On Target 6 – Electric coaches?

With the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone introduced on 8 April and the zone being extended to greater London for buses and coaches from October 2020, it has suddenly seen our industry wake up to the reality that we haven’t got the fleet to match. Admittedly the Mayor has brought this forward, but even so, I am amazed at how many of my fellow operators appear to either not be aware or having buried their heads in the sand, only to complain when it is all a bit too late.

I have seen this pattern before, especially with coaches. The motorway outer lane ban and 60mph limit, was the end of coaching as we know it, before that the tachograph will finish us off, and, more recently, the working time directive, which meant that drivers could no longer work an 80-hour week, will ruin us. But we are still here. Smaller in number, perhaps, but that leads to restricted supply of hire vehicles and higher prices, right? Wrong. Same old story, I’m afraid.

I am not convinced that fixing up an old engine is going to work too well and feel sure it will go wrong

Buses have fared better, with grants available for retrofit… at least for the more modern fleet from Euro 4 onwards. However, I haven’t yet seen the colour of this money; maybe it is all allocated to London. In any case, I am not convinced that fixing up an old engine is going to work too well and feel sure it will go wrong and be more expensive to maintain.

Be proactive rather than reactive is my motto. Organisations like CPT keep me well informed, so I can plan around the forthcoming legislation, years ahead in some cases. It is no good thinking you can change politicians’ minds. I don’t know of one TfL consultation where the Mayor, (Boris and Sadiq), took any notice. You just know they are going to do it anyway! It is much the same in other regions, although CPT have managed to get valuable concessions in Leeds and Southampton, the latter where the proposal for a ULEZ has been dropped. Personally, my Volvo never could compete with the Queen Mary for emissions anyway!

I find it amazing that so many good used, Euro VI vehicles are up for sale, but not finding buyers

So, I have been a proper Clever Clogs and been frantically renewing my fleet over the last five years. I could see this coming. But, although I have speeded up the replacement programme, I was replacing my assets regularly anyway. If you don’t, you can never catch up. I find it amazing that so many good used, Euro VI vehicles are up for sale, but not finding buyers. Is this an industry that can’t afford to buy even secondhand stock, at half the price?  We don’t charge enough evidently, but don’t get me started; that is for a future date.

What of the future? Given the complexity now of engines and gearboxes, it is a wonder to me they work as well as the do and sometimes don’t. Given all the thousands of moving parts and the computers that control them, we are trying to make the internal combustion engine something it was never intended to be; efficient and emission free. While dear old Nikolaus Otto, did a great job in inventing it, it is only at best 35% efficient, although less faffing about than with steam. But if Otto were to come back today, he would not believe the gear we have strapped to his engine, in order to try and keep up with the present, let alone the future.

Next time you are in your local High Street or just in your yard, listen to the din your engines make. No matter how modern your fleet, it is working with ancient technology and that just isn’t cutting it in today’s world. There is only one way forward and that is with electricity.

Next time, Marksman’s views on a future industry driven by modern clean, electricity.

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