Wrightbus launches Oxfordshire repower business

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Wrightbus has launched NewPower – a repower facility for diesel buses based at the former headquarters of Arrival, the ill-fated EV business.

NewPower aims to speed up the decarbonisation process by eradicating diesel powertrains in older fleets at a substantially lower price than a new battery-electric bus. It is focused on fitting its tailored electric drivetrain into Streetdeck buses, then tailoring it for Gemini 2, then New Route Master, with plans to then engineer solutions for other common buses, at around £1m per model.

Wrightbus has become the first OEM to offer a re-powering service, utilising the skills of its 1,800-strong workforce to swap diesel for electricity. Its technicians built the original buses and so have ‘unrivalled’ expertise in being able to swap powertrains. Each repower will cost around £200,000, representing a significant saving on a new battery-electric bus.

R-to-L: Jean-Marc Gales, Robert Best and Graham Hamlyn

It is hoped that operators with mid-life bus fleets but without the funding for new zero-emission buses can take advantage of the instant sustainability switch. The conversion – which utilises the Voith Electric Drive System (VEDS) coupled with Forsee Power Zen NMC battery packs and a Grayson HVAC system – can take as little as three weeks to complete and the new factory in Bicester has space for teams to work on six buses at any one time, offering the potential to decarbonise 500 buses a year. The new powertrain uses the existing diff and axle, and the components are mounted on a ‘powerskid’ subframe for easier installation.

Describing the process as ‘highly scaleable,’ Wrightbus CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, said that NewPower has already added to its team with senior hires from across the automotive world, including people who have worked for Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations, BMW and McLaren. Among them is Programme Developer Graham Hamlyn, who has vast experience of automotive.

“While we are selling new hydrogen and battery-electric buses all over the world there is a huge market of mid-life buses which, once converted, can have an immediate impact on helping to improve air quality in towns and cities up and down the UK,” said Jean-Marc Gales. “We have long been recognised as the world-leading manufacturer of both hydrogen and battery-electric buses and now NewPower will add another string to our bow.”

Creating 22 jobs – ten technicians and 12 office staff – the development of NewPower follows a record-breaking start to 2024 which has seen the Northern Ireland business named as the fastest-growing large manufacturer in the UK and the fastest-growing bus-maker in the whole of Europe. In addition, Wrightbus has created a new refurbishment facility just a short distance from NewPower, which will tackle any work needed on the repowered bus before it enters service.

“The Wrightbus business is growing very fast and I am really proud of what we have achieved over the last 12 months because every order, whether home or abroad, guarantees jobs back in Ballymena,” Jean-Marc explained.

“We are the number one zero-emissions bus maker in the UK. A year ago, we had 200 zero emission buses on the road. Today, we have over 700 and in the next year we will get to 1,700. No-one else comes close.”

Traditional buses consume an average 40,000 litres of diesel per year, so the improvements in air quality are immense. Zero-emission buses manufactured by Wrightbus have already travelled over 14 million miles, saving over 24,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.


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