BALLYMENA bus manufacturer Wrightbus has landed its first major deal in the EU since being bought out of administration by Jo Bamford.
Cologne-based Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK) has ordered a fleet of up to 60 hydrogen-powered Kite Hydroliner single deck buses over the next two years.
Wrightbus said the German order said it will be the first integral left-hand drive vehicles the company will make and export in the Bamford era.
It comes just one week after the Ballymena business announced a deal with Australian bus body builder Volgren to supply hydrogen power trains.
Wrightbus said it potentially opens up a significant export market in the country.
But the German deal is also significant for the company in breaking into the European market.
RVK already has the largest fleet of hydrogen Fuel Cell EV (electric vehicle) buses in Europe.
“This deal is a significant one for us in many ways,” said Mr Bamford. “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 described it as another boost for manufacturing in Northern Ireland.
The son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, the entrepreneur bought Wrightbus out of administration in October 2019,
Focusing on lower emission vehicles and hydrogen in particular, the company has grown its workforce from 56 to more than 900 in under three years.
Wrightbbus said zero-emission vehicles will make up 70 per cent of its production lines this year.
“All of the RVK buses will be built in Ballymena,” added Mr Bamford. “Lending further support to the wider regional economy and allowing us to create green jobs as we continue in our growth.”
Commenting on the Wrightbus order, 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."