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FEATURE: Growing demand for bus electrification draws major investment

11 December 2019 #Bus and Coach #Features & Interviews #News #TNB News

The drive towards greater electrification of the world’s public transport seems to gather pace by the day.

Barely a week goes by without another town, city or municipality somewhere in the world renewing their fleet to electric or alternatively fuelled buses.

And it’s with this booming worldwide market in mind that UK-based electrification company, Equipmake, this week opened a new, purpose-built factory in Snetterton, Norfolk.

The new state-of-the-art 1,500 sq ft facility will design and manufacture the company’s fully-integrated electric bus chassis and help it cope with a surge in international demand.

Equipmake Electric bus factory, Snetterton business Park, Norfolk.
Liz Truss with Managing Director Ian Foley.

The company has seen its order bank grow over the past two years, with more interest from overseas and changing buying patterns industry-wide, seeing it outgrow its former premises in nearby Hethel and increase its team from 15 to 52.

Equipmake’s innovative chassis allows any bus coachbuilder to become a full electric bus manufacturer virtually overnight.

It’s this adaptability that saw the EBus Chassis development programme attract £7.5 million of funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre. Involving multiple partners lead by Equipmake, the grant funding is designed to take the bus to production.

Equipmake has already entered the final testing phase of its single decker EBus platform, with UK-based performance and durability development set to finish at the end of the year.

In-service trials will then begin in Q1 2020 by Brazilian commercial vehicle manufacturer, Agrale, who will launch the electric bus first in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2021. Thanks to efficient management of its onboard heating and cooling system, the bus – a 12m single deck model capable of carrying 70 passengers – will have enough electric range for one day’s running without the need for charging. To charge the vehicle, the operator simply needs access to a standard three-phase supply, which will fully charge it in around five hours. Equipmake will begin double decker chassis trials later this year.

Speaking after the opening, Managing Director of Equipmake, Ian Foley said, “I am proud to open this facility and very grateful for the funding we have received from the UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre. It has supported us in the design and development of a highly innovative and in-demand product, showing that a relatively small company from Norfolk can become a global technology leader.”

Despite only being at an early stage in the process, the signs are good for Equipmake moving forward, highlighted by Ian Foley, “There is huge demand for clean, affordable electric buses with a worldwide market of around 300,000 vehicles per annum, and that is only growing as cities strive to improve urban air quality.

“Manufacture of the powertrain will scale dramatically over the next few years and our target is 700 EBus chassis for South America alone in the first year of production. That is why our new bespoke facility here in Snetterton is so important – it is crucial to fulfilling requirements from international customers for both single and double decker applications.”

Opening the new facility, Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, said, “I am delighted to open Equipmake’s new electric bus factory today. It’s fantastic to see world-leading technology produced here in Norfolk and the fact that these buses are being exported globally further underlines the depth of talent that exists along the A11 technology corridor.

“Equipmake is a shining example of an innovative engineering company. We are committed to increasing R&D tax credits to support ventures like this. I wish Equipmake every success for the future.”

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