The Big Lemon announces plans for UK-first entirely electric bus network

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Brighton-based The Big Lemon has announced plans for the UK’s first all-electric bus route network.

After launching the UK’s first ‘solar-powered’ bus in 2017, the operator currently has three electric vehicles powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot at Black Rock. The electric buses are powered by a 138kW battery system and electric motors built by Magtec in Sheffield. They’re charged by a 21kWh solar array on the roof of the depot, and can travel for approximately 100 miles on one charge.

The Big Lemon won contracts last year to operate six routes in the city (the 16, 47, 52, 56, 57 and 66) and aims to be the first bus company in the UK to run its whole public bus network with electric vehicles.

Last year, the company won £0.5m funding from the Department for Transport as part of the Government’s Low Emission Bus Scheme to part-fund three brand new electric buses, and has since secured £114,000 from the Brighton & Hove City Council’s Clean Bus Fund grant to cover the cost of a Magtec retrofit of a fourth vehicle. It has now launched a bid to raise £405,000 to fund the rest of the cost. The three buses will be built by Optare and are expected to enter into service in the autumn.

To raise the funds, the operator is issuing Solar Bus Bonds to members of the public, offering a 5% return on a five year investment. Launching the plans, The Big Lemon challenged itself to see if Om Shanti, its first solar-powered bus, could complete the full length of each route on its network in service, with passengers, on the official timetable in a single day, without running out of charge. The vehicle successfully completed the challenge with 36% of its charge remaining.

Tom Druitt, founder and CEO, said: “The electric buses are really very good; quiet, comfortable and powerful on the hills, they have proved popular with drivers and passengers alike.

“We are committed to running all our Brighton & Hove bus services with electric buses by the end of the year to tackle the terrible air quality issues in the city, and are calling on members of the public to get involved.”

The operator is offering a three year bond at 4%, and a five year bond at 5%, each with a minimum investment of £100. Interest will be paid annually, and the buses will be offered as security on all investments.