Following the completion of an extended trial period, Nottingham City Transport has converted the first of its three ethanol buses to diesel, with the remaining two being converted by the summer.
The NCT ethanol buses came into operation as part of the Ecolink project in 2008 and received around £520k of funding from the now defunct East Midlands Development Agency as part of a trial with Nottingham City Council. This funded the buses and an ethanol tank and fuelling station at NCT’s garage.
Whilst the buses have been successful from an environmental impact point of view, the Government has continued to tax ethanol as a spirit rather than fuel, and consequently long-term running costs have become unfeasible for bus operators around the country. Indeed, as there are now no other ethanol operators in the UK, and therefore no British production plant, NCT is still having to import ethanol from Sweden.
NCT’s recent conversion follows the City Council’s decision to withdraw the £90,000 a year funding which has been used to bridge the difference between ethanol and diesel running costs. Nottingham City Council has found the benefits of electrically-powered buses to be a more cost-effective environmental solution, and they are actively progressing in that direction – hence their decision to invest in electrical rather than ethanol.
Nottingham City Transport’s Engineering Director, Gary Mason, said: “As a company, we lament the fact that ethanol has not been given the necessary tax breaks that would have made it a viable green fuel, but we remain committed to actively looking at other fuel technologies such as gas-powered buses, for example. We do hope that we may be able to work in partnership with the City Council on their electric bus projects, and we will continue to work hard to ensure we remain one of the UK’s lowest-emission fleets.”.
Nottingham City Transport will be trialling a Scania E300SG gas-powered bus during May and June 2013, which follows on from the MAN EcoCity gas bus trial in 2012.