European Commission launches Clean Bus Deployment Initiative

Clean, energy-efficient and sustainable transport systems have a vital role to play in efforts to move towards a low carbon world. Through its recent European Clean Bus Deployment Initiative, the European Commission is making a significant contribution to this transition.

Many advantages are associated with clean, alternatively-fuelled buses. Reductions in air pollutants, noise, and greenhouse gas emissions all entail considerable public health benefits. Travelling in them is also quieter and smoother, making them more appealing to the public.

Yet their potential is far from being realised. Concerns about technological reliability and high costs remain wide-spread, particularly with regards to fuel-cell and battery-electric buses.  Diesel buses still constitute the largest proportion of the urban bus fleet.  

Natural gas and other hybrid solutions have a well-established business case, yet demand must rise. Major public transport authorities are beginning to commit to utilising alternatively fuelled buses. For instance,  Athens, Paris and Madrid plan to remove diesel vehicles by 2025, whilst the Dutch provinces will purchase only zero-emission buses from 2025 onwards.

Despite this positive news, legal, technical, organisational and financial issues still need to be resolved. The decision to invest signficantly in clean bus technology must be backed by a coherent business model that clearly sets out the financing model and funding strategy. In addition, there needs to be trust in the market's ability to produce products according to local requirements and on a larger scale.

As part of the Initiative, a deployment platform will be created to bring together public authorities, manufacturers, financial organisations, and public transport operators. This aims to better coordinate relevant actors, provide recommendations on relevant policy, and take advantage of potential investment opportunities. An expert group will also be formed to pool knowledge on technological, financial and organisational issues related to clean bus deployment.

The initiative was launched in Brussels on 13 July. Close to 40 cities and regions and 11 bus manufacturers have signed the accompanying declaration, which outlines the common ambition of cities and manufacturers to accelerate the roll-out of clean buses.

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