FirstGroup partners with Hitachi to buy 1,000 electric bus batteries

Transport operator FirstGroup is partnering with auto firm Hitachi to buy up to 1,000 electric bus batteries, valued at around £100 million.

Over the next year, FirstGroup will deploy 400 of the batteries, with the remaining 600 to be put into use within the following 24 months.

The new partnership – called NextGen AssetCo – includes an agreement for a further 5,000 batteries to be issued beyond 2026, as part of the decarbonisation programme for the entire First Bus fleet.

Both companies will be putting £20 million into the deal, as part of FirstGroup’s infrastructure decarbonisation programme.

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FirstGroup chief executive Graham Sutherland said the pioneering alliance with Hitachi was a “major strategic partnership for the group” as it progresses towards the “ambitious” 2035 decarbonisation target for its bus fleet.

“[The partnership] will allow us to continue the electrification of our fleet and depots with increased efficiency and greater visibility of our financial commitment, and unlike other possible arrangements, we will retain much of the residual value in the batteries as they are taken off our buses,” he commented.

“Looking ahead, we are also excited about the possibilities for future value creation as Hitachi ZeroCarbon delivers market leading decarbonisation solutions to transport operators worldwide, leveraging our joint experience.”

Hitachi executive chief president Alistair Dormer added: “I’m delighted we’ve successfully grown our existing relationship with FirstGroup, which will further add to our decarbonisation experience and combined learnings, in developing solutions for transport operators globally.”

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