects growing operator confidence as passenger levels return to pre-pandemic levels,  strengthening the sector’s position to deliver a green mobility revolution with affordable mass transport. Thanks to significant OEM investment, 14 different zero emission models have been registered in Britain this year, and government’s Zero Emission Regional Bus Area (ZEBRA) fund has played an important role.

There were 17 out of 48 eligible regions making successful bids last year, but most are yet to receive their share of the funding, which must be allocated more quickly so that we can get the cleanest, greenest buses on the road and benefitting our towns and cities sooner rather than later.

The second round of ZEBRA launched in September is worth up to £129m, with £25m earmarked for rural areas, providing another opportunity to advance government’s ambitious rollout plans of 4,000 units during this parliament. More opportunities are coming, such as today’s new announcement from DfT, a new £2million competition that will encourage businesses and local authorities to develop and trial transport schemes that cut emissions in the long term. The application process for ZEBRA2, however, must be less burdensome for local authorities that want to make the transition with limited resource. As is often the case, time is short with ZEBRA2 funding due to be announced in March. We must do all we can to maximise rollout and deliver real benefits with delay, making zero emission transport feasible and accessible for everyone.

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