A new environmentally friendly Wrightbus is set for the streets of London as the city's famous red Routemasters turn green.
The hydrogen-fuelled vehicle from the Ballymena bus builder was unveiled by London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the Zero Emission Bus Conference and Summit in London yesterday.
The vehicle features a new form of hydrogen fuel cell technology that will be used on single and double-deck buses from next year.
At least 20 new hydrogen buses are to be delivered as part of a £10m part-EU funded project supporting hydrogen technology. Transport for London (TfL) will provide at least £5m in funding.
Mr Khan's father was a bus driver in the city, and yesterday he said there would be no more pure diesel double-deckers added to TfL's fleet of buses from 2018.
He also explained that all new single-decker buses used in London city centre would be zero-emission.
The Mayor said: "I want London to become a world leader in hydrogen and electric bus technology.
"I'm implementing hard-hitting measures to clean up London's toxic air and it's great that more cities are getting on board to phase out the procurement of pure diesel buses which sends a clear signal that only the cleanest technologies are wanted in our cities.
"Transforming London's bus fleet by accelerating the introduction of zero-emission buses is important, and I plan to work with bus manufacturers, other cities, the European Commission and the C40 Climate Change Leadership Group of Cities to move this agenda forward."
Wrights Group co-founder and director William Wright added: "Wrightbus is a company where innovation and technology is at the core of everything we do, and we have led the way in the practical development of clean vehicle technology in buses.
"This vehicle joins the recently launched StreetAir EV and brings an interesting new dimension to zero-emission bus technology, offering transport operators a responsible choice to help address the world's environmental challenges."
Mark Nodder, Wrights Group chairman and chief executive, said: "This exciting new zero-emissions driveline technology, developed with support from our partner, Advanced Propulsion Centre UK, is the pinnacle of our ongoing work to deliver highly innovative buses with the best possible fuel consumption and environmental credentials that are supported throughout a long and productive operational life."
Wrightbus has 1,800 employees in Ballymena and recently announced the purchase of the former JTI Gallaher's site in the town as part of a major expansion. Its deal to build buses for London has been its most high-profile contract in recent years. The buses were first ordered by Sadiq Khan's predecessor, Boris Johnson.
While campaigning to become Mayor earlier this year, the Labour Party's Mr Khan said he would introduce a moratorium on buying new Routemaster vehicles and would commit to buying only electric, hydrogen or "truly hybrid" buses by the end of 2020 in a bid to improve the city's air quality.
Boris Johnson visited Ballymena in February this year - while still London mayor - where he confirmed an order for another 195 Routemasters from Wrightbus, bringing the total to 1,000.
Wrights Group is one of Northern Ireland's biggest spenders on research and development, which has contributed to its position as a market leader in the production of hybrid and hydrogen-fuelled buses.
The William Wright Technology Centre was established at Queen's University as part of its School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. It was named after the Wrights Group co-founder, honouring his efforts to cut fossil fuel usage through his buses.