BALLYMENA manufacturer Wrightbus has been awarded £12.7 million in government and industry funding to develop battery-electric and fuel cell-powered buses.
The move will support 883 jobs over the next decade and save 3.4 million tonnes of Co2 from being emitted.
Wrightbus is getting a share of more than £77 million in new funding (£38.4m from government, backed by a further £38.7m from the automobile industry) under projects to develop clean transport technologies and zero-emission vehicles.
Its latest project will see the company produce a new, market-leading platform for battery and fuel cell electric driven buses, for while demand is growing for zero-emission vehicles, there are currently few options available for heavy, multi-axle vehicles like large buses.
Partners with Wrightbus on this particular project include Queen's University Belfast, Grayson Automotive, Hutchinson, and Translink.
The work builds on efforts already under way at its headquarters plan to lead the way on clean automotive technology, with the company having recently announced plans for a multi-million pound green hydrogen production facility.
The firm's executive chairman Jo Bamford said: “When I took over the company, I was clear about my ambitions for it, both in terms of contributing to the UK’s plans for net zero and in terms of supporting the British economy.
“Last year was our most successful year to date, but we have always said that we will continue to drive forward with our zero-emissions vision and our ‘NextGenZEBs’ project is evidence of that.”
A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson?said: “Zero-emission cars, vans, buses and taxis are increasingly common, but this cutting-edge work is going to mean clean, green vehicles designed and built in the UK can increasingly take on the toughest jobs too, from life-saving emergency services, to haulage and public transport.
“Our automotive industry keeps setting the pace globally and seizing the potential of new technologies. This multi-million-pound boost will help them stay ahead of international competition, while delivering on our priority to grow the economy and support high-quality jobs.”
The funding has been awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) collaborative research and development programme, in support of ambitions to build an end-to-end supply chain for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the UK.