LowCVP ‘kick-starting’ a low carbon emission bus market in the UK

LowCVP ‘kick-starting’ a low carbon emission bus market in the UK

Since 2007, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has been working closely with government and industry to develop standards to incentivise the uptake of Low Carbon Emission Buses (LCEBs); a key area of focus in terms of the UK’s low carbon transition in road transport.

A series of Green Bus Funds (2009-2015) were developed by the LowCVP and its partners, designed to ‘kick-start’ the market and help make up the capital cost difference between new, more fuel-efficient technologies and standard diesels. Over six years, the Department for Transport awarded just under £90m over four rounds of funding, which saw over 1,200 LCEBs in operation by 2015.

Alongside the Green Bus Fund, a new Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) LCEB incentive was created (6 pence/km) to make sure that the new, more fuel-efficient buses were given equivalent levels of support as standard diesels.

With capital and operation incentives in place, the UK bus industry has embraced low carbon buses to the extent that over 80% of new registrations had LCEB certification in 2018.

The LowCVP estimates that by 2018, LCEBs have saved over 600,000 tonnes of (well-to-wheel) greenhouse gas emissions; the equivalent of removing 280,000 cars from the road doing an average of 10,000 miles a year.

Looking beyond tailpipe emissions

A key aspect of the UK’s low carbon bus certification procedure is the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions associated with a fuel or energy’s extraction, production and delivery to the vehicle, as well as any direct emissions from the tailpipe. These upstream or indirect emissions, known as well-to-tank emissions, are vital in assessing any new technology’s full impacts. (Particularly critical in the case of electric vehicles where all emissions are produced upstream.)

Air quality challenges & Euro standards

Air quality pollutants from road vehicles have been an issue for several decades, but concern has increased in recent years as stronger evidence of its impacts on human health have emerged.

In response to the air quality challenge, the LowCVP worked with industry and DfT to develop a new Low Emission Bus (LEB) standard that incorporated the latest Euro VI emissions standard, supported by a capital grant scheme called the Low Emission Bus Scheme (2015-17). This ensured that the new Low Emission Bus scheme would fund vehicles that provided both a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and extremely low levels of harmful air pollutants.

The Low Emission Bus Scheme (2015-2017) distributed £41m to local authorities and operators across England, funding over 450 LEBs and supporting infrastructure. The Scottish Green Bus Fund (Rounds 5-8) also adopted the LEB standard, funding 350 LEBs over three years. (See the LowCVP’s Low Emission Bus Guide, for further details.)

Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme

With air quality continuing to be a high political priority, the DfT asked the LowCVP to further develop the Low Emission Bus accreditation scheme to encourage greater greenhouse gas savings, resulting in the Ultra-Low Emission Bus definition, where a vehicle must achieve a 30% well-to-wheel greenhouse gas reduction compared to a Euro VI diesel of equivalent passenger capacity.

In February 2019, the winners of the (£48m) Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme were announced, supporting the introduction of 263 Ultra Low Emission Buses (ULEBs) and supporting infrastructure across England and Wales. This includes battery electric and hydrogen buses in Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Cardiff, Brighton and many more cities across the UK.

Driving for ‘Net Zero’

There is strong momentum for city centre operations, in particular, to be performed by zero emission vehicles. London, Copenhagen, California and the Netherlands have all set target dates for fully zero emission bus fleets. In the UK, the challenges for bus operators in a world of increased congestion, internet shopping and affordable private transport are clear. Despite these pressures, the UK bus industry is leading other road transport sectors in the transition to net zero. (The regulated target for 2050, proposed by the Committee on Climate Change and recently agreed by the Government.)

In 2018, 4.2% of new buses registered produced zero emissions, significantly higher than the passenger car market (0.7%). If this good progress is to be sustained – and accelerated – with the number of passenger journeys falling year on year, the UK bus industry will require significant support from government and a wide range of partners, including ‘new’ energy suppliers.

The LowCVP will continue to support the industry, sharing best practice, facilitating discussions and delivering initiatives to help the UK reach net zero.


About the Author

This post was written by Dan Hayes. Bus Project Manager, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP)

Dan Hayes

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