Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Transportation / Sustainability

Covid recovery plans an opportunity to push ahead with zero-emission buses

By Andrew Sansom 19 Jan 2021 0

Denmark leads the way among European countries for investing in zero-emission urban buses, with 78 per cent of new vehicles being electric, according to the latest data from green non-governmental organisation Transport & Environment.

In Luxembourg and the Netherlands, about two-thirds of new buses were zero-emissions. T&E said other EU countries now have a chance to catch up by including emissions-free buses in their Covid recovery plans, which they must submit to the European Commission by the end of April.

The proportion of urban buses registered in 2019 as zero-emission (electric or hydrogen) were broadly similar in Sweden, Norway and Finland – 26 per cent, 24 per cent, and 23 per cent, respectively. But Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, Spain and France, which together buy 70 per cent of the urban buses sold in Europe, lag behind. In 2019, less than 10 per cent of their newly registered urban buses were electric or hydrogen.

Germany is one country that took a significant step forward last year, and it’s now financing 80 per cent of the higher purchase cost of e-buses. And Poland announced that in cities with populations of 100,000 or more, all public transport will be fully electric by 2030, and allocated €290m to support this ambition.

T&E says the EU’s €750 billion Covid recovery fund is a clear way to finance e-bus deployment, and it wants more member states to step up, especially those countries at the bottom of the table. Among these, Austria and Ireland registered no zero-emission urban buses in 2019, while in Switzerland and Greece, less than 4 per cent of new buses were emissions-free.

“Urban bus fleets drive millions of kilometres every year,” explains James Nix, freight manager at Transport & Environment. “If we want to decarbonise our cities, these vehicles must become emissions-free as soon as possible. Nordic states, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are showing how to put e-buses on the road. Other countries, especially those buying a lot of buses, like Italy, Spain and France, and those at the very start of the transition, such as Austria, need to step it up.”

T&E has published a report identifying five key steps to get e-buses on the road, and political leadership and financial support are seen as key. The Dutch government, for instance, specified in 2016 that all newly procured buses must be zero-emission from 2025, and from 2030, all buses in use must be zero-emissions. As part of the public procurement process, it’s mandated that bus contracts should be awarded only to operators meeting or exceeding these targets.

Nix concluded: “Zero-emission urban buses help us combat air pollution, tackle climate change, reduce noise and are cheaper for total costs than diesel buses over their lifetime. EU member states must ensure the Covid recovery plans they’re currently writing fund the replacement of fossil buses with zero-emission ones.”

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