A LEADING businessman has made a rallying cry for concerted action from the Government, councils and manufacturers to ensure more “green” buses appear on Britain’s roads.
Enrico Vassallo, the Italian chief executive of bus maker Optare, said the industry and politicians needed to collaborate to reduce the manufacturing cost and make the green technology an attractive and competitive alternative to diesel.
“Electric buses represent less than one per cent of the total market,” he said. “The technology is still too expensive due to the fact that the volumes are low to absorb the high cost of investment.”
He added: “The game we all need to play as operators, manufacturers, local authorities and politicians is to invest in the business, try to give more stability and more vision to the business to keep it successful and competitive in terms of prices.”
The company, which is based in Sherburn-in-Elmet, makes diesel, electric and hybrid vehicles for companies including First Group, Stagecoach and Transport for London. Mr Vassallo believes the next decade will be critical in determining how widely the technology is adopted across the UK. He said: “From a purely operational point of view, what we are proving is that the cost of running electric buses is cheaper than running diesel over four or five years. The downside is the price you have to pay in the beginning is double the price of a diesel bus. It would be a breakthrough to keep the technology cheaper, viable and competitive.”
Another key factor is the maintenance cost of electric buses. “Electrical components are more reliable than the springs and bolts of the diesel one,” Mr Vassallo said. “In terms of maintenance, electric is cheaper but the technology is more sophisticated.”
Optare recently delivered a £1.5m fleet of six electric buses to the Poppleton Bar park and ride site in York, operated by First Group. It is in the process of making a further six for another park and ride site in the city. It is also responsible for the vehicles’ maintenance. One particular target market is double decker buses, which make up about 40 per cent of the market.