The number of alternatively fuelled buses on UK roads grew to 3,700 in 2016, accounting for 4.2% of bus parc. Almost 90% of them are diesel-electric and 4.8% full electric. The UK bus market has already seen the emergence of a variety of lower-carbon technologies – notably hybrid and pure electric powertrains with the use of biofuels and hydrogen. Efficient diesels, using mild-hybrid systems for the ancillaries (rather than to drive the vehicle) can also be effective in reducing the overall emissions associated with bus use. Most buses run on prescribed routes in urban areas and with dedicated depots, and they more easily lend themselves to using alternative fuels than many other vehicle types.
Unlike cars and vans, buses and coaches do not face tailpipe CO2 regulations, but are often regulated by the local authority or city which as part of the appointment of an operator to a route, requires the vehicle to meet certain standards, including those relating to the environment. Buses are one of the key components to solving the air quality issues in urban areas. Real world tests using the London 159 bus route equipped with Euro VI technology show a 95% drop in NOx compared with previous generation Euro V buses. Consequently, if every older bus operating
in the capital was replaced with a Euro VI version, total NOx emissions in London would fall by 7.5%.
Therefore, it is important that these policies pull in a common direction rather than create a patchwork of differing requirements, which make it difficult for manufacturers and operators to plan and bring to market effective solutions. Broader policy considerations, including better planning and suitable infrastructure provision, could also help ensure modal and technological shifts can be delivered.
Electric vehicle infrastructure
The number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points has been increasing steadily in recent years (Chart 12 below). By the end of 2016, there were 4,169 locations in the UK, with a total of 11,605 charging points available. This represents almost an eight fold increase since 2011, when 1,537 charging points were available.
While the industry welcomes this positive trend, it should be ensured that the right infrastructure is located in the right place. This should mean ensuring a proper UK network, with sufficient provisions where demand is highest, and the provision of the right type of infrastructure for example, avoid installing rapid chargers at places where vehicles might be stationary for many hours on end. Charge points in visible places can also provide peace of mind for consumers about the availability of recharging points, and help encourage switch-over to EVs by removing fears over range anxiety.
However, the vast majority of EV drivers are expected to charge at home and at their place of work, with public charging infrastructure only used occasionally by most drivers.
In March 2017, government announced a £23 million fund to stimulate the infrastructure and uptake of hydrogen vehicles. Hydrogen fuel providers will be able to bid for funding in partnership with organisations that produce hydrogen vehicles to help build high-tech infrastructure, including fuel stations. In 2016, there were nine publicly accessible Hydrogen Refuelling Stations (HRS) on UK roads. 2017 will also see an installation by Shell of three hydrogen stations located in Cobham, Gatwick and Beaconsfield.