A long-distance inter-city electric coach service is poised to start for the first time in the UK.
The operation, branded Ember, is to operate battery-electric Yutong TCe12 coaches on a Dundee-Edinburgh route from May 2020.
The company has been formed by Pierce Glennie and Keith Bradbury, who previously worked for iwoca, which develops technology for the financial services sector.
The Yutong TCe12 is supplied by Castleford-based Pelican Bus and Coach, and the first two for the UK have been delivered London-based Westway. In Paris over 70 equivalent Yutong electric coaches have been in operation for the last three years.
Mr Glennie says: “We are 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 coach 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 to be delivered in March 2020, with the second expected to be delivered in July.
The first route is planned to be launched in April 2020, ahead of full operation in May.
Adds Mr Glennie: “Pelican Bus and Coach have been very helpful. I have a lot of confidence in them.”
Ember will operate the coaches directly, and is applying for an operator licence.
The long-term plan is to expand the electric coach network across the rest of the UK and eventually Europe.
Mr Glennie says: “We researched the sectors before we formed Ember and I feel 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, which has 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 capital provided by the company founders.
Ember’s headquarters are in Edinburgh, with the operations base in Dundee.
“We’re building the future of public transport – fully electric and tech enabled. Our first step is developing a fully electric, intercity bus network. This will be the first in the UK and probably the world.
“We’ve already ordered our initial vehicles and are set to launch the Dundee to Edinburgh route in May 2020.
“Later, we’ll integrate “final mile” transport – bikes, scooters, taxis and more. The intention is to make the whole journey from A to B seamless.
“Ember is product led, with tech at the core. That’s in contrast to the legacy oligopoly in public transport – which tend to treat tech as something you buy, rather than build – and this is one of the key reasons we think we can succeed.”