First Bus partners with Equipmake to upgrade York’s electric vehicle (EV) fleet

First Bus is partnering with Equipmake to repower 12 of the operator’s first-generation electric buses in York. Leading electrification specialist, Equipmake will convert the 12 First York electric Optare Versa buses using its pioneering electric drivetrain at the company’s base in Snetterton, Norfolk.

Equipmake expects each converted bus to have a range of 150 miles (241km) in all UK weather conditions, thanks to a larger battery and a patented HVAC system. These will extend the life of existing zero-emissions public transport for the people of York.

Both single-deckers, such as the Versa, and double-deckers, can be repurposed to incorporate Equipmake’s unique, scalable, modular Zero Emission Drivetrain (ZED).

Equipmake repowers are tailored to specific requirements provided by the operator, with service routes simulated to ensure the optimum battery power level is selected to secure driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles (241-402km). This range is more than sufficient for a complete duty cycle, allowing buses to be recharged faster, overnight and operate for longer during the day.

Equipmake’s repower programme has both environmental and cost benefits. Each conversion costs less than half the cost of a new electric bus, with most buses in service for 14 years or more, operators can make significant savings by repowering a bus halfway through its usable life. 

Work is already underway on the first Versa conversion, and following the successful trial, 11 more buses will be repowered over the coming months. Delivery of the first vehicle is scheduled for November this year. 

Ian Foley, Equipmake CEO, said:“Repowered buses represent a fantastic opportunity for operators to help accelerate the much-needed transition to sustainable mobility. 

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“Together with our new electric bus, the Jewel E, this technology can facilitate a significant reduction in air pollution across the country.

“We are delighted that First Bus has chosen to implement our pioneering technology in 12 of the buses in its York Park & Ride fleet. This is great news for passengers and for the people of York, who can look forward to cleaner air in their city.

“This agreement reflects the strong demand we are seeing for our products, which has, in turn, driven plans to expand our facility, creating 180 jobs, bringing the total number of staff employed at Equipmake to 255.”

As one of the UK’s largest bus operators, First Bus has pledged to operate a full zero emission fleet by 2035.

Garry Birmingham, First Bus Director for Decarbonisation, said:“First Bus has repeatedly demonstrated its ambition to provide zero-emission transport in the local communities that we operate in.

“The retrofitting of our older electric buses is another great example of how we can maximise the lifespan of a bus, beyond 15 years, and in addition, significantly reduce the embodied carbon associated with manufacturing new vehicles. 

“This is an extension of our Zero Emission Mission 2035 target, in support of our wider commitment to setting ambitious science-based targets to achieve Net Zero Emissions.

“These 12 repowered buses use a clever and cost-effective technology, which underlines our commitment to offering sustainable transport solutions. Nationally, First Bus is committed to delivering our zero-emission fleet goal, and First York’s partnership with Equipmake is a great example of how we can achieve this ambition.”

First Bus recently announced it had placed an £81 million order, one of the UK’s largest ever electric vehicle (EV) bus orders, with Wrightbus. The order, totalling 193 buses, is the largest EV bus purchase outside of London. 

This will see new zero emission buses being rolled out across England from March 2023. First Bus will invest £43 million in the new vehicles and will be supported to complete the electric fleet project with a £38 million grant from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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