Amid the success of Euro Bus Expo – where zero-emission dominated metal from the bus sector and talk in coaches was thick of the same – a surprising comment came from a senior representative of a vehicle OEM. That business expects to build diesel stock for far longer than it had anticipated in 2021.
It is a logical conclusion. The government continues to ignore the most important aspect of its planned zero-emission transition: Infrastructure.
If funding is temporarily removed from considerations, applying the infrastructure model necessary for zero-emission deployment to a large bus operator’s usage case is straightforward enough. For small bus operators and those running coaches, that exercise is shrouded in uncertainty.
Can those businesses bring sufficient power, or hydrogen, into their operating centres for wholesale fleet conversion? Likely not. That leaves them reliant on publicly accessible charging or fuelling locations, or the assistance of peers, if they are to leave diesel behind. But where are such sites that can deal with large vehicles?
The uptake of zero-emission among those operators is thus slow to non-existent, and the virtuous circle that would be created by faster deployment in the SME sector is lacking.
That is on ministers. Current self-inflicted fiscal damage and spending cuts notwithstanding, the government must lead the rollout of publicly accessible charging facilities and hydrogen stations that can service heavy vehicles.
Without that initiative, and its capturing of the freight sector also, there will be no widespread transition from diesel. And many more in the industry may come to the same conclusion as our thought leader above.