UK leads the way in zero emission bus market

Zemo Partnership EventZemo Partnership News

Fri 23 February 2024 View all news

Over 1,000 zero emission buses were registered in the UK in 2023 and around 60% of all bus registrations were zero emission, increasing from around 50% in 2021 and 2022. According to data from Chatrou CME Solutions, UK e-bus registrations increased by a remarkable 76% last year. The UK also did well compared with European neighbours in the nascent zero emission truck market, particularly for medium duty vehicles (see below).

The European electric bus market also experienced strong growth in registrations in 2023, advancing 53%. A total of 6,354 electric buses were registered across the EU27, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.

The data shows that over 42% of city buses across Europe now operate as zero emission vehicles. 

The UK led adoption of electric buses with registrations reaching 1,206 new units in 2023, up from 685 in 2022. Wrightbus, in particular, showed rapid growth, with e-bus sales up 320% on 2022. 

Within Europe, Germany was the second largest market for e-buses with 753 registrations, followed by Norway, Spain, France and Italy who all exceeded 400 new registrations.

Counter to the general trend, France - the largest bus and coach market in the continent - saw a decrease of 24.2% in volumes compared with the previous year.

The UK's success in adoption of e-buses has recently been supported by Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding, announced by the Government as part of the national strategy ‘Bus Back Better’, published in March 2021. According to a recent Government report (November 2023) an estimated 4,200 zero emission buses have been subsidised thought the ZEBRA scheme.

The foundations for the UK's successes in low and zero emission bus adoption were laid over ten years ago through a series of Green Bus Funds to incentivise low emission bus adoption and through the Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, introduced in 2015. Zemo, formerly as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, has worked closely with the Government and UK industry to advise on the succession of schemes over the last 15 years or more.

The ZEBRA 1 programme was followed up last year with ZEBRA 2 and a new budget of £129 million for financial years 23/24 and 24/25. By November 2024, total support from the Government for bus decarbonisation in the UK is expected to amount to over £2 billion.

All UK local transport authorities outside London were able to apply for ZEBRA 2 funding with subsidies up to 75 per cent of the additional costs compared with standard diesel buses. The scheme is no longer open to applications with successful bidders expected to be announced soon.

Commenting on the latest statistics, Claire Haigh, Zemo Partnership's Executive Director said: “It's excellent to see the UK is leading the way in zero emission buses.  This shows the huge value that can be delivered when government funding is combined with the strong support and collaboration of all key players.  

"The success of zero emissions buses in the UK is due in large part to government working closely with industry and key stakeholders – much of that took place under Zemo Partnership’s auspices, particularly our exemplary bus working group.” 

The latest data shows that the UK also outperformed Europe in terms of registrations of zero emission trucks in the medium duty sector in 2023. ACEA, the European motor industry trade body, recorded registrations of 4,721 medium-duty electric trucks with a plug in the EU plus the UK, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland; an increase of 230% on 2022. This was 7% of all new registrations in the sector in these markets. (Note that ACEA does not generally differentiate between battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids but lists all externally chargeable vehicles together. However, PHEVs are rare in the truck sector, so most plug-in vehicles listed are likely to be purely electric.)

The UK topped the charts with 1,220 registrations in 2023 (up 81.8%) with Germany leading EU countries with 633 units (up 146.4%) followed by The Netherlands on 766 and Spain, 163.

However, only about 1% of new heavy goods vehicles registered had plugs in 2023 indicating the greater challenge involved in electrifying these larger vehicles. Germany led the way with 609 units, followed by France (551), the Netherlands (382), Sweden (289) and the UK (286). (See Electrive news link.)

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