Leading electrification specialist, Equipmake, has welcomed newly announced changes to the Government’s Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), which now include zero emission buses for the first time, including vehicles repowered with electric drivetrains – but calls for more incentives to encourage operators to go electric.
BSOG is a grant paid to operators of bus services and community transport organisations to help them recover some of their fuel costs, with the amount received based on their annual fuel consumption. By reducing costs, BSOG is intended to help operators keep fares down for passengers and allow them to run services that might otherwise be unprofitable.
Until now, new electric buses and ICE buses repowered with state-of-the-art EV powertrains have not been eligible for BSOG, which has served as a significant disincentive for operators to embrace electrification – and simultaneously prolonged the usage of polluting ICE vehicles. Revisions to the scheme have finally addressed this, including a new Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) incentive for the first time with a rate for electric buses, whether for new or repowered vehicles, set at 22 pence per kilometre.
Equipmake believes the overhaul to BSOG is overdue, and can play a part in accelerating the introduction of zero-emission bus fleets across the United Kingdom, bringing cleaner air conditions to the nation’s streets.
Ian Foley, Managing Director, Equipmake, said: “The Bus Service Operators Grant being updated to include electrified buses is a welcome and necessary step in the right direction and one Equipmake has advocated for some time. By repowering buses with electric power, the technology exists to bring cleaner air to every town and city in the UK very rapidly indeed. Along with new electric buses, repowered buses represent a historic opportunity to deliver a transformation to sustainable mobility that must not be wasted.
“We know there is a clear appetite for this. While national new bus sales are massively down, we are seeing strong demand and have plans to expand our facility, creating 180 jobs, bringing the total number of staff employed at Equipmake to 255. The changes to BSOG will only increase interest and will hopefully help repowered electric buses consign the diesel-powered bus to the history books, where it belongs.”
At its base in Norfolk, Equipmake has been developing cutting-edge solutions which are now eligible for the scheme in the form of a new electric bus, the Jewel E, and a repower programme which upgrades existing hybrid and diesel buses with state-of-the art battery drivetrains.
Equipmake’s repower technology can be applied to both single and double deckers, and involves an inspection of each bus to ensure its adaptability to its unique, scalable modular electric chassis. Once its suitability is verified, the process itself is quick, with up to five repowers a week being completed, ensuring a working bus is kept off the road for as short a time as possible.
Each repower is tailored to the specific requirements of the operator, with service routes simulated to ensure the correct battery power level is selected for optimum performance and efficiency, and guaranteed driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles achievable. This is more than sufficient for a complete duty cycle, allowing buses to be recharged overnight.
As well as bringing environmental benefits, Equipmake’s repower programme makes sense from a cost perspective, with each conversion coming in at less than half the price of a new electric bus. And with most buses expected to remain in service for 14 years or beyond, operators can still make significant efficiencies by repowering a bus halfway through its working life.
However, while supportive of the BSOG ZEB incentive, Equipmake believes there is still more that can be done to encourage widespread uptake of electrified buses. At around £400,000, the upfront cost of a new electric bus remains a significant hurdle for many, which is why Equipmake is calling for the government to further incentivise the zero-emission transition by implementing a new funding strategy that includes subsidies for new electric buses – and repowered ones too.
Ian Foley continued:“The value of repower technology is still not fully appreciated. If the government funded 75% of the difference between a diesel bus and a new electric one, the operator would pay £250,000 and the government £150,000.
“But change that business model to include a British-built electric repower and the Treasury’s contribution is reduced, while the cost to the operator is halved. Not only does this represent a significant saving on the purchase price of a new hybrid or diesel vehicle, but EV buses also have far lower operating costs, too.
“The opportunity is clear for all to see. Repowering the drivetrains of existing buses with electric technology at scale can rapidly and dramatically reduce pollution and provide the UK bus industry with a much-needed shot in the arm. The government must seize the initiative and make it happen, and contributing to conversions would be an ideal way of doing so.”