Zero Emission Bus 2023: throwback on the event

Zero Emission Bus 2023

The fifth edition of the Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) Conference, held in Brussels alongside Busworld Europe 2023, came to an end 2 weeks ago. And it’s time to take stock of the event. Organised by ERM and Busworld Foundation, ZEB 2023 focused on technologies capable of being deployed at scale to decarbonise public transport with zero tailpipe emission solutions; i.e. battery electric buses, fuel cell electric buses, and the associated recharging and refuelling infrastructure.

The Zero Emission Bus Conference 2023, which was held over four days (9th-12th October 2023), featured more than 75 speakers including European politicians, bus and coach operators, key associations, and OEMs leading the transition to zero emission. Topics included financing options, total cost of ownership and economics of ZEBs, technical requirements of operating and maintaining ZEB fleets, and the emerging zero emission coach market.

Key takeaways from Zero Emission Bus 2023


2023 was a landmark year for ZEBs in Europe, with sales of electric buses surpassing those of diesel buses for the first time (1/3 of market). However, Europe still lags behind China, where 97% of city buses sold in 2022 were zero emission (compared to 24% in the EU in the same year.

Many capital cities in Europe have committed to phasing out the use of diesel buses, with targets to have 100% zero emission fleets by between 2025 and 2035. Bus OEMs (such as Safra) are responding to this clear signal of intent by developing a greater range of zero emission products and in some cases committing to offer only zero emission solutions from certain dates.

Technology & performance

Regarding buses technology and performance, we learnt that fuel consumption was improved (values down to 6.5 kg/100 km for some buses). There was a consensus that there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to ZEBs. For instance, a Californian operator found a transition to battery electric would require a fleet expansion of 50% (choosing FCBs instead), whereas an operator in Amsterdam has found one-for-one replacements sufficient.


The real challenges (read our article) lie in bus infrastructure. More fuel supply and HRS* are needed and package solutions seems an adequate solution given they remove risk from operators.

As for cost, fuel cell buses currently have a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than battery electric buses. However, it seems that with both scaling-up and access to low-cost renewable energy for hydrogen production, the TCO could reach parity with battery electric buses. Long-term fuel supply contracts can also encourage both low and predictable fuel costs for operators by providing demand certainty for suppliers. 

Last word about the Zero Emission Bus Conference

The hydrogen fuel cell technology may be well-suited to zero-emission coaches due to their additional requirements, such as the need for longer ranges, fast refuelling times, and ample luggage space for passengers. However, for interurban applications with shorter range, battery electric powertrains may be the better option. Both solutions need to be developed in parallel and decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

*HRS: Hydrogen Refuelling Stations

Do you want to know more about the hydrogen buses manufacturers who came to the event? Then our previous article should interest you.

If you liked it, share it

About the author

Picture of Logan King

Logan King

After an unusual career (3 years in the French army followed by a 3-year degree in Applied Foreign Languages), it was my passion for environmental issues that finally caught up with me and led me to join Seiya Consulting and H2 Today in June 2022. First as an end-of-study internship, then as Marketing & Communication Manager and translator at Hydrogen Today.

Our latest articles

interactive world map