First Bus has placed an order with Wrightbus for 193 battery-electric vehicles as the fruits of successful Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) bids in partnership with five local authorities in England.
The deal is worth £81m and it is for 173 GB Kite Electroliner BEV single-deckers and 20 StreetDeck Electroliner double-deckers. Once complete, it will leave First Bus with over 500 zero-emission buses, helped also by heavy investment in Scotland, and represents “a huge leap” towards the operator’s pledge to have an entirely emission-free fleet by 2035.
The 193 vehicles will be split between the following areas:
- Leeds: 32
- Leicester: 68
- Norwich: 15
- Portsmouth: 34
- York: 44.
The StreetDeck Electroliners will have 454kW/h of battery capacity. The GB Kite Electroliners will have 340kW/h. Of those, 167 are to be 11.6m models and six will be 10.9m.
Choice of Wrightbus follows the end to earlier plans for First Bus to work with manufacturer Arrival on deliveries via ZEBRA bids that have already been funded. The ZEBRA money helps to bridge the gap between the price of a comparable diesel bus and its zero-emission equivalent, and it also goes towards the cost of infrastructure to charge the vehicles.
First Bus says that each regional project will be completed over the next two years. All the 193 buses will be built in Ballymena. The two parties will also work together to upskill engineers with First Bus. “This will allow First Bus and Wrightbus to create new green jobs as well as enhancing skillsets for existing staff,” the operator says.
Speaking about the deal, First Bus Managing Director Janette Bell says: “We are absolutely delighted to place our largest 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.”
Wrightbus Chief Commercial Officer Ben Werth adds: “This is another significant deal for Wrightbus – the largest zero-emission bus order outside London – and we are delighted to once again be partnering with First Bus in the drive to zero-emission public transport.
“This latest deal with First Bus strengthens the reputation we have forged in the zero-emission transport sector and it will help play an important part in the UK’s ambition for decarbonisation.”