As we charge toward our electric future, we see industries across the EV market make significant strides in developing supporting technologies. However, as we narrow in on our carbon-neutral goals, we begin to look at some of the areas that could significantly boost these efforts and ease the move away from petrol and diesel cars.
One such area is the electrification of public buses around cities. Whilst the concept has been a focal conversation point for a number of years, there does bode the question of when we can expect to see this idea come to fruition on a large scale.
According to GOV.UK, having a town with just 200 Electric buses could save up to 7,400 tons of Co2 Each year, which is the equivalent to a whopping 3,700 diesel cars being removed from the road. Due to the positive compounding impact this could have if deployed on a wider scale, the Department for Transport is offering a £50 million reward fund, out of a total of £170 million available, for the first town that receives clearance to move to an all-electric bus system.
Coventry and Oxford leading the Way
Recent reports suggest that the locations currently head to head to achieve an all-electric public transport infrastructure, and receive the £50m reward, are Coventry and Oxford. Both were selected from a group of 19 towns and cities that applied, as they were able to show how much of an impact the scheme would have on improving air quality, among other profound long-term benefits. In addition to funding for the vehicles themselves, there is also support in surrounding infrastructure elements such as charging points.
For Coventry, it is supposed that the fleet of all-electric buses could be rolled out at soon as April. Whilst this in hope marks the start of the domino effect for other cities and towns to follow, it is worth considering that Coventry already has one of the largest networks of electric vehicle charging points in any city outside London. This set up for the further progression into greener and cleaner public transport, whilst an exciting and monumental first step, stirs the question of just how seamless it will be to implement similar models in not quite so well equipped neighboring cities.
Barriers to Adopting All-Electric Buses
Due to the unchartered territory that all-electric fleets of buses represent in comparison to cars, or hybrid bus models, there are a number of issues that slow down widespread adoption, some of which become exacerbated by financial and logistical pressures as lockdowns ease.
It has been identified that teething costs surrounding the mass expansion of electric buses being integrated as a UK public transportation commonplace surround more than just the capital costs of the buses themselves. Despite this cost potentially nearing threefold the amount of conventional internal combustion engine buses, this is complemented by battery changes, regulations, charging structures, and operation plans that cities are faced with.
Lockdown restrictions over the past year have stunted upward progress due to big industry players facing issues surrounding a decline in revenues, impact in manufacturing, and resulting financial insecurities and lack of capital. On top of this there are existing logistical issues surrounding a vast increase in demand surrounding power grid capabilities, tax strategies and revolutionized charging point locations that remain relatively unchartered territory until the fleets are tested.
However, there have been adaptations in how buses and their services are procured. Proposals for more flexible procurement allows manufacturers some peace of mind in reducing financial and technological risks by offering the option of leasing both buses and batteries.
The Future’s Looking Green
Despite the pressures and trip-ups mentioned, as we move toward a lockdown free future, all-electric buses look to continue making big slashes worldwide with the market exceeding $28 Billion in 2020, it is expected to compound by 11% annually from up to 2027. As uptake of all-electric buses begin to snowball, and governmental pressures for lower emissions standards stack up, widespread adoption is likely to skyrocket before our very eyes.
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Author: Merlin Parr