Vantage Power aims to radically reduce emissions and fuel consumption in heavy-duty vehicles

The transport sector contributes nearly a quarter of all global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and two factors in particular are giving cause for concern: the need to reduce CO2 emissions to mitigate the global problem of climate change, and the need to reduce local air pollution to avoid causing health problems.

The longlist for the 2018 UK Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities includes four businesses taking a range of different approaches to solving these two problems.

While it would be ideal all bus operators switched to electric buses immediately, the cost of doing this is prohibitive, especially for smaller operators, so it is pleasing to see one of this year’s applicants – Vantage Power Ltd - offering a way to convert existing buses to hybrid operation. This significantly reduces both CO2 emissions and pollution, while allowing existing vehicles to be used for much longer and thus postponing the embedded energy costs of manufacturing new vehicles.

The long-term future of transport is seen to be electric though, and Chargemaster Plc has been responsible for a significant portion of the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. It has also created a charging network for drivers to use as they travel around and a centre where potential EV buyers can try out a range of vehicles from a variety of manufacturers without pressure from a salesperson.

One of ITM Power's hydrogen fuelling stations

Batteries are not the only way to power EVs though, hydrogen fuel cells are also an option, and another of our applicants, ITM Power Plc, has been creating hydrogen fuelling stations that use electrolysis to generate and store hydrogen on site, ready for dispensing to vehicles. 

This process can be powered by renewable electricity, producing a fuel that is zero-carbon and zero-pollution at the point of use, and potentially providing balancing services to the national or local grid by absorbing excess renewable energy generation.

Our fourth longlisted applicant, Donkey Republic, makes it easy for small independent operators to set up a bike rental business as a franchise – it provides remotely controlled bike locks, a smartphone app for renting bikes and handles all of the payments. By making bike rental a viable business in small towns as well as large cities, this applicant is making it possible for people to arrive by bus or train and then easily rent a bike for the ‘last mile’ of the journey.

The organisations shortlisted for our 2018 UK Award for Clean Air In Towns and Cities will be announced on 14 March.  The Awards Ceremony takes place on Thursday 14 June at the Royal Geographical Society in London.  Get your ticket here.