Britain is to make up to GBP120m (US$165m) available through the Zero Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme.

The plan will allow local transport authorities to bid for funding to purchase zero-emission buses and will deliver up to 500 vehicles, supporting the government’s wider commitment to introduce 4,000 zero-emission buses.

The funding comes from the wider GBP3bn fund announced by the UK government to improve bus services in its  national bus strategy published on 15 March.

The government says the new strategy will see passengers benefit from:

  • lower, simpler flat fares
  • more frequent services
  • requirements that will see councils set yearly targets for improving the reliability of services

To ensure the funding from the zero-emission-bus fund is used quickly to help provide British bus manufacturers with an injection of orders, the government is calling on consortia of local transport authorities, energy companies, bus operators and manufacturers to come together to work up strong cases for funding.

Bidders will have until 21 May, 2021 to submit expressions of interest for a fast-track process that will allow local transport authorities with proposals to move quickly in their bid to secure funding.

However, the government has said it wants all local authorities to have the opportunity to submit bids and, therefore, those who need more time to develop their proposals will have until 25 June, 2021 to submit expressions of interest.

“We’ve set out our vision of how we’re going to make buses better in this country and now we’re getting on with delivering it,” said Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.

“The launch of the scheme means we’re giving businesses and local authorities the tools to help deliver the 4,000 zero-emission buses we said we would introduce, which will dramatically improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, helping us achieve our net-zero ambitions.”

The national bus strategy contains several pledges to improve the environmental friendliness of the country’s bus sector. This includes a consultation on the end date for sales of diesel buses, which was launched alongside the strategy.

The announcement comes as Coventry recently received the first pot of funding from the all-electric bus towns and cities competition, giving the city GBP50m of funding to entirely replace its current fleet with electric buses.

It also coincides with the British government announcing more than GBP30m of funding to support pioneering research into battery technology, the electric vehicle supply chain and hydrogen vehicles.

Some 22 studies will receive a share of GBP9.4m, including:

  • proposals to build a plant in Cornwall that will extract lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries
  • a plant to build specialised magnets for electric vehicle motors in Cheshire
  • lightweight hydrogen storage for cars and vans in Loughborough