JCB heir Jo Bamford is asking the Government to set aside £500 million or 10% of the National Bus Strategy fund to build a 3,000-strong hydrogen bus fleet.
He said about £200m of this funding is needed to build the hydrogen production facilities and bespoke, zero emission transportation vehicles to take it to bus depots in city centres.
Another £300m is called for to subsidise the building of the buses to enable operators to purchase them for the same price as a current diesel one.
The Government has recently committed a £5bn plan to boost local bus services.
A significant amount of this is likely to be spent on replacing old diesel vehicles for modern, zero emission models.
Bamford claims his plans are “an ideal option for a Government that needs to boost UK manufacturing at this critical time whilst radically reducing our carbon emissions and air pollution”, and has already submitted his vision in a document to ministers.
Plans are being drawn up to introduce fleets of hydrogen buses in places such as Aberdeen, London, Bimingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast, with Bamford saying there is interest from relevant authorities.
Bamford, who leads a green hydrogen production company, Ryse, and last year acquired Wrightbus, a UK manufacturer who have made the world’s first hydrogen double decker bus, says that zero carbon, UK-made hydrogen technologies must play a pivotal role in driving the British economy forward.
He believes an urgent introduction of hydrogen buses will lead to a knock-on transformation of other heavy duty vehicles, such as lorries, trains, ships and even ambulances and police cars. This would have the potential to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of skilled, green collar jobs across the country.
Bamford thinks 10% or 3,000 of the UK’s total bus fleet could be running on hydrogen by 2024 and he estimates this would save an estimated 280,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, or the equivalent of 107,000 cars.
Ryse is in the process of building the UK’s first hydrogen production plant on the Kent coast. This will be powered by a near-by offshore wind farm and use electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water.
Bamford plans to build another four hydrogen production plants by 2025 to provide enough power for all 3,000 buses.
..."Public transport can't be run like it was before the pandemic..."
Bamford said: “Cities around the world are seeing massive reductions in air pollution as many vehicles have been kept off the road during the pandemic.
“However, the reality is that if we just go back to how public transport has traditionally been run, levels of pollution will quickly rise again to the same levels as before the crisis.
“We have an opportunity with hydrogen powered transport to make a huge difference to air quality, and for UK jobs as well.
“With increased orders on this scale I could increase the workforce at Wrightbus by nearly 700%.”
Darren Shirley, Campaign for Better Transport chief executive, said: “The Government has the opportunity to ensure continued progress on improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions from rural as well as urban transport through fostering a hydrogen-fuelled heavy vehicle industry.
“As part of the National Bus Strategy, and through the UK's Industrial Strategy, it should focus not just on battery electric, but the range of zero emission technologies that will benefit communities through cleaner air.
“It is clear that a range of technologies will be needed to take the UK's transport system to net zero carbon emissions. Battery electric is not going to be viable for all uses, so buses fuelled by green hydrogen will be necessary to serve longer ranges and rural routes, and hydrogen lorries to move heavier loads over longer distances.”