First Bus x Wrightbus ZEBRA

First Bus places one of UK’s largest ever EV bus orders with UK manufacturer Wrightbus following DfT ZEBRA funding award

  • Largest ever UK EV bus order outside of London
  • UK-built buses will secure green jobs in the UK
  • Includes introduction of world’s most efficient double-decker buses
  • A total investment of £81m in new Zero Emission vehicles to support bus services across England split between First Bus and the Department for Transport.

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 the following 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.
  • 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. It means that First Bus will have over 500 EV buses in operation in what is a huge leap forward towards their pledge of an entirely zero emission fleet by 2035.

The new EV buses will be fully built in Northern Ireland at the Wrightbus facility in Ballymena in a significant boost for the UK economy and the manufacturing sector.

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

As one of the UK’s largest bus operators, First Bus will also work with the Ballymena-based bus builder to help upskill current and new engineers alike to help take their people on this decarbonisation journey with them. This will allow First Bus and Wrightbus to create new green jobs, as well as enhancing skillsets for existing staff.

Janette Bell, MD First Bus UK

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 have 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.

“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.”

Baroness Vere driving bus

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 £270 million 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.”


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 Wrightbus

Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, builds the world’s lightest bus chassis and has developed the world’s first double-decker hydrogen bus. Owned by Jo Bamford, who bought the business in 2019, Wrightbus is at the vanguard of the zero-emission bus movement. The first hydrogen buses are in operation in Aberdeen and London, with more local authorities looking to introduce them to their fleet over the coming years. 

Useful Electric bus facts: 

  • Wrightbus’ StreetDeck Electroliner BEV is the world’s most efficient double deck electric bus, following assessments undertaken at the UTAC test facility using the Zemo-accredited Ultra Low Emission Bus (ULEB) test. According to ULEB calculations, the Electroliner also produces 86% less CO2per km than the Zemo Euro VI diesel baseline. The StreetDeck and GB Kite share the same electrical architecture with high component commonality, reducing depot parts inventories and costs.

  • Zero emission: Both the GB Kite Electroliner BEVs and the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV release zero emissions, meaning improved air quality in cities.
  • Fast charging times: Both buses have best in class rapid charging times of just 2.5 hours. The GB Kite can travel up to 250 miles on full charging, while the StreetDeck Electroliner travels up to 200 miles on full charge.
  • UK-made buses: Both models are proudly made in Northern Ireland and this order will create manufacturing jobs well in to 2024. The Wrightbus Electroliner buses contain 98% UK/EU sourced components and suppliers in 47 counties are involved.
  • Healthier communities: These zero-emission buses support community members’ personal wellbeing and release no exhaust pollutants that can harm respiratory and cardiovascular health.
  • Combatting climate changeThese clean buses will play a major role in reducing First Bus’ tail pipe emissions and overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. By replacing diesel buses, with this zero emission bus order, it will save  approx 11,745 tonnes CO2e tailpipe emissions per annum (193 vehicles) - that is the equivalent of the carbon emissions from 5,555 diesel cars currently on our roads.

Technical info:

20 StreetDeck Electroliner double decker buses, 454kWh spec. Electroliner ER (Extended Range) with 88 seat capacity*

173 GB Kite Electroliner single deck buses, 340kWh spec. Electroliner SR (Standard Range) (167 are 11.6meter with 85 person capacity* and 6 are 10.9meter with 82 person capacity*.

*Can vary depending on operator’s configuration

For interview opportunities, please contact;

First Bus: 

Graeme Lafferty, External Communications Manager for First Bus UK or 07970507432

Potential interviewees;

  • First Bus UK COO Andrew Jarvis
  • First Bus Chief Sustainability Officer, Isabel McAllister
  • First West Yorkshire Bus Driver (based at Hunslet Depot in Leeds on difference EV makes to their daily lives)
  • First West Yorkshire Engineer (recently learned to service EV vehicles when used to working on diesel buses)


Naomi Penrose, Wrightbus Account Manager at Nathan Rous PR

Potential Interviewees;

  • Ben Werth, CCO @ Wrightbus (Manufacturing jobs perspective)