Wrightbus entering electric market with £5.5m venture
Ballymena's Wrightbus is investing £5.5m to develop and build an electric zero-emission vehicle, it has emerged.
The firm will develop the new vehicle for "international markets, and to train and upskill staff".
Invest NI has offered the Co Antrim company over £1.4m towards its research and development activities and to support Wrightbus' investment in skills and training.
Mark Nodder, chairman and chief executive of The Wrights Group, said the investment "marks an exciting new stage in the future direction of the business".
"Our ambition is to grow as a world-class designer and manufacturer of public transport vehicles and, in the process, evolve into a major international supplier to the worldwide bus market.
"Invest NI's support with our research and development and training activities is enabling us to scale our business at the optimum pace to grow our customer base in international markets.
"UK, Asian and European Union markets present significant commercial opportunities for the introduction of electric vehicles and we want to be able to offer these prospective customers a complete suite of vehicles with this technology."
Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "The Wrights Group is an internationally renowned advanced engineering business and a significant employer in Co Antrim.
"Zero emission vehicle development is now a major area of interest within the transport industry and Wrightbus is at the forefront of this technology.
"Its progressive R&D and skills projects, supported by Invest NI, will support the company's export ambitions and ensure it is positioned to compete for the expected increase in global demand for electric vehicles."
Earlier this year it was revealed Wrightbus could be in line for a deal to sell hundreds of new buses to London in the next five years, after the sale of its current Routemasters comes to an end.
The company is to complete a total order for 1,000 of the Routemaster buses to Transport for London (TfL).
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said he expects Wrights Group "to be well-placed to successfully win a considerable part of ongoing London bus contracts, as they come forward over the next three years".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan had already pledged to stop buying pure diesel buses from 2018, instead favouring using more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Meanwhile, just last month, transport giant Stagecoach, based in Scotland, said it was ordering 27 buses from Wrightbus, part of a larger £70m deal for 340 buses and coaches.