Low Emission Bus Startups Put Eco Concerns in the Driving Seat

In some regions of the UK – such as the Green Party-led constituency of Brighton and Hove  – electric buses are already a common sight on the roads. There are currently 54 shiny new 54 Enviro400 ER model double-decker hybrid electric buses cursing around the city, delivering over 3 million passenger journeys so far, or a total 244000 miles of zero emission bus travel per year. While only 4% of UK emissions currently come from buses, every change we make is a positive one – and the city is both much quieter, and much cleaner for it.

The buses used in Brighton are specially calibrated to switch into a dedicated zero-emissions mode whenever they enter the city’s designated Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). This innovative practice is known as geofencing, and this is the first time it has ever been implemented in the UK. This new technology both purifies the air, and uses fuel extremely efficiently. However, although Brighton has much to celebrate, other cities have so far been left in the dust when it comes to zero-emission bus travel.

The solution could perhaps come from startups worldwide. Companies like Switch Mobility, a British division of commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland Ltd, pledged in December 2021 to provide 300 electric buses to the public transport agency in the Indian city of Bengaluru. Closer to home, Banbury-based electric van and bus makers Arrival (founded 2016) have steered themselves into the public transport fast-lane, unveiling a brand-new prototype electric bus that drives down costs to around the price of a conventional diesel one. With the price of replacing their fleet often being the factor that runs councils off the road to zero-emissions public transport, this unique selling point could really get Arrival’s business motors running. The pre-production vehicles are set to hit the streets by the end of the year.

Alongside their eco credentials, the buses boast some inventive design features. Company president Avinash Rugoobur highlighted to Reuters that his new buses will be setting their batteries in the floor – rather than the conventional ceiling placement – reducing the height of the bus and allowing for a skylight covering the entire length of the vehicle. Production costs stay low, as the vehicle is manufactured from lightweight but strong plastic composite body panels, instead of the usual heavy steel. Best of all, Arrival’s system can keep track on every component of their buses in real time, and upgrade their software seamlessly over the internet whenever they wish. Passengers will surely be glad of less delays!

Often electric buses can cost up to 50% more than their diesel counterparts. So, it is no wonder than First Bus, one of the UK’s largest operators, is already on the road to a deal with this British startup. 

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