Electrification specialist Equipmake has praised the amendment made to the Government’s Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) to include zero emission buses for the first time, as well as vehicles repowered with electric drivetrains.
BSOG is a grant paid to operators of bus services and community transport organisations to help them recover some of their fuel costs.
The amount each bus operator gets is based on their annual fuel consumption. By reducing costs, BSOG aims to help keep operators' fares down and run a service that may otherwise be unprofitable.
Before now, electric buses and ICE buses repowered with electric powertrains were not eligible for BSOG, serving as a significant disincentive for operators to go electric.
The scheme's revision now includes a new Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) incentive with a rate for electric buses set at 22 pence per kilometre.
“The Bus Service Operators Grant being updated to include electrified buses is a welcome and necessary step in the right direction and one Equipmake has advocated for some time,” said Ian Foley, managing director of Equipmake.
“By repowering buses with electric power, the technology exists to bring cleaner air to every town and city in the UK very rapidly indeed. Along with new electric buses, repowered buses represent a historic opportunity to deliver a transformation to sustainable mobility that must not be wasted.”
It is also upgrading existing hybrid and diesel buses with new electric powertrains that will be eligible too.
The repower technology works for both single and double-deckers, with Equipmake upgrading up to five buses a week to ensure buses stay off the road for as short a time as possible.
These conversions are also making sense from a cost perspective as the process is less than half the price of a new electric bus.
But while Equipmake supports the BSOG revisions, it believes the government can do more to support uptake of electrified buses.
A new electric bus costs around £400,000 making this a significant hurdle for many, and so Equipmake is calling for a new funding strategy, which includes subsidies for new and repowered electric buses.
Foley said: “The value of repower technology is still not fully appreciated. If the government funded 75% of the difference between a diesel bus and a new electric one, the operator would pay £250,000 and the government £150,000.
“But change that business model to include a British-built electric repower and the Treasury’s contribution is reduced, while the cost to the operator is halved. Not only does this represent a significant saving on the purchase price of a new hybrid or diesel vehicle, but EV buses also have far lower operating costs, too.
“The opportunity is clear for all to see. Repowering the drivetrains of existing buses with electric technology at scale can rapidly and dramatically reduce pollution and provide the UK bus industry with a much-needed shot in the arm. The government must seize the initiative and make it happen, and contributing to conversions would be an ideal way of doing so.”