Thursday 17 February 2022

Zenobē Signs 130 Electric Bus-Deal With National Express

In the UK’s largest single electric vehicle (EV) bus fleet transaction, battery management specialist Zenobē has signed an agreement to provide 130 double-decker electric buses to National Express for its operations in Coventry.

The partnership means Zenobē will be providing Electric Transportation as a Service (ETaaS) to National Express, creating a risk-free availability model for operators to help accelerate uptake.

It builds on the National Express’ February 2020 pledge to have a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2030 and  will support Coventry’s transition to become the UK’s first all-electric bus city and help the country drive towards its net-zero ambitions

The all-encompassing deal will see the UK firm provide everything from new vehicles to charging infrastructure, replacement batteries and spare parts.

The risk-free ETaaS model provides reliability and flexibility for the operator, removing the hassle of owning the electric vehicle fleet and allowing National Express to focus on driving improvements for new and existing customers, while maintaining the cheapest bus fares in England.

Similar ETaaS contracts are a well-established model for other sectors, including rail, aircraft and shipping, but Zenobē is now bringing the many benefits to e-bus operators.

In partnership with National Express, Zenobē will finance and manage the full turnkey solution that includes new vehicles, on-board battery replacement, charging and grid infrastructure, a second-life battery system at the depot, unique software to optimise charging, parts, and full operational support.

This deal involves over 130 double-deck e-buses, manufactured in Britain by Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) in partnership with BYD, enter service in Coventry from early 2023 as a part of the city’s successful bid to become the country’s first all-electric bus city and take it a huge step closer to replacing around 300 diesel vehicles by 2025.

The ETaaS model removes the risks and overcomes the barriers associated with electrification of fleet. The ground-breaking offering streamlines the process and makes it more economical to switch fleets to electric than ever before, representing a significant step towards National Express’s commitment to achieving a zero-emission bus fleet by 2030 and the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

With transport currently contributing 27 per cent of all UK emissions, the project will be encouraging local bus travel and reducing air pollution for Coventry and the wider West Midlands area.

The work builds on Zenobē’s existing partnership with National Express, previously providing charging infrastructure and batteries for electric buses in Coventry and Birmingham in 2020.

The project will be financed partly through the partnership between Zenobē and National Express, with some investment also coming from the £50 million grant from the Department of Transport, awarded to the West Midlands Combined Authority for Coventry’s all-electric bus city scheme, enabling the public purse to go further.

The project will be implemented in phases with infrastructure works beginning in May 2022 to January 2023, and the first vehicle deliveries arriving at Coventry early in 2023. All buses will be double-decker e-buses built in Britain by Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) in partnership with BYD.

The news was announced in a photo-call in Coventry with (pictured, above L-R) National Express Bus Managing Director David Bradford; West Midlands Mayor Andy Street; National Express Zero Emissions Operational Manager Agata Litwinowicz-Soltysiak; and Coventry City Council Cabinet member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change Cllr Jim O’Boyle.

Steven Meersman, Co-founder and Director of Zenobē, says: “This really is a globally important deal. We are incredibly excited to be leading the way for the electric bus industry, with ETaaS revolutionising the way fleets are electrified. By retaining ownership of the vehicles and taking on the risk of switching to zero-emission, we are giving National Express the use of an electric bus fleet without the hassle of owning one, making the transition to a zero-emission fleet more financially desirable.”

“We’re excited to use our new model to help many more operators and local authorities across the UK – and the world – transition to electric, and ultimately accelerate progress towards net zero and clean air.”

Tom Stables, CEO of National Express UK and Germany, said: “This ground-breaking partnership with Zenobe further demonstrates our leadership as National Express takes another significant step towards our fully zero emission bus fleet ambition.

“Through this pioneering new way of working, Zenobe’s innovative solution provides us with the reliability and flexibility we need to accelerate the roll-out of our greener, cleaner vehicles, while we focus on delivering an excellent service for the people of Coventry.

“Buses are already one of the cleanest ways to travel​. National Express is making it even cleaner, cheaper and easier, so our new and existing customers can relax knowing that they are doing their bit for the planet if they leave the car at home and travel by bus.”

Paul Davies, ADL President and Managing Director, says: “As the UK’s leading provider of electric buses we are delighted to be part of this ETaaS deal with partners Zenobē and National Express. This innovative model brings together government funding and business innovation to deliver an affordable way of rolling out zero emission bus fleets at scale. The country will further benefit from the choice of 130 British-built vehicles that ensure money is reinvested into the manufacturing sector and local communities.”

Frank Thorpe, Managing Director, BYD UK said: “The issue of climate change is one that requires immediate action. We believe that this arrangement is a positive, more viable way forward for many public transport operators to swiftly integrate and transition to zero-emission pure-electric bus solutions. National Express has first-hand experience operating BYD ADL eBuses, which utilise BYD’s pioneering battery and integrated electronic technology. With a longstanding knowledge of the UK market, BYD is especially proud to be involved in this project, which is setting a precedent for a new way of accelerating and financing eMobility for a better, greener world.”