Zero-emission power in each of the coach and bus sectors is to benefit from parts of a combined £54m public and private commitment to research and development funding.
Of that money, £31.9m will go to the Electric Powertrain Integration for Heavy Commercial Vehicles (EPIC) project in Cwmbran, South Wales. EPIC will be led by Meritor and the Department for Transport has stated that coaches are within its remit.
Meanwhile, Wrightbus will gain £11.2m for the Next Gen FCEV project. That will see the development and manufacture of low-cost hydrogen fuel cell-electric bus technology and the establishment of a hydrogen centre of excellence in Ballymena to further development of the technology and to drive sales worldwide.
EPIC aims to integrate the key elements of motor, inverter, gearbox, differential and brakes into a single lightweight system that will suit gross weights of up to 44,000kg. Meritor Vice President and Chief Technology Officer says that the resulting product will be “game changing” and that it will also enhance range and give “far greater application flexibility” over existing systems.
The Next Gen FCEV project will enable Wrightbus to produce higher volumes of hydrogen fuel cell-electric buses at a lower cost. The centre of excellence for hydrogen technology will permit upskilling and the sharing of knowledge.
Says Executive Chairman Jo Bamford: “The funding will allow us to realise our ambitions of creating a centre of excellence for zero-emission technology in Ballymena, enabling us to produce the next generation of world-leading hydrogen buses at a higher volume and a lower cost than ever before.
“It will safeguard more than 1,000 skilled jobs and will allow us to create more than 3,000 additional jobs over the next 10 years, giving a significant boost to the wider economy in Northern Ireland.”