FirstGroup is to pursue the electrification of “tens of thousands” of buses in its First Student and First Transit fleet in North America through a framework agreement with NextEra Energy Resources. The project will target both battery- and hydrogen fuel cell-electric power.
Buses used on both public and school transport services are set to transition to zero-emission under the plans. The businesses are now working towards a joint venture that will “foster innovation and accelerate the mass adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” they say. NextEra Energy Resources is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from wind and solar power.
In the school bus market, increasing stakeholder demand for emission-free operation and low vehicle utilisation and predictable schedules are driving a move towards zero-emission power. First Student’s 43,000 yellow school buses represent the largest single fleet of such vehicles in North America.
The North American transit bus market is “equally anticipating a shift to electric vehicles,” the two businesses add.
FirstGroup Chief Executive Matthew Gregory says that NextEra Energy Resources is a “world-class partner” for the delivery of the electrification plans.
Also part of the project is the development of ‘early mover’ capability in vehicle-to-grid power management, energy storage and ancillary grid services markets. Such actions “have the potential to make a significant contribution to long-term sustainable clean energy transition in North America,” FirstGroup and NextEra Energy Resources say.
FirstGroup has confirmed that the electrification development does not impact its ongoing efforts to divest First Student and First Transit. “This announcement is a good opportunity for our businesses and an initiative that they should take up now, regardless of future ownership structure,” says a spokesperson.
“We continue to progress our plans to rationalise the Group’s portfolio. With respect to the divestment of First Student and First Transit, we are in discussions with a number of credible potential buyers who have a long-term perspective, which we are exploring and evaluating.”