Oxford continues charge to net zero with launch of new fully electric buses

BROOKESbus electric vehicles

The city of Oxford’s ambitious drive to achieve net zero by 2040 has been boosted with the official launch of new electric BROOKESbuses.

The fully electric double decker buses were unveiled by the university’s transportation partners Oxford Bus Company, at an event at Oxford Brookes University’s Headington Campus on Thursday 16 November.

The new all-electric buses, which are owned and run by Oxford Bus Company, will replace the existing fleet of diesel buses and will prevent up to an estimated 850 tonnes of CO2 emissions being released into Oxford per year. On a full charge of power, they can travel up to 300 miles.

The new BROOKESbus fleet is Oxford’s first ever electric bus service and consists of 21 buses, the largest electric fleet in the Higher Education sector. The new buses are expected to be in service by the end of the year, and will benefit not only students and staff, but the local community and visitors to the city.

All of the energy used to charge the buses will be from renewable sources, and a full charge of a bus will take approximately three and a half hours. As electric buses are much quieter than diesel buses, the new buses will emit an artificial sound while travelling at low speeds for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. 

Speaking at the event, Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes, said: “The launch of these new, fully electric BROOKESbuses is an important step towards our ambition of delivering net zero by 2040, something we know is very important to our students, staff and wider community. We are also very proud that these new buses will be charged from renewable sources. 

“We recognise the critical role that the BROOKESbus service plays for students, staff and the city’s community and visitors. In 2022, for instance, we amalgamated the service with some of Oxford’s local Park and Ride Services and provided a much-needed bus route from Blackbird Leys to the University. 

“We know the impact of the cost of living on students’ lives. That is why I am particularly excited that this new cleaner bus service offers free journeys for the vast majority of our students.”

Luke Marion, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “It’s fantastic to see the first BROOKESbus branded electric vehicles arrive as part of our exciting journey towards delivering an all-electric fleet of city buses. Oxford Brookes University is equally committed to using innovation to enhance sustainability and we’re proud to deliver this milestone for our community via our long-standing partnership.

“Our investment in net zero vehicles and the associated infrastructure will further help improve air quality and make bus travel an even more sustainable option for Brookes students, staff, and the wider public to travel around Oxford.”

The new fleet of buses have been manufactured by Wrightbus, based in Northern Ireland. 
Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Wrightbus, said: “We are delighted to be working with Oxford Brookes and the Oxford Bus Company in their commitment to offering zero-emission public transport in the city and can’t wait to see even more of our buses in operation.”

BROOKESbus’ proud history in Oxford

The BROOKESbus service has been operational in Oxford since 2009. Between 2010 and 2022 an estimated 23.5 million people used the service to travel within the city. This has saved an estimated 1.5 million car journeys each year, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 15 million kilograms.

Along with Oxford Bus Company, Oxford Brookes is a member of the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership, which is committed to working with the Government to adopt clean and sustainable energy in Oxford and across the UK.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management, said: "I'm proud and thrilled that the county council is backing its ambitions with political and financial capital, alongside our partners, to deliver a safer, cleaner, greener, better county for residents and visitors.

“The BROOKESbuses are the first vehicles in a fleet of 159 new battery electric buses to arrive in Oxfordshire, thanks to an £83.8m deal. In 2022 Oxfordshire County Council was awarded £32.8m from the government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.

“Along with £6m from the council itself and £45m from bus companies the Go-Ahead Group and Stagecoach, the scheme will deliver the electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them.

“Together with policies such as traffic filters to hugely increase bus efficiency, we are delivering on our vision of a better future. This is an exciting and important moment for us all."

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Planning and Healthier Communities, Oxford City Council, said: “It is fantastic news that Oxford's first ZEBRA-funded electric buses have now arrived on the streets of Oxford. This is a significant moment for our city as we move closer towards a citywide zero-emission bus network.

"Not only do buses provide a vital service for travelling around Oxford - especially for the 30 per cent of Oxford residents who do not own a car - but electric buses are helping to improve our air quality and therefore the health of our residents. I am looking forward to seeing these new Brookes buses out on Oxford’s roads and serving our local communities. I hope that these new buses will help to make bus travel an attractive option for everyone."

More information on Oxford Brookes’ commitment to sustainability can be read on the University website.