May 18 2023

A joint initiative between industry and government to decarbonise the bus fleet in Scotland.

(Resources: Meeting papers, published reports, meeting minutes and agendas are available at the bottom of this page)

In the context of wider decarbonisation of the transport and energy sectors and the broader vision as set out in the Scottish National Transport Strategy, central to which is a vibrant bus sector with increased bus usage as people choose to travel by bus instead of car, the guiding vision of the Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce is a future where:

  • Bus operators are exclusively running zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses;
  • The bus sector provides an excellent service meeting passengers’ day-to-day needs;
  • People enjoy travelling on buses and knowing that doing so is one of the most climate-friendly choices they can make;
  • There are vibrant ownership and leasing markets for buses which benefits operators, manufacturers and the finance sector;
  • The smart technology on buses enables them to be operated in the most energy efficient way;
  • There is an even stronger and diverse domestic manufacturing sector and supply-chain comprised of high-quality skilled jobs with continued innovation reducing manufacturing and supply chain emissions;
  • Energy networks, bus operators and Local Government are used to working together to ensure depots are powered/fuelled and all potential users are able to benefit from the energy provision centred at depots and on-route charging infrastructure;
  • Buses and infrastructure are fully recycled at the end of asset life contributing to the circular economy, reducing waste and supporting further decarbonisation efforts;
  • After an important period of support, the Government has ceased subsidising battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses, but continue to support innovation in new zero-emission fuels and technologies of the future;
  • Scotland is recognised the world over as a leader in the design, manufacture and operation of high quality zero-emission buses and other large road vehicles, alongside associated green finance solutions.
In 2019, in the context of a global climate emergency, the Scottish Parliament enacted legislation setting the world’s most ambitious targets for tackling climate change. This requires emissions of carbon dioxide to be net-zero by 2040, and all greenhouse gases to be net-zero by 2045.

The transport sector is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland. The Scottish Government is determined to reduce emissions from transport and is committed to encouraging and supporting a transformative shift to increased active travel and public transport use. When paired with zero emission vehicles this ambition for modal shift has the ability to create significant economic and climate benefits. In terms of supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles, the Government has made commitments to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032; phase out petrol and diesel cars from our public sector fleet by 2025, and the need for any new petrol and diesel light commercial vehicles by 2030; create Scotland’s first electric highway on the A9, create at least 20 Electric Towns across Scotland by 2025; put Highlands and Islands on a path to becoming the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040; reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035 and more.

Emissions from buses account for 5% of road emissions (as of 2019) and across the bus sector we have seen bold commitments to zero-carbon fleet renewal with a number of operators actively engaged in projects to get battery electric and hydrogen buses on our streets. One of the challenges for the sector has been the greater upfront capital cost of new technologies and associated infrastructure, and COVID has undoubtedly elevated these challenges. Nevertheless, evidence is building that battery-electric buses are moving towards whole life cost parity with diesel vehicles, and while it is clear that support is required to manage the high upfront costs and battery maintenance issue, this evidence shows that we are reaching a pivotal point in the transition to zero emission transport.

In this context, this taskforce will work over the period of 1 year to:

  • agree a vision for a zero-emission bus sector in Scotland; 
  • co-design the solutions for ending the bus sector’s contribution to climate change; 
  • set out a collaborative pathway for achieving zero-emissions. 
Scope of Taskforce
The remit of the taskforce is to identify and co-design creative and practical solutions to maximising opportunities and tackling any hurdles remaining in relation to:
  • Charging infrastructure (electric and hydrogen) including on-route charging
  • Technology (battery-electric, hydrogen fuel-cell and other potential zero-emission technologies; on-route charging; depot considerations)
  • Costs, including economies of scale, warranties
  • Finance, including suitable financial structures, products and guarantees
  • Knowledge and experience
  • Vehicle and charging requirements in rural, island and urban areas

In designing solutions, the Taskforce will consider the implications and opportunities for the decarbonisation of other large road vehicles, including school, community buses and coaches, lorries and transport more generally.

N.B. The following issues are out of scope: Encouraging modal shift, reducing congestion, bus priority infrastructure, fares, concessionary travel, bus partnerships, supported services and low-emission zones. These are all important factors that have a level of interaction with bus decarbonisation, but are beyond the remit of this taskforce.

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