Typical. You wait ages for an electric bus… and for Brighton-based firm The Big Lemon they really did all come along at once.
That’s because the Community Interest Company, which was set up to offer affordable and sustainable public transport in the East Sussex seaside resort, recently managed to run a fully zero-emission electric bus service on all of its public bus routes in Brighton and Hove. And even if The Big Lemon is a relatively small force in public transport, it’s still an achievement worthy of celebration.
The Big Lemon was founded in 2006 by local residents eager to improve accessible public transport options in Brighton and Hove. It now runs six public bus routes in the region, as well as private shuttle buses and the Brighton Horizon coach hire service. Oh, and an EV hire service.
The company is working towards a 2030 vision that every community in the UK should have access to affordable, sustainable zero-emission public transport that is powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community.
The Big Lemon originally ran its buses powered on recycled waste cooking oil. It introduced the UK’s first solar-powered bus in 2017, and is currently converting its entire fleet of bright yellow buses to run on battery electric power. It’s even developing an EV Works site next to its depot in East Brighton, which it hopes can become a sustainable transport hub.
The company recently achieved a milestone with its ever-expanding fleet of electric buses, managing to run a full zero-emission electric bus service on every service on all six of its public bus routes – although it wasn’t a straightforward experience.
“We've been working towards this for a long time, and just as we thought we would be ready to achieve it this week, a spring snapped on one of the buses,” said Tom Druitt, the founder and CEO of The Big Lemon.
The firm had to source a new spring from its supplier in Ireland. Thankfully, it arrived in the post in the morning, with the engineers fixing the bus by lunchtime.
“That was perfect timing because the bus was then able to relieve other buses so they could have a top up charge, which would enable them to then continue for the rest of the day,” said Druitt. “So we swapped the buses over to give each one a chance to top up, and that kept the whole fleet going on pure electric until the end of the day. Even the staff ferry vehicle used for drivers' break reliefs was electric.”
The Big Lemon has another big event coming up: it’s a sponsor and partner of the London to Brighton Electric Vehicle Rally that takes place tomorrow (Saturday June 25), and will be hosting the award ceremony and after part at the University of Brighton’s Elm House venue.