First Bus has signed an agreement for 193 electric buses with Northern Ireland-based manufacturer Wrightbus.

The £81m order, which will be rolled out across England from March 2023, follows successful bids with local authorities as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding scheme.

First Bus will invest £43m in the new vehicles supported by a £38m grant from the DfT.

The areas receiving the buses are: Leicester (68); York (44); Leeds (32); Norwich (15) and Portsmouth (34) and each project will be completed within the next two years.

It means First Bus will have more than 500 EV buses in service as it moves towards its aim of having an entirely zero emission fleet by 2035.

All the buses – the GB Kite Electroliner BEV and the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV – will be manufactured and assembled at the company’s factory in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

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.

“2022 has been a remarkable year for Wrightbus so far, as this deal comes after our recent, historic deals with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Australia and Germany.

“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.”


  1. While the transition to battery powered heavy transport is welcomed, this will add a further strain on the National Grid to supply the power needed to recharge them, but First Bus probably has no alternative as an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations to power hydrogen powered buses, is not available. Hydrogen-electric buses are usually a better alternative for a heavy vehicle as the energy supply of hydrogen-battery system, in terms of weight per kWh is greater than pure battery, so you don’t have a greater weight of battery only to haul around. And a hydrogen-battery vehicle can be refilled as quickly as a diesel powered one, eliminating the need for a powerful electric charging point for each bus.


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