Hybrid buses: reducing the carbon tyreprint of commuter travel


In a bid to reduce London’s air pollution, Transport for London (TfL) has opened discussions with Volvo to buy a fleet of electrified buses.

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone

The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has made reducing air pollution in the capital a top priority.

A number of policies have already been introduced in order to improve air quality. The most recent is an additional £10 charge for old cars entering the congestion zone – specifically those that do not meet Euro 4 emissions standards for nitrogen oxide and particulates.[1]

The charge is the latest of a number of policies geared towards making central London an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) by 2019.[2] The Mayor has specified that the ULEZ would extend between London’s circular roads and central London, constituting at least a 40 per cent reduction in NOx emissions.

Hybrid transport filling the gap

TfL has already introduced 1,700 diesel-electric hybrid Routemasters, constituting 20 per cent of their entire fleet.[3] These buses reduce CO2 emissions by at least 30 per cent.[4]

Volvo is promising to increase this figure with a new ‘plug-in hybrid’ that would reduce CO2 emissions from buses by 46-100 per cent, and NOx emissions by 99-100 per cent.[5]

However, in order to put these buses on the road, charging stations will be needed to keep them running.

‘Opportunity charging’

In order to cause the least amount of disruption, Volvo has recommended that ‘opportunity charging’ stations be installed at the end of every route.

“That means you can actively charge to the levels you need each and every time you need it. It gives much more flexibility and doesn’t require the vehicle to come off the road at any point during the day,” Phil Owen, commercial sales director at Volvo Buses, told airqualitynews.com in a recent interview.

Cities cleaning up their public transport

London isn’t the only city tackling air pollution: Madrid recently ordered 51 hybrid Scania Citywide buses from Volkswagen.[6]

Seven transport operators are using the buses, including Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid, Alsa (Nat-Ex), Samar, Avanza (ADO) and DeBlas (Arriva).

More alternatives

Thanks, in part, to the fact that TfL controls the whole city’s infrastructure, London’s hybrid fleet is the largest in Europe. It has also introduced other alternative fuel vehicles.

Eight hydrogen fuel buses bolster the fleet. Plus, London’s purely electric bus fleet will grow to over 300 vehicles by 2020.[7]


Should TfL decide to go ahead with a fleet of Volvo’s hybrids, it would be a big step towards Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ target.


Germany on track with first zero-emissions ‘hydrail’ project




[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37607047

[2] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-plans-to-create-ultra-low-emission-zone-in-central-london-by-2019-a3364961.html

[3] https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/bus-investment#on-this-page-1

[4] https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/news-articles/hybrid-bus-boost-for-london

[5] http://www.airqualitynews.com/2016/06/13/volvo-highlights-electric-bus-benefits/

[6] http://www.greencarcongress.com/2016/05/20160512-scania.html

[7] https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/news-articles/hybrid-bus-boost-for-london

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