The largest ever UK electric bus order outside of London includes the first major order for the new Wrightbus GB Kite
First Bus has placed one of UK’s largest electric bus orders with Wrightbus following successful bids with local authorities as part of the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme. The £81m order, totalling 193 buses, is the largest electric bus purchase outside of London so far and will see new zero-emission buses being rolled out across England from March 2023.
First Bus will invest £43m in the new vehicles and will be supported to complete its electric fleet project with a £38m grant from the Department for Transport (DfT). The operator has worked closely with five local authority partners to secure the funding, which helps to bridge the gap between the cost of a Euro VI diesel bus and the electric equivalent as well as the relevant infrastructure costs necessary to charge the vehicles.
The order comprises 20 88-seat StreetDeck Electroliner double-deck buses with 454kWh of battery capacity and 173 GB Kite Electroliner single-deck buses with 340kWh of battery capacity. 167 will be 11.6m versions with a capacity of up to 85 people, and the remaining six will be a 10.9m version with a capacity of 82.
The order will be split between:
- Leicester (68 buses) in partnership with Leicester City Council.
- York (44 buses) in partnership with City of York Council.
- Leeds (32 buses) in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
- Norwich (15 buses) in partnership with Norfolk County Council.
- Portsmouth (34 buses) in partnership with Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council.
Each regional project will be completed over the course of the next two years. When complete, First Bus will have over 500 electric buses in operation in what it describes as a huge leap forward towards its pledge of an entirely zero-emission fleet by 2035. As one of the UK’s largest bus operators, First Bus says it will also work with the Ballymena-based manufacturer to help upskill current and new engineers to help take its people on the decarbonisation journey as electric buses become more common across its fleets. This will allow First Bus and Wrightbus to create new green jobs, the operator said, as well as enhancing skillsets for existing staff.
First Bus Managing Director Janette Bell said: “We are absolutely delighted to place our largest ever zero-emission vehicle order and to do so with a UK manufacturer. Wrightbus has a really exciting product that we feel will enhance the customer experience at the same time as benefitting the environment.
“As leaders in sustainable mobility, we are fully aligned with the Government’s ambitions for a net-zero carbon transport system, including zero-emission bus fleets. We will continue to work closely with central and local government across the UK to support the delivery of our shared decarbonisation ambitions and commitments.”
Ben Werth, Chief Commercial Officer at Wrightbus, added: “This is another significant deal for Wrightbus – the largest zero emissions bus order outside of London – and we are delighted to once again be partnering with First Bus in the drive to zero-emission public transport. First Bus, like us, is consistently on the forefront of new and exciting technology and at the forefront of zero- and low-emission travel.
“All of the buses – the GB Kite Electroliner and the StreetDeck Electroliner, which is the world’s most efficient double decker battery-electric bus – will be manufactured and assembled at our Ballymena factory, which means support for jobs in Northern Ireland, and wider across the UK through our domestic supply chain.
“2022 has been a remarkable year for Wrightbus so far, as this deal comes after our recent, historic deals with the National Transport Authority (NTA) in Ireland, and in Australia and Germany. This latest deal with First Bus strengthens the reputation we have forged in the zero-emission transport sector and will help play an important part in the UK’s ambitions for decarbonisation.”
Transport Minister Baroness Vere commented: “It’s fantastic to see First Bus place the largest ever order of electric buses outside London, thanks to investment from our £270 million scheme. This marks a key stepping-stone towards our National Bus Strategy commitment of funding 4,000 zero-emission buses, as we decarbonise and level up transport across the country.
“Not only does it drive forward our journey to net zero, but will also support hundreds of green, high-skilled jobs in the UK.”