Quarter of new public buses to be ‘clean’ in 2025

At least a quarter of new buses bought by local authorities and public companies will need to be clean vehicles by 2025, EU lawmakers decided last week. More than 75% of buses in Europe are publicly procured, and these purchases and leases will be subject to nationwide binding targets based on the fuels the vehicles run on, in the cases of buses and trucks, and their emissions in the cases of cars and vans.

Between 24% and 45% of new public buses – depending on the EU country’s population and GDP – must be clean, under the revised Clean Vehicles Directive. In 2030 between 33% and 66% of publicly procured buses must meet the standard.

Half of these targets will have to be achieved by procuring zero-emission buses, which means that in Germany and Sweden, for example, almost a quarter of new public buses should be zero emissions by 2025. Romania and others will see more gradual growth: almost a fifth of new public buses should be zero emissions by 2030.

T&E’s clean vehicles officer, Yoann Le Petit, said: ‘Thanks to this law, we should start to see many more electric buses being rolled out on Europe’s roads. But this directive is the bare minimum and a much faster uptake is needed. For citizens, that means cleaner air, less noise and more comfortable bus journeys. For EU busmakers, such as Solaris and VDL, it brings new market opportunities.’

T&E criticised the decision to allow the other half of the targets to be met with so-called ‘clean’ buses, which are powered by the fuels permitted under the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive. Such buses can be powered by fossil fuels such as liquified and compressed natural gas.

Yoann Le Petit said: ‘Counting fossil-fuelled buses as ‘clean’ is not in line with the Paris climate goals or the EU’s aim of decarbonising by 2050. Public money should not be wasted subsidising obsolete gas trucks and buses. By 2030, only zero-emission technologies should be supported with public funds.’

Waste collection trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles procured by public authorities will also have to run cleaner: between 6% and 10% of new trucks in 2025, and 7% and 15% in 2030, will have to be low or zero-emissions. Local authorities and public companies will also have to procure cleaner cars and vans: between 18.7% and 38.5% of new light-duty vehicles. These are defined in 2025 as cars or vans emitting less than 50 grams of CO2 per km – as in the revised car CO2 regulation – and, in 2030, as cars and vans with zero emissions.

In Britain the number of zero-emission buses on the UK’s roads is set to almost double. The UK government will fund orders for 263 new zero-emission buses orders, adding to the 329 already in use. 19 bus operators will shift to electric with the largest roll-outs set for London (63), Cardiff (36), and Manchester (32).

Last year the share of zero-emission bus sales in the UK was half the EU average of 9%. Recent T&E research shows that across the EU electric buses are no more expensive than operating a diesel bus due to their much lower fuel and maintenance costs. However, in the UK a fuel subsidy (the Bus Service Operators Grant) has slowed down the shift to electric buses compared to other EU countries.

T&E’s UK director Greg Archer said: ‘Both passengers and drivers prefer electric buses and the £48 million funding from the Department for Transport to support the purchase of 263 new electric and hydrogen models is a welcome step forward for the UK where sales of zero-emission buses are about half the level of the rest of the EU. The government needs to look again at how it subsidises buses, as paying for part of the fuel costs is antiquated and discourages the shift to more efficient and electric models.’