Ballymena-based manufacturer Wrightbus has signed a deal to build 60 buses for a German operator.
It will supply the single-deck hydrogen fuel cell buses to the city of Cologne and will be the first large-scale production of left-hand drives to the European market since a takeover of the company in 2019.
Bus operator Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK) will receive the Kite Hydroliner vehicles over the next two years. RVK has the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell EV buses in Europe, according to Wrightbus. It follows another recent deal to build two hydrogen power train cells for Australian bus body builder Volgren.
Wrightbus executive chairman Jo Bamford said: “This deal is a significant one for us in many ways. Not only is it our first European order since I took over, but it’s also our second international deal in quick succession and it shows that Wrightbus has a huge part to play on the global stage.
“RVK already has a substantial hydrogen fleet, so for them to order from Wrightbus and recognise us as a leader in the sector is hugely gratifying and a testament to the reputation we’ve built up in the zero-emission sector.
“The recent appointment of our dedicated European chief commercial officer, Jean-Luc Deflandre, highlights our desire to grow in the market, and we’re hoping this order marks the start of the roll-out of many left-hand drive zero-emission buses in cities across Europe and beyond in the coming years.”
Mr Bamford said the deal was another boost for manufacturing in Northern Ireland.
“All of the RVK buses will be built in Ballymena, lending further support to the wider regional economy and allowing us to create green jobs as we continue in our growth,” he added.
The first vehicles will be delivered next year, with the remainder due in 2024, Wrightbus said. RVK first introduced hydrogen buses in 2011 and currently has 52.
RVK managing director Dr Marcel Frank said: “We have currently received federal funding to expand our hydrogen bus fleet by 2025. The combination of the most economical offer with a robust service concept is the reason why we placed the order with Wrightbus.“
Wrightbus was bought over by Mr Bamford in 2019 after the company went into administration.