Unlike waiting for a bus, the number of low-carbon public transport options seem to be coming consistently thick and fast.
Over the past few months, there have been announcements about new hydrogen trains, hybrid ferries, more electric buses and a boom in zero-emission taxis.
With transport currently the UK’s most carbon-intensive sector – overtaking power generation last year for the first time – it’s perhaps not surprising that reducing emissions has become such a focus.
E-bus numbers to expand
A few weeks ago, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles announced plans to fund 264 new ultra-low emission buses to help electrify bus routes across seven regions in the UK.
Money will go to local transport companies in each of the regions – which include the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and London – to design and install emissions and pollution-reducing technologies.
Another design objective is to help change passenger behaviour to create a more sociable bus experience, in response to concerns about rising levels of loneliness among the UK population.
Support for 4000 more low-emission taxis
The DfT is also planning to invest £6-million in new charging points for electric taxis across 17 local authorities, including Brighton and Hove, Greater Manchester, and Leicester and the North East.
The aim is to install 300 rapid charging points and 46 fast chargers by the end of 2019, which will support around 4,000 more fully-electric or hybrid-electric taxis.
Uber has also announced plans to make every one of its London cars fully electric by 2025. The service, which is regularly used by 3.6 million Londoners, will charge a Clean Air Fee of 15p per mile to help support drivers to make the transition to an electric vehicle.
Hydrogen trains by 2022
Meanwhile, on the rail network, Alstom and Eversholt Rail last month unveiled a new hydrogren train design for the UK market that will emit only water – and no harmful emissions at all.
Supported by £23-million in government funding, the new ‘Breeze’ trains will be created by re-engineering existing rolling stock.
The aim is to have them running across the UK as early as 2022, and well ahead of the 2040 deadline to eliminate diesel trains.
Hybrid ferries cross the Thames
Back in London, the Woolwich ferry service is due to be upgraded next month, with two new low-emission hybrid boats.
The public crossing has been operating since 1308, and last year carried around 1-million vehicles and 1.8m passengers across the River Thames.
Using a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, the new boats will provide greater fuel efficiency to meet London’s Low Emission Zone standards. They are also fitted with a catalyser and particle filters to further reduce emissions and pollutants.
Zero transport emissions by 2060
Globally, the transport sector has much work to do to reduce emissions. But a recent report by the Energy Transitions Commission is optimistic.
The ‘Mission Possible: Reaching net-zero carbon from harder-to-abate sectors by mid-century’ report finds that it will be “technically and financially” possible for the global transport sector to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.
It predicts that electric buses and trucks are likely to become cost-competitive with petrol and diesel models by 2030. And it believes the aviation sector is likely to switch to zero-emission bio or synthetic fuels by 2060, rather than adopt electric aircraft.
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