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First Bus partners with Equipmake to upgrade York EV Fleet

  • First Bus have awarded a contract to fully convert 12 Optare Versa buses from existing EV Generation one system to Equipmake’s Zero Emission Drivetrain (ZED)
  • Conversion work underway on the first Versa bus at Equipmake’s headquarters in Snetterton, Norfolk
  • The first of the 12 buses is expected to be back in operation on the roads of York in November
  • Equipmake’s patented HVAC system will have a guaranteed range of 150 miles in all UK weather conditions for the upgraded York fleet

First Bus is partnering with Equipmake Holdings plc (Equipmake), to repower 12 of the operator’s first-generation electric buses in York.

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

Leading electrification specialist, Equipmake has been awarded a contract to 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 in all UK weather conditions, thanks to a larger battery and a patented HVAC system, extending 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. 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.

First York buses being repowered by Equipmake 2

Equipmake’s repower programme has both environmental and cost benefits, with each conversion costing 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, with delivery of the first vehicle scheduled for November this year.

Garry Birmingham, Director for Decarbonisation at First Bus, 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 really clever and cost-effective technology, which underlines our commitment to offer 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.”

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

First Bus played a key role in helping to establish the York Park & Ride scheme, one of the most extensive in the UK. It offers affordable transportation into the city centre from six different parking locations, with buses carrying around 50,000 people every day and is already the biggest zero-emission Park & Ride operation in the country.


Notes to editors

About First Bus

First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators. Making journeys easier for our customers, we were the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all of our services and our First Bus App is voted ‘best in class’ amongst UK bus operators. Our most recent investments are in new, state-of-the-art buses across our key networks.

We work proactively with our local authority partners, making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion and improving customer experience. We are focused on First Bus becoming a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future and are committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035; we have pledged not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. We also operate the Aircoach network in Ireland.

First Bus is a division of FirstGroup.

About Equipmake


Equipmake has more than 20 years’ experience developing and integrating industry-leading innovative electric powertrains. It provides the complete solution. Not only is Equipmake a leader in ultra-high performance electric motors, but also complete EV drivetrains and ultra-fast power electronic systems. As well as developing proprietary technology – such as an ultra-compact, lightweight high performance spoke motor – it also offers industry-leading EV consultancy too.

Managing Director Ian Foley is a highly-experienced engineer who has worked in global motorsport at the highest level – from Le Mans to F1 – and Equipmake’s small team of expert engineers can take a project from initial specifications through modelling, simulation, design, prototyping, testing and then production in industry-leading timescales. Using this expertise, Equipmake has developed a range of products for use in a wide variety of projects, including Ariel’s HIPERCAR high-performance range-extended electric sports car.