The news of the certification of the first Ultra Low Emission Coach at Millbrook is a significant milestone, not just for the manufacturer Yutong, but also for those arguing for coaches to get a share of the support that may be available in the transition towards zero-emission vehicles.
Of course, the current parlous state of the coach sector means that there is little opportunity to grasp any such opportunities in the short term. Coach operators are currently in a struggle for survival and only able to look forward as far as being in operation and still solvent for what will hopefully be a better spring and summer season in 2021.
But there will be a future for coaches, even if the industry does not look quite the same. Undoubtedly, the pandemic may be a challenge too far for some businesses, and we could see further consolidation in the coach sector. And if the coach sector is to thrive and grow in the future, it will need to have the tools available to do the job, including zero emission options.
Operators might legitimately argue that they have invested handsomely in the latest, cleanest diesel technology. But while this is a powerful argument when it comes to urban air quality, it does not impact on the bigger issue of carbon and climate change. For that, we need zero emission vehicles, and while we are some way off having an overwhelming commercial case for investment in ZE coaches, the emergence of the first Ultra Low Emission Coach has to be an important step in the right direction.