A new white paper from electric fleet specialists Kleanbus, is calling for buses to be retrofitted to run on electricity, speeding up the decarbonisation of the transport sector.
Transport is the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases in the UK, producing 27% of total emissions in 2019.
It is also one of the main sources of air pollution in the UK, with 34% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 13% of particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions coming from transport in 2018, reports Air Quality News.
Although new electric buses are coming into service across the country, existing buses are expected to serve for up to 15 years in a typical fleet.
Electric buses also still cost around 50% more than their diesel counterparts, according to Kleanbus.
Kleanbus argue that if existing buses are ‘re-powered’ through retrofitting, targets could be met much quicker, saving significant amounts of money and emissions.
Re-powering can extend the life of the existing bus fleet, prevent the problem of old diesel buses being deployed to more socially deprived areas, and remove the environmental impact of manufacturing new buses.
Lucy Parkin, Director of Environmental, Social & Governance at Kleanbus, said in the report: “The world has simultaneously woken up to both the threat of climate change to the planet, and the impact of diesel emissions on our health. As part of the solution, we are seeing an unprecedented shift to electric vehicles. This is no longer a long-term future vision, but our current reality. This shift will improve the air we breathe, make our towns and cities quieter, and put the transport sector on the path to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“Electrification of public transport is an essential part of this newly electric transport system, without which the inequalities associated with access to transport, pollution, health and congestion will only increase. Electrification of the public transport system has many challenges, but allowing the sector to be left behind is no longer an option for our planet or society.’
Analysis of the current UK bus fleet shows that over half of buses do not currently meet the Euro VI emission standard.
From January 2021, all buses in London met Euro VI standards, yet beyond the capital barely a third of UK buses on the road are Euro VI.
At the current rate of fleet turnover, highly polluting Euro V and Euro IV buses will be on the road for many years to come, said the White Paper, reported by Air Quality News.
There are currently no specific commitments from central government on how all UK buses will meet the government target of decarbonising transport by 2050.
The UK’s Bus Decarbonisation Plan recognises the essential contribution buses make to the public transport system and how buses have been overlooked for many years by policy makers. While recognising the potential cost savings offered by electric buses, the plan only supports the purchase of just over 4,000 buses – around 10% of the UK’s fleet.