Transport start-up Ember has worked with Triodos Bank UK to secure new lending as part of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). A £490,000 loan has helped the company to purchase two all-electric coaches for its first route between Dundee and Edinburgh.
Launching in October, this will be the UK’s first 100% electric intercity coach service and is understood to be one of the first services of its kind in the world. The new coaches, the second of which has been delivered this week, will make the 125-mile roundtrip between Dundee and Edinburgh on a single charge.
The journey is set to take just over 90 minutes one way and will allow residents and tourists to enjoy eco- and user-friendly intercity travel on a route that is currently underserved. Bookings can be made online and travellers will be able to track the bus in real-time using an app on their phones.
The finance from Triodos Bank UK, one of Europe’s leading sustainable banks, is allowing the company to launch with two coaches, rather than one, giving Ember the opportunity to run a more frequent service from launch.
Ember accessed its funding through CBILS, which was set up by the government to provide financial support to SMEs while offering lenders a government-backed guarantee. The company met the necessary criteria in that it is a viable UK business that has been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Ember was expecting delivery of its first vehicle in March, but due to the global pandemic, the delivery was set back by six months as the supply chain was disrupted.
Ember, which was incorporated in June 2019, aims to use this initial two-coach pilot to prove that the technology, operational capacity and demand for electric coach travel is viable. It plans to open up further routes in the future and continue to be a trailblazer in the sector.
The launch has been supported by Dundee City Council from the outset, as part of its mission to decarbonise transport in the city. It has assisted in providing a brand new ultra-fast charging point in the city centre, allowing Ember to charge its coaches efficiently when they are turned around.
Pierce Glennie, co-founder at Ember, said: “Being able to partner with Triodos Bank has given us the confidence to accelerate our plans to provide modern, fully-electric coach services. Building our technology from the ground up means we are optimising everything around a fully electric fleet, allowing us to offer lower prices and a better service, all with zero emissions. We’re hoping to give passengers a taste of the future and show them that unreliable, shaky coaches are a thing of the past.”
Philip Bazin, environment team manager at Triodos Bank UK, said: “To be a part of such a pioneering project is of great excitement to the bank. Supporting the transition to a low carbon economy is a fundamental objective for us as a lender, and Ember is a brilliant example of an organisation taking advantage of the latest technology to offer customers high-quality, environmentally sound transport options.
“Working with Ember really embodies why we became accredited with CBILS. We knew that we were well placed to offer finance to values-based organisations that had been affected by Covid-19 and the scheme provides us with an opportunity to work with new impactful customers, who may have never crossed our path previously.”
Cllr Mark Flynn, convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee, said: “I am delighted that Dundee should again be chosen by industry pioneers as the place to pilot another first-in-class development in electric vehicle use. The new charging infrastructure recently installed in the city allows their vision of a large passenger-carrying vehicle travelling more than 100 miles on a single charge to become a reality, and I can’t wait to see the service up and running later in the year.”