Government targets hydrogen in plans for zero emission bus fleet


The government has pledged to consider both hydrogen and electric as it looks to deliver a zero emission bus fleet.

On 15 March, it published Bus Back Better, a long-term national bus strategy for England outside of London. It will look to increase the numbers travelling by bus, making them more frequent, reliable, easier to use and understand, as well as better coordinated and cheaper. This is the case for buses in London, it said, which has led to increased passenger numbers alongside reductions in congestion, carbon and pollution.

Part of this work will be delivering a zero emission fleet, with the strategy setting out a blueprint as to how to go about this.  It will see hydrogen and electric considered as power sources, with zero emission buses able to run on both. Hydrogen was noted as lending itself better to longer journeys in rural areas. Biofuels and hybrids could be considered in local decarbonisation roadmaps as transitional technologies, while zero emission technology develops its capability.

The government further pledged to invest to help overcome the high upfront capital costs of vehicles and energy infrastructure, which are potential barriers to rapid adoption of zero emission buses. This will include £120mn investment in zero emission buses in 2021/22, as it aims to support the market in scaling up, in addition to the £50mn for 2020/21 to deliver a first “All-Electric Bus Town or City”.

A Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme will be launched, bringing local transport authorities (LTAs) together with bus operators, energy companies and other stakeholders to develop financial and commercial models for delivering zero emission buses at scale. This will be a key step in scaling up to deliver 4,000 new zero emission buses, as outlined in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

It also committed to taking a place-based approach to investment, where possible; stressed the need for bus operators and LTAs to both play their part and collaborate; and pledged to set a legal end date for the sale of new diesel buses, along with an expectation for when the entire bus fleet will be zero emission. It will consult on these dates later in 2021.