With the weather cooling and rain increasingly likely to ruin a walk onto campus, public transport is looking more and more appealing. But for the environmentally conscious student diesel-powered buses aren’t particularly attractive options. Impact’s Science editor Matthew Bird investigates the green options available.
Perhaps the most frequented buses by students are those operated by Nottingham City Transport (NCT). The 36 Orange Line buses go into the city centre, Lenton, and around the outskirts of University Park and into Beeston and Chilwell. This makes the bus ideal for students getting into town.
This makes the air around the buses more pleasant and healthier to breathe
The 36 bus route is powered by bio-gas buses, which are far more sustainable than diesel-powered buses. Bio-gas comes from food, agricultural, and sewage waste. These are broken down by bacteria in a process called anaerobic digestion. The bacteria release methane which is captured and transformed into a fuel for the buses. What remains of the waste can then be used as fertiliser.
The methane used as a bio-gas generates CO2 when used as a fuel in the buses. But methane itself is a far more potent greenhouse gas. By capturing and using it, rather than letting it be released into the atmosphere by the natural decomposition of the waste, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions is reduced.
Overall using bio-gas is more efficient than using diesel and results in an 84% CO2 reduction. Another benefit is the methane burns more cleanly than diesel which means there are fewer particulates that come out of the bus tail pipe. This makes the air around the buses more pleasant and healthier to breathe.
Nottingham has the largest bio-gas bus fleet in the world
NCT have more bio-gas buses than just the Orange 36 line. The Pink line amongst others have also been converted. In fact, Nottingham has the largest bio-gas bus fleet in the world. The full list can be found here. You can identify which buses are bio-gas powered by the logo on the side on the bus (a green circle with a G and a leaf in the middle). One of the bio-gas powered buses is shown in the featured image at the top of the page.
CT4N operate many bus routes around Nottingham including Medilink, Centrelink, and Locallink lines. Excitingly many of the buses on these routes are fully electric. To work out if the bus is electric, look out for the electric branding on the buses like in the photo below. Nottingham’s electric bus fleet is one of the largest in the world.
Not only do these electric buses help save the planet, they can also save you money. Buses on the Medilink and L12 lines are completely free for students. Just show the driver your student card. The Medilink buses go between the QMC and City Hospital campuses. The L12 goes from University Park East Drive to City Hospital via Jubilee Campus. More information on the routes can be found on the University website.
An electric bus’s total emissions are only as clean as the source of electricity that powers it
The main benefit of electric buses comes from the significantly improved air quality. Given that there are no tail pipe emissions, the buses eliminate carbon, and NOx emissions. Of course, an electric bus’ total emissions are only as clean as the source of electricity that powers it. The UK electricity grid has a significant contribution from renewable energy. I recommend GridWatch if you want to see how much of the UK’s electricity generation is from renewables at any given moment now or in the past.
If Nottingham is famous for anything transport-related it is its tram network. The network is as extensive as any student could need it to be. It reaches into Beeston, Lenton, and the City Centre and has several stops near key parts on the University Park campus.
Trams run on light-rail and have electric lines overheard for the entirety of its length. An arm protrudes from the top of the tram to connect it to the lines. Like the electric buses, the trams are as clean as the electricity network, but benefit from massive local air quality improvements.
The smoothness of a tram journey compared to a bus ride is noticeable, especially when compared to non-electric buses. There is very little stop-start with a tram as the traffic tends to bend to its whim rather than the other way around.
All these sustainable transport options are part of Nottingham’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2028. If it achieves this, it will be the first UK city to do so. The more students who utilise these sustainable options instead of the diesel-based alternatives the more the bus companies and council will see that this is important to us.
With 48 million bus journeys and 18 million tram journeys in Nottingham in 2017/18, it is clear public transport is massively popular. Let’s hope Nottingham continues to invest in sustainable options for us all to use.
All images taken by Matthew Bird and used with permission.
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