Arrival out of First’s ZEBRA plans as bus is ‘deferred’

Arrival bus work deferred by OEM

First Bus is no longer pursuing an order for Arrival battery-electric buses as part of its involvement with bids to the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme in England that have been allocated funding. The development came as Arrival confirmed that further investment in the bus platform has been “deferred” in favour of work on its battery-electric van as the manufacturer seeks further funding.

The Arrival bus has achieved European certification and is currently being used on-road to convey the OEM’s employees between sites. But in a statement issued alongside the announcement of its Q2 2022 financial results, Arrival says that “customer trials and investment in the bus microfactory will continue once the company secures additional capital.”

Founder and CEO Denis Sverdlov told a publicy-viewable webinar covering the Q2 results that Arrival has “made the strategic decision to focus on operating the business in a downscaled manner through at least 2023.” That will include a reduction in headcount. Mr Sverdlov adds that supply chain pressures are also in play. 

Arrival expects to deliver just 20 vehicles – all battery-electric vans – to customers in 2022 via a “slow and deliberate” ramp-up of production at its Bicester factory. Focus of resources initially on the van platform takes account of how the majority of Arrival’s order and memorandum of understanding volumes are for that vehicle.

Chairman Avinash Rugoobur says that despite further investment having been deferred, the Arrival bus “continues to be an important product for us as a business, and our relationship with First Bus remains strong.” However, Mr Rugoobur adds that “the whole organisation is currently focused on van.” 

The Arrival bus had formed part of at least four successful ZEBRA bids that involve First. 68 were expected for First Leicester, 44 for First York, 34 for First Hampshire and Dorset for use in Portsmouth and 32 for First West Yorkshire for routes in Leeds. 

A funded ZEBRA submission by Norfolk County Council that will see 15 battery-electric single-deckers enter service with First Eastern Counties in Norwich is also thought to have called for the Arrival product. routeone understands that no formal order has ever been placed by First with Arrival.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the group says that Arrival has confirmed with it that predicted timelines for its bus product no longer satisfy ZEBRA requirements. “As a result, we are unable to pursue the Arrival vehicle as an option for this order,” they add. Choice of a replacement will be communicated as soon as the group is able to do so. 

“We understand the role we have to play in operating and maintaining a variety of electric bus models and enabling change across the sector. This involves engaging with new bus suppliers to the market, such as Arrival, as well as working with our long-standing partners.” 

The group has underlined that it “remains keen to reignite the relationship once Arrival’s bus programme has resumed.” First Bus had initially expected to begin trials of the vehicle in autumn 2021. Arrival says that the model, which has 311kW/h of energy capacity, is up to 40% lighter than other existing battery-electric buses.