The British subsidiary of BYD, the world’s leading electric bus manufacturer – has today hosted a panel of key stakeholders from UK government and British industry at an important Webinar entitled, ‘Building Back Better: Buses Powering the Green Recovery’, supported by UK100, UK’s leading network of local government leaders.
Independent experts together put forward a compelling case for eMobility as a viable, long-term propostion for public transport.
This morning’s online event, held virtually, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, offered a platform for prominent individuals and organisations to deliver their independent views on a number of topics, including the fundamental role of public transport in the UK, reactivating our towns and cities through the ‘Building Back Better’ initiative, and the economics of eMobility at Local and Central Government level. Chairing the Webinar was high-profile public transport expert, Leon Daniels OBE.
The Webinar also provided BYD with an opportunity to emphasise its extensive experience in the field of eMobility, battery technology and energy management, and presenting a convincing case for UK government and Local Authorities to adopt electrification which is available now, as opposed to alternative drive systems promised for sometime in the future, such as hydrogen.
Discussing the crucial role of electric buses in British society, the ‘Building Back Better’ Webinar included keynote addresses from, among others, James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority – Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP, former Transport Minister – Mary Creagh, former Shadow Transport Minister now CEO Living Streets – Polly Billington, Director at UK100 – and Natasha Patel, Energy, EV, Mobility Director at Baringa Partners.
In his address, James Palmer was keen to support the use of public transport, saying, “Our challenge is to make public transport in the future so good that people choose it over car ownership. Franchising is perhaps the best answer when trying to make bus companies more ecologically-minded and bring forward better and cleaner buses. If we do not provide the right transport links and greener technology, the economy will not grow as we want it to. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to look very carefully at what we can achieve through our bus network in the future.”
Robert Goodwill MP expanded upon these points, adding, “It is vital that we see improved public transport as central to revitalising our city centres as we emerge safely from the pandemic. I was very pleased to hear the Chancellor’s announcement earlier this year that there will be £5 billion of investment going into greener transport solutions because it will enable the bus sector to get more electric buses off the production line and onto our streets. We need to continue to develop greener solutions, and using buses to develop that technology is a fantastic way of doing it.”
Mary Creagh echoed these sentiments, saying, “We are now facing a profound moment in which we must act to reallocate road space to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. We know that one double-decker bus takes 75 cars off the road, and if everyone switched one car journey per month to the bus, it would save two million tonnes of CO2 each year. Electric buses and other forms of public transport have a critical role to play in our economic recovery and the pursuit of lower emissions on our roads.”
Leading Public Transport Operator, Go-Ahead, was able to provide its view on how a bus franchising model could be rolled-out across the country, with input from Managing Director, John Trayner. He said, “We’re at the stage now where a nationwide roll-out is certainly up for debate, and I do think that the model is working well in London. I think that combination of regulated and unregulated approaches can work, but the challenge for us going forward is making sure we work with the right partners.”
The event also provided a platform for BYD once again to describe the many advantages of eMobility and its ability to deliver significant improvements in air quality. BYD Europe Managing Director, Isbrand Ho, said, “BYD is already delivering a significant number of electric buses to customers across the world, working closely with local governments, transport agencies and operators to help lower emissions and to satisfy their needs. We are always anticipating the requirements of our customers. For example, in response to the pandemic we immediately made available options to fully enclose the driver cab, provide hand sanitiser equipment, measure passengers’ temperatures and improve air filtration on our buses.”
Mr Ho continued: “In certain markets we work closely in the communities we serve. Here in the UK, for instance, ADL builds the bodies on our advanced electric vehicle underframe and electric drive. This combines our joint expertise and provides investment and local employment.”
Frank Thorpe, Managing Director of BYD UK, added his thoughts, remarking, “There are two main benefits from re-emerging from a situation as difficult as COVID-19 crisis with the green recovery. The first is that we will create a healthy environment for all of us. The second is that we will create prosperity, with a whole new generation of skills and a new set of resources.”
Mr Thorpe proceeded, “BYD delivers a truly unique solution incorporating all the core technologies of an electric vehicle. This is crucial here in the UK, where we have put over 400 eBuses into operation together with our partner ADL.
In order to emerge from the pandemic with a green recovery, we need to select the most efficient and viable solutions. That is, I believe, Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), as opposed to Hydrogen Electric Vehicles. Per kilowatt of energy generated, a BEV will deploy 70% of this energy to the road, compared to the 15-25% deployed by a Hydrogen vehicle”.
During the Webinar’s third session entitled ‘The Road to Net Zero,’ Polly Billington discussed the importance of improving air quality in the context of the Government’s ‘Building Back Better’ initiative, saying, “It is great to see so much consensus from today’s panel in relation to tackling air pollution. It is clear, though, that only so much can be done at a national level. Future policy needs to be designed by, and for, local communities. It is time for local authorities to be given the funding and the power they need.”
Natasha Patel went on to describe the future EV ‘bundle’ and how the EV landscape is shifting. She explained, “We are beginning to see some strong momentum building towards wider electric vehicle adoption. As this traction continues, there are a number of factors in the EV bundle that will need to be considered – for instance, how we consume energy and how we keep personal and business customer requirements central to EV proposition development.”
High-profile EV influencer and founder of Electric Vehicles Outlook, Roger Atkins, made an important contribution in the second of two panel sessions. He said: “There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to EVs, but it is clear, now more than ever, that operators are discovering that electric buses are more reliable, vehicle downtime is reduced, servicing is quicker and on-road time is therefore increased”.
“We are at a tipping point” he said – “EV volumes from cars, vans, light good vehicles and buses give us the economies of scale”.
Responding to a question about the barriers to mass-scale EV adoption among operators, Richard Harrington, Engineering Director at Go-Ahead, posited, “Economics has always been the missing link when it comes to whether or not electric buses are deemed viable. We are now seeing a tipping point for mass adoption of commercial EVs and that is being driven by economics. Now is the time to electrify – in a big way.”
Leon Daniels OBE concluded, “From today’s discussions it seems that zero emissions buses are a win, win, win. They are a win for air quality and public health; they are a win for the economies in our towns and cities; and they are a win for the environment. We only hold the earth for future generations, and that in itself is surely reason enough to get on with it.”