Last week, the DfT announced a £10mil extension to its £30mil green bus fund, which already aims to deliver 350 low carbon buses throughout the kingdom. It’s a competitive fund, so operators and local transport authorities will need to vie for it. It forms part of the government’s commitment to low carbon technologies to improve urban air quality.
Aside from some less than conclusive experiments elsewhere, London’s been the only city to date to afford significant low carbon investment. London aims to see all new buses entering service from 2012 as hybrids. TfL intends to introduce 300 hybrids next year. To date, there are 56.
New York pioneered hybrid bus technology and the city transit authority now runs almost 1,700 of them, including the latest of these typically American Daimler Buses North America Orion VIIs. Indeed, Daimlers make up more than the backbone of the NYCTA feet (photo: Daimler)It was a bit of a shock to find that New York City Transit Authority announced this month that it had completed delivery of the world’s largest order for hybrid buses—1,350 in all, bringing the total number of hybrids there to some 1,700. Far from Britain’s manufacturers leading the world, NYCTA had exceeded TfL’s 2011 target in 2005.
Meanwhile, in spite of TfL’s proactivity as regards low carbon buses, the London freesheet the Evening Standard last week castigated TfL for sending its I think five new hydrogen powered buses thousands of miles from Wrightbus in Ballymena, Northern Ireland to San Diego, to receive their engines/drive lines. The paper questioned the environmental credentials of the buses, adding that transporting them thousands of miles without actually carrying a passenger makes little sense.
There may be serious questions about hydrogen, not least the energy needed to manufacture the fuel. But till we actually try them, we’re never going to be able to develop them further or gain experience as to whether they have future potential. We need to experience them first and this is going to come at a cost. In any case, surface transport by water is the most fuel-efficient method of transporting freight.
What both the points about hybrid and hydrogen technology demonstrate is that we really need UK or even European based centres of low carbon excellence. We desperately need to catch up the rest of the world. Forget the US, China, for example, is on the cusp of major hybrid advances. It's welcome, therefore, that TfL and the DfT between them aim to drive change within the manufacturing industry, encouraging suppliers to break new ground and operators to run them.