Zemo Partnership: Intensification of zero emission ambition

Zemo Partnership Dan Hayes column

The narrative has changed. There is a new zeitgeist in town. Low, or even ultra-low, in the context of carbon emissions, is no longer low enough. Zero – or to be more technical, net-zero – is the new target.

You may have spotted that the Office for Low Emission Vehicles is now the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles. In a similar vein, LowCVP has become Zemo Partnership. Zemo doesn’t stand for anything specific, but it hints at ‘zero’, ‘emissions’ and ‘mobility.

The name change doesn’t alter any of what we do, but it does intensify our ambition. We still have our core project areas: Passenger cars, commercial vehicles, energy infrastructure, fuels… and coaches and buses. Each group is still focusing on the most relevant work to their sector; for example, see our recent report on high blend biofuels for HGVs or the EV Energy Taskforce report on how to prepare the grid for the mass uptake of electric vehicles.

Zemo Partnership expects more work on buses soon

Nowhere is zero being pushed harder than in buses. 4,000 zero-emission buses in England by 2025 is to be supported by the first all-electric bus town, as well as a new funding round for zero-emission buses in England of circa £70m, expected in the coming months. There is also the imminent announcement of the largest funding pot ever in Scotland for the second round of the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme.

While we await the National Bus Strategy and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Scotland is pushing ahead with its Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce. It seeks to set out a pathway to a fully decarbonised bus fleet. Zemo Partnership is supporting DfT by defining what exactly is a zero-emission bus for use in certification and future funding rounds.

Consultation on ending the sale of diesel buses in 2030 likely

The pandemic has forced many operators to reconsider investments in new vehicles. Sales were down by almost 50% in 2020 and it is likely that most operators will not invest in many new vehicles this year. Many questions are being asked about the longevity of diesels, given the ending of the sale of new, conventional petrol and diesel cars in 2030. A consultation is expected this year that is likely to propose a similar end date for the sale of diesel buses.

Though this is a major challenge in the short-term, it will focus minds on how to adopt zero-emission buses and associated infrastructure quickly. The change will mean a culture adjustment as well as a technological one. It is not just a case of ‘plug and play’. Importantly though, zero-emission buses are, overall, a better product for users.

Zemo Parnership continues coach funding push

For coaches, the drive for zero is still apparent. But government is assessing the options for hybridisation and high blend biofuels as interim solutions while zero-emission range and supporting infrastructure are improved. Zemo Partnership will continue to push for a dedicated funding round for coaches to support decarbonisation.

While the name has changed, the Partnership’s determination to tackle emissions from all sectors of road transport has not; From low to zero; from LowCVP to Zemo Partnership!