The issue of climate change has been all over the news media in recent days with the impetus from the on-street protests by Extinction Rebellion, followed by the visit of teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg, and the publication of a substantive report from the government’s advisers on the subject arguing for a target of ‘net zero’ emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 in the UK.
All this should, of course, be good news for bus and coach operators. After all, is our sector not the one which delivers an environmentally-friendly alternative to car travel? Well, up to a point. Given the increasing focus on climate change, bus and coach operators will come under even more forensic examination to really demonstrate their environmental credentials.
The Committee on Climate Change report accepts the argument that buses (zero emission where possible) should be exploited further to reduce demand for car travel in the near term. This is a key factor, since the CCC notes that 94 per cent of transport greenhouse gas emissions in the UK are from cars, vans and HGVs, while buses account for just 1 per cent.
The CCC believes that electric and hydrogen buses and coaches could reach 100 per cent market share by 2040, and predicts that cost parity between electric and fossil-fuelled buses will be achieved soon.
There are many operators already focused on deep cuts to carbon emissions, but the heightened profile of air pollution concerns may mean that the recent emphasis has been on ‘cleaner’ diesel, ie Euro 6, rather than moving beyond fossil fuels towards ultra low and zero emission technologies. And of course, the lifetime expected from buses and coaches means that this investment ‘locks in’ carbon emissions for around a decade and half.
There are no easy answers, given the current up-front costs of zero emission vehicles, and the lack of current practical solutions for some applications, but forward-looking operators need to confront it nonetheless.
This is an issue which is very close to our hearts here at Bus and Coach Professional, and if you would like to discuss potential options, and measures such as carbon footprinting, just drop me an email.