Cleantech Market Intelligence
London’s Red Buses Going Green
In London a few weeks ago I spotted a hydrogen fuel cell bus in London. Once the shock of seeing a fuel cell vehicle on the road wore off, and I stopped waving enthusiastically at the driver, other changes became apparent.
Level 1 and 2 charging points (free parking, anyone?) and bike sharing stations also figure in the London transport mix. These options make the most sense in central London, where the congestion charge provides a financial incentive to avoid polluting the city center.
It might seem surprising that London is so actively pursuing electrified transportation, considering that energy efficiency, particularly in buildings, is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to meeting EU energy targets in the United Kingdom. Building stock in the United Kingdom is frequently cited as being older and less efficient than, say, German building stock. Part of this is a holdover from when energy prices were low, thanks to Scottish oil and gas. London has been making efforts to transform the city’s buildings, but those efforts are largely invisible.
In contrast, changes to transport are highly visible, have more direct impact on air quality, and frequently engender strong opinions. Like the weather and politics, transportation is one of those subjects on which everyone has a strong opinion. Views on energy-efficient light bulbs tend to be less visceral.
Demonstrations like the fuel-cell bus I spotted, in London and other major cities, allow cities to learn what strategies and technologies make the most sense for their constituents, and provide other municipalities with examples, some positive and some negative, of how to integrate cleantech into the urban fabric. World cities, the alpha consumers of smart cities technology, are arguably more meaningful for the market than, say, isolated demonstrations in the desert. Urban managers in big cities must manage the daily challenges of running a city under serious budget constraints, while reconciling competing interests. They’re the proving ground for cleantech.
Macro trends aside, in a city where buses and cyclist share a lane, I was most excited at the prospect of cycling behind buses that emit steam instead of exhaust.