Ember to trailblaze electric coaches

A long-distance inter-city electric coach service is set to go into operation for the first time in the UK.

The operation, entitled Ember, is to operate electric Yutong TCe12s on a route between Dundee and Edinburgh. The company was formed by Pierce Glennie and Keith Bradbury, who previously worked for iwoca, a company involved in developing technology to aid the financial services sector. They have left their previous roles to pursue the pioneering coach operation.

Pierce said: “We were very keen to do something that aided sustainability. It’s an important challenge. I see ourselves as a technology company and I see a huge role for technology to play in making transport work better.

“We focus on long-distance bus services. We wanted to cover routes of 100km to 200km, where there is a lot of demand from commuters and the day trip market. We had not seen any company apply electric coaches to that before. Most of the electric operations are in cities.”

The first of Ember’s Yutong TCe12 electric coaches are due to be delivered in March 2020, with the second expected to be delivered in July of that year. The operation’s first route is planned to be launched in the beginning of April next year. Pierce said: “Pelican Bus and Coach have been very helpful. I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Pierce and Keith are going through the process of operator licensing at the time of writing. They are also hiring people to take care of the technology side of the operation.

The long-term plan for Ember is to expand the electric coach network across the rest of the UK and eventually Europe.

Pierce said: “We researched the sectors before we formed Ember and I felt this sector has the technology to do this. The Yutong coaches really work. They have a big presence in China. At the same time, we didn’t see any of the big operators do this. Our view is to make this work you have to have a different approach. You have to schedule in the charging infrastructure; and if you are one of the big guys, this is a painful experience to go through.

“We have been working on our first charging point, a 120kW fast charger. We have been working with Dundee City Council, who have been very supportive in working through the utilities process. This is why we are launching in Scotland, because the regulatory process is ahead of England.”

The project has been funded through a mixture of finance on the vehicles themselves, along with Keith and Pierce’s savings.

Ember’s headquarters are in Edinburgh, with coach storage for the company set to be in Dundee.

As the service comes nearer to fruition, what is it like setting up this operation? “It’s a mixture of nerves and excitement,” said Pierce.

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