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September 13 2017
By Tim Deakin

Tim is the Senior Journalist at routeONE magazine is also the title’s chief test driver, with considerable vehicle knowledge

Energy on the Move: Compare all
options for alternative technology

The bus industry has a lot to face up to in coming years as it gets to grips with new sources of energy. And it’s not going to have much say in the matter, according to our expert, as legislation changes

Diesel is increasingly unwelcome and changes are coming, says expert

In recent months, we have examined the various alternative powertrain technologies that are available to bus operators for replacing diesel.

To a greater or lesser extent, all are more expensive than diesel to purchase. But there are lifetime cost advantages, and now may be an appropriate time to review the driving forces for making a change in technology, because emerging legislation will mandate those changes.

The major reasons are global warming and local air quality.

Global warming has become an urgent problem in need of immediate action. Headline news of disastrous storms and floods across the world emphasises that.

Global warming is caused by the increase in greenhouse gases produced by industrial activity, and a major contributor is carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the combustion of fossil fuels.

It’s estimated that 25% of fossil fuel-sourced CO2 is from transport activities that are principally powered by the diesel engine.

Local air quality is another serious issue, with most of the UK’s major towns and cities in breach of European air quality laws. In this case, road traffic is the major contributor. Apart from CO2, other pollutants include oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbons.

Nitrous oxide is also an active greenhouse gas and it is 298 times more potent than CO2. Poor air quality contributes to premature death, and it has been blamed for up to 4,000 deaths per year in London.

Alternative energy is more expensive initially, but whole life cost cheaper

It’s now beginning to dawn on local and national government that action is needed. Both have powers to enforce reductions in vehicle emissions by setting required standards and by declaration of a Low Emission Zone.

These powers are now coming into force and they will have a major influence on the bus industry’s future direction. On the upside, grants are being awarded to encourage the introduction of low emission technologies.

The alternative energy source chosen by bus operators to satisfy new legislative requirements will affect their businesses across the board.

They face a daunting number of changes: New technology; technology support; different maintenance requirements and fuel supply infrastructures; capital expenditure; profitability considerations; passenger acceptance; and fleet longevity.

In a later issue, we will compare the most practical alternative technologies on offer with as much information on each as is feasible to let operators evaluate the changes referred to above for each energy source.

Our Industry Expert speaks with authority, and can back up all of his facts, but what do you think? Email if you agree or disagree with him.

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