Ballymena-based Wrightbus has signed a deal with an Australian counterpart to build its hydrogen-powered buses.
The company, owned by JCB heir Jo Bamford, said it expects the initial trial of just two vehicles to lead to a host of orders to replace “tens of thousands” of buses in the region over the next decade.
Wrightbus will build and export its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain technology to Australia where bus body builder Volgren will manufacture two zero-emission hydrogen single deck buses.
The Ballymena company described the tie-up as the “first European-Australian hydrogen combination in the country” and expects the first buses to be ready for trial in the first few months of 2023.
“This is the first time we’ve exported our powertrain technology to a bus body manufacturer, the first time we’ve entered the Australian market as a business, and the hydrogen buses will be the first of their kind to be built in Australia so this is a significant deal for everyone involved,” Wrightbus CEO Buta Atwal said.
“We know from our extensive experience the significant part hydrogen can play in the decarbonisation of public transport and we believe the scope for uptake across the Australian market is huge as the country makes the vital switch to zero-emission vehicles. We’re excited to be in from the start.”
The news comes as Wrightbus makes further inroads into the low and zero emission world of public transport.
Last week its rapid-charge StreetDeck Electroliner was officially named the most efficient double deck battery-electric bus in the world by vehicle testing organisation UTAC.
It has also proved the concept of hydrogen-powered bus travel after announcing that its zero-emission hydrogen double deckers have notched up one million miles since first entering service in 2020 in Aberdeen.
In addition to the Aberdeen fleet, the company’s zero emission hydrogen buses are currently in operation in London, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast, with several other local authorities looking to introduce them to their town and city streets to improve local air quality.
It said demand has increased sharply, with output from its Ballymena factory set to double this year compared to 2021. A total of 70% of all vehicles leaving the factory will be zero emission models in 2022 – up from just 30% in 2021.
The focus on reducing bus emissions has been driven by owner Jo Bamford since he bought the business from administration in October 2019.
Since then, the company said staff numbers have jumped from 56 to more than 900.