This article is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Raise the BAR (Business Adaptability & Resilience) Campaign, sponsored by Western Union Business Solutions. For more campaign content click here. This campaign provides Chamber members with a platform to share learning and inspiration on this agenda. All views and opinions expressed below are those of the author only.
By Ali Bell, Head of external communications (UK Bus), National Express
Travelling by bus is already one of the greenest ways to travel. And National Express West Midlands’ already operates the lowest-carbon fleet outside London.
But as concern about the environment grows, local and national governments are bringing in ambitious targets - to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 to minimise climate change.
National Express needs to be agile to adapt to these changing requirements. But when a new double decker costs more than an Aston Martin, the bus operator needs to be completely confident that any new drivetrain technology will work - day in, day out, 21 hours a day, in rain and snow, on the busy and sometimes potholed roads of the West Midlands.
So this summer, National Express West Midlands is working with bus manufacturer Scania to try out a double decker biogas bus - carrying real passengers on actual routes in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.
National Express UK Engineering Director Bernie Cassidy said: “Bus is one of the greenest ways to travel. But technology is innovating so fast - my engineering team need to make sure they are experts in all the latest fuel technologies.
“We know the theory behind biogas, and we believe it’s a very clean option. So my engineers are very keen to test this biogas bus in real-world conditions.
"National Express West Midlands buses work very hard - they can be out on the roads for over 200 miles a day before we refuel them overnight at a depot. In some garages, over 500 buses need to be cleaned, fixed and refuelled every night.
“Running this bus for a few weeks in service will give my team valuable information and experience that will help inform the choice of what vehicles to buy for tomorrow’s fleet.”
Biogas buses run on fuel created from waste. Biogas is produced naturally through anaerobic digestion, using food waste, farm waste and sewage. The methane emitted from the digestion process is captured, treated and turned into fuel.
Biogas buses can make a significant reduction to the carbon footprint of towns and cities across the UK. Using biogas buses generates a WTW (well to wheel) CO2 saving of 84%.1
The average car journey emits 120g of CO2 per km - the equivalent journey on a biogas bus is around 2.4g per km. 2
There are 550 anaerobic digestion plants in the UK. They already produce enough energy to power every bus in the country.
National Express West Midlands will be running the biogas bus in August on routes 23, 24, X1 and X2 in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull. And on the X20, X21 and X22 that go to QE hospital and University of Birmingham.
1 Based on Well-to-Wheel GHG saving compared to EuroV diesel equivalent, independently assessed and certified by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership
2 Source: SMMT (https://www.smmt.co.uk/reports/co2-report/)
National Express West Midlands operates 1600 buses, taking nearly a million people to work, school, college, to the shops and to see their friends every working day. We also run the Ring and Ride and we operate home-to-school services for Birmingham City Council.
We employ 6,500 people across 16 depots in the region.