First Bus

First Bus has placed one of UK’s largest electric vehicle (EV) bus orders with UK manufacturer Wrightbus, following successful bids with local authorities as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme.

The £81m order, totalling 193 buses, is the largest EV bus purchase outside of London 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 the electric fleet project with a £38m grant from the DfT.

First Bus 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 EV equivalent as well as the relevant infrastructure costs necessary to charge the vehicles.

The order will be split between five areas:

  • 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; and
  • Portsmouth (34 Buses) in partnership with Portsmouth City Council & Hampshire County Council.

Each regional project will be completed over the course of the next two years, and means that First Bus will have more than 500 EV buses in operation.

This latest partnership between First Bus and Wrightbus comes following the rollout of the world’s first double-decker hydrogen buses in Aberdeen in 2020.

First Bus UK 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, said: “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 BEV and the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV, 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 NI, and wider across the UK through our domestic supply chain.

“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 said: “It’s fantastic to see First Bus place the largest ever order of electric buses outside London, thanks to investment from our £270m scheme.

“This marks a key stepping-stone towards our National Bus Strategy commitment of funding 4,000 zero-emissions 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.”