Wrights wins lion’s share of First order
Volvo, historically a major supplier to First, wins just six coaches which will be bodied by Plaxton. Alexander Dennis will supply 37 Enviro200s and 60 Enviro400s. The order also includes six electric buses, Optare Versa EVs, as well as 15 diesel-powered Solos, meaning that all but six of the total order of 425 will be manufactured in the UK.
This is our biggest order on record for services entirely outside London,” says Giles Fearnley, managing director, First UK Bus. “We operate in 40 of the UK’s largest towns and cities and our investment will help support the communities we serve.”
Significantly, all of the diesel buses will be powered by Euro 5 engines and are therefore due for delivery before the end of 2014 to take advantage of the National Small Series Individual Type Approval that is being deployed by all three UK-based manufacturers. This has allowed ADL, Wrightbus and Optare to continue to offer Euro 5 vehicles despite the fact that the European introduction date for Euro 6 was 1 January 2014.
A spokesperson for First says that the company has yet to conduct extensive trials with Euro 6 vehicles.
In its 2013 order First favoured lighter weight vehicles and that trend has continued this year, and added to the decision to delay adopting Euro 6, has lead to the predominantly Wrightbus/ADL mix of the order. However, last year ADL took nearly half the order with 222 vehicles to Wrightbus’ 179; this year the position has been reversed with Wrightbus gaining three times as many vehicles, although the values of the respective orders are closer given that ADL has won the double-deck order.
One of the reasons for Wrightbus’ success in the 2014 order is its Micro Hybrid technology, which captures energy recovered from braking to use in powering electrical ancilliaries, thereby contributing to fuel economy improvements of more than 10 per cent. In terms of cost, the Micro Hybrid compares very favourably to a full diesel-electric drive. Wrightbus has estimated the additional cost of the Micro Hybrid at around £6-9,000, compared to around £100,000 for a full diesel-electric hybrid bus.
“Our groundbreaking partnership with Wrightbus will deliver unsurpassed levels of fuel efficiency, which, until recently, few within the bus industry would have believed possible,” says Fearnley. “In 2013 we laid down the gauntlet to bus manufacturers to work with us to minimise fuel consumption. Wrightbus embraced that challenge and together we’ve developed its StreetLite Micro Hybrid product.
“I am immensely proud of our collective achievements and we’re very much looking forward to being the first operator to take delivery of these revolutionary new vehicles.”
Group managing director of Wrights Group Mark Nodder adds: “When Giles Fearnley challenged us to develop a bus which was not only attractive and reliable, but which lead the industry in fuel efficiency, we grasped the opportunity with both hands. With the encouragement and support of First's engineering team we brainstormed and trialled a host of innovative ideas before settling on the system now embodied in the StreetLite Micro Hybrid.
“The result for Wrightbus has been this excellent new order, and for First a fuel savings dividend from a fleet of brilliant new buses."
The First order for 425 vehicles is valued at around £70million and all buses will feature wi-fi and E-Leather seats.
First vehicle order 2014/15
ADL - 27 Enviro 200s
ADL - 60 Enviro 400s
Optare - 15 Solos
Optare - 6 Versa EVs
Volvo/Plaxton - 6 coaches
Wrightbus - 274 StreetLite Micro Hybrids
Wrightbus - 27 StreetLites