“We believe battery-electric will be the dominant solution at least in the short-term, but it’s horses for courses, which is why we offer a range of powertrains,” said Davies.
“However, the industry needs the government’s help, not only in terms of subsidies, which we can’t just rely on, but also in giving people the confidence to return to buses.”
However, Bamford is clear in his view that, rather than BEVs, the buses those people return to must be hydrogen-powered. Before his takeover, Wrightbus was facing an uncertain future, with no electric-only bus in its range. Now it has launched its first hydrogen fuel-cell double-decker, with a single-decker to follow later in the year.
Bamford is a hydrogen advocate who, with a separate business called Ryse Hydrogen that provides storage, pumping infrastructure and finance for the fuel, plus another that produces it using renewable energy generated by an offshore windfarm, believes hydrogen’s time has come.
“The UK is too late to battery production but, with our climate, we can lead the way with hydrogen,” said Bamford. “The fuel is much better suited to buses operating beyond city centres and although, like battery-electric buses, hydrogen fuel cell buses are around twice as expensive as diesel ones, if someone were to place an order for 3000 of them [around 10% of the UK’s bus fleet], we would get our price down to diesel bus levels.”
You wait for one dirty old diesel bus and then a fleet of super-clean electrified ones arrive all at once. Now all they need is the government, passengers, operators and councils to get on board…