We need to make sure EV buses can play their part in bringing us clean air

Kevin Welstead, EV Sector Director SSE Enterprise has written in Utility Week on how more must be done to support the rollout of electric buses.

Whilst UK drivers are now broadly aware of the benefits of electric vehicles, many are still being held back by range anxiety issues when it comes to switching from pumps to plugs to power their cars. And whilst they dither, dirty air continues to blight our cities.

But our city centres are not being polluted solely by diehard petrolheads. The streets where my company SSE, has its Glasgow headquarters, Waterloo and Hope Street can lay claim to the dubious distinction of being among Scotland’s most polluted streets. It’s one of many across the UK to post higher than recommended levels of emissions.

Fleets of diesel driven taxis and buses clatter its length daily – their archaic dustbin rattle, a visible and noisy reminder that much needs to be done to clean up public transport. And much the same as that steely relic made way for sustainably informed greens, blues and browns, diesel bus and taxi fleets should be consigned to the scrapheap too.

We know that air pollution in our UK cities is a serious public health risk – costing the country an estimated six million six days and leading to 40,000 deaths each year – according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians (RCP) and Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). All of which begs the question – are legislators doing enough to get cleaner and greener EV buses onto our streets and dirty diesels off our roads?

SSE has put supporting electric vehicle infrastructure at the forefront of its low carbon strategy. As part of the business’s 2030 sustainability targets SSE Group has pledged to accommodate the infrastructure to support 10m electric vehicles. We have installed major infrastructure at bus depots such as Waterloo, which means they can charge overnight and offer Londoners green and clean public transport in the day.

There has been plenty of vocal backing for the role electric vehicles can play in cleaning up the air in cities across the UK. But that rhetoric hasn’t always delivered. The drive for change simply hasn’t gotten out of first gear. In some areas a bureaucratic system of local negotiation has punctured change.

Bold political will to deliver greener public transport policy is needed, and it must come from the top of government down to all levels. The fiscal road too for buses to reach a low-carbon destination must be much more appealing too.

Contracts are competitive and margins are tight. In a private transport sector profit is king and the startling fact remains that new diesel buses are still cheaper – but can you really put a price on health? The Committee on Climate Change have said 2030 is a realistic target for the banning of new petrol and diesel cars. But that would leave some cars on the road.

The complete de-carbonisation of city centre buses could offer punters keen to leave their polluting cars at home a real road into a low-carbon world. As the thousands who took to the streets as part of the recent climate change protests showed – public desire to live a more environmentally sustainable life is very real and apparent.

It would be a terrible shame if costs and a lack of political will failed to deliver it to public transport.


This article originally appeared in Utility Week: https://utilityweek.co.uk/drive-towards-ev-buses-yet-get-first-gear/#.XQeurnt2LFE.twitter

If you’d like to find out more about this then please contact Kevin via his email address, kevin.welstead@sse.com

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