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Bus conductors

You wait for stories on electric buses and then two come along at once. This week saw Gothenburg in Sweden and Charlotte in the United States announce plans to electrify their public transport networks.

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You wait for stories on electric buses and then two come along at once. This week saw Gothenburg in Sweden and Charlotte in the United States announce plans to electrify their public transport networks.

 

Charlotte’s is a pilot programme that will test vehicles from three different manufacturers over the next 18 months. The city is aiming to fuel its public transport networks by zero-carbon means by 2030 and become a low carbon city by the now familiar deadline of 2050.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the wider region’s success at decarbonisation, Gothenburg’s electric bus scheme is much more ambitious. A fully electric bus fleet will hit the roads in the northeast of the city from next year. The buses are expected to carry 17 million passengers each year, covering 2.9 million kilometres in the process.

 

Transport accounts for around a quarter of global emissions and electrification projects such as these are a must. That said, there is a series of obstacles that need to be overcome quickly to make electric vehicles truly viable. Electrification isn’t easy. Electric vehicles are costly because of the price of batteries. Battery life continues to be average and recharging time lengthy, there is a dearth of charging stations, and cities need to invest in substantial infrastructure.

 

In the private space, moving to electric vehicles is more of a push than a pull. That’s why you see subsidies a-plenty from global governments - Joe Biden’s recent infrastructure bill in the United States proposes an extension of tax credits and rebates for drivers keen to leave petrol behind. Government activity such as this will need to increase to meet the highly ambitious and essential carbon cutting targets of the next decade and beyond.

 

What’s encouraging is the public sector knows this. There is consensus around the power of electric vehicles and therefore solid support offered for their adoption. As subsidies increase and more demand is shown, manufacturers will work quicker to meet the demands of the market, fuelling innovation, reducing costs and stimulating the market. It’s a virtuous circle and shows how the public and private sectors can work together for us all.

 

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