E-coaches: Government hand-holding required

Zero emission is a hot topic. Signs of it in the coach sector are being shown; the UK’s first battery-electric models are due, and other manufacturers are starting to do more than just whisper about it.

But work is needed if electric coaches are to become anything more than a boondoggle with a handful of niche applications.

Talk already is of a network of charging points centred on trunk roads. That will not cover all bases. Quick-change battery cassettes have also been suggested, but they could not become reality without cooperation between OEMs.

But for those at the sharp end, what does battery electric in coaches mean?

Certainly, a robust and fair method of financial and operational support that enables operators to come to terms with zero emission will be required if it is to catch on in a meaningful way.

In some respects, vehicles are down the pecking order. The reality is that many operating centres cannot house a high-draw electrical system. Maintaining such vehicles would also be a challenge.

Some may roll their eyes in horror at the above. But to consider how any public support would likely be handled, it is worth looking at the debacle surrounding existing emission control zones.

Many operators are, or will be, faced with needing Euro 6 if charges are to be avoided. Replacing an entire fleet is impractical, so exhaust retrofit is more suitable. But backing to help that has been woefully lacking. Operators thus either stand the costs themselves or accept a charge.

Technology for zero emission coaches will come. But it remains to be seen whether the required support from government to smooth their implementation follows.