Ember is building the future of public transport – fully electric and tech focused. The company has a mission to deliver a zero emission and zero traffic world.
Ember are developing a fully electric, intercity bus network. The company is now running the UK’s only electric coach services on two routes from Dundee to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The goal is to make the whole journey, from A to B, seamless. Ember is product led, with tech in their DNA. That’s in contrast to the legacy providers which tend to treat software as something you buy, rather than build.
MOVE caught up with Keith Bradbury Co-Founder at Ember. Within this interview, Keith touches on the company’s intercity bus network and the electrification of public transport.
Q: For those who don’t know tell us about Ember and what you do
At Ember we’re building the future of intercity transport – fully electric and tech enabled. Our goal is to replace the private car with a better alternative which makes your whole journey, from A to B, seamless. We currently run a network of intercity bus routes in Scotland, and we’re in the process of growing this into a national network across the UK.
Ember is product led, with tech in our DNA. That’s in contrast to the legacy providers which tend to treat software as something you buy, rather than build. We also have a relentless customer focus – our background was as bus users, not bus operators, so we have a good idea of the pain points.
Q: What makes Ember’s intercity bus network so unique?
We’re the only bus operator truly built from electrification-out, and we’re the only company in Europe running fully-electric vehicles on intercity trips of this distance. In fact, our buses are the highest utilisation EV’s in commercial operation anywhere in the world, with each bus covering 1000km per day.
Our technology-first mindset also means we have a unique view on the entire passenger experience, from booking all the way through to journey completion. We’ve built innovative features for passengers which simply aren’t available to other operators, and these allow us to deliver the best possible service to customers.
One example of this is our demand-responsive stops. We’re able to dynamically route our services to call only at the stops where we have bookings, thereby speeding up the end-to-end journey time, versus a traditional service which has to divert off the motorway at every stop even if there’s nobody waiting. This relies on feeding real-time data from our booking system directly to the vehicle and the driver’s console via our in-house technology stack. Tech-led innovations like this set Ember apart from traditional operators.
Q: If you had to pick one, what is the most influential factor driving the adoption of electric public transport?
The electrification of public transport is absolutely vital when you consider the climate emergency, and there’s real support for this transition from every level of society.
The true challenge though, and what we see as an opportunity for Ember, is to achieve modal shift from cars. Our aim is to deliver a service for passengers
which is genuinely better than using a car. Frequent departures, comfortable vehicles, onboard amenities, flexible tickets, and value-focused pricing are all individual aspects of this, and it’s only when all of these come together successfully that your product becomes a truly attractive alternative to the private car.
The great thing is that using electric vehicles actually enables some of these improvements – for example, our buses are more comfortable partly because they don’t have a diesel engine causing vibrations and rattles. Nevertheless, it’s very clear to us that electrification alone isn’t a silver bullet. You have to focus on all aspects of the passenger experience – both on and off the bus – to create a service which is genuinely attractive to users, and this is really what we’re achieving at Ember.
Q: What can we expect to see from Ember in the next 12-18 months?
We’ll be taking delivery of new vehicles in the next 12-18 months, and we’ll use these to launch new routes all across. Our target is to build a comprehensive national network across the UK in the next three years. We’ll also be continuing to iterate and improve other aspects of the Ember experience so that passengers can get the best experience for their entire journey.
Q: What can we expect to hear from you at MOVE 2023?
You’ll have to come and listen, but trust me, it will be mind-blowing stuff.
Q: What are you excited for about the event?
I’m always excited to introduce Ember and our approach to new audiences, and to talk to people whose experiences resonate with our mission to replace cars with attractive, electrified public transport. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of like-minded people at MOVE 2023, so I’m delighted to be attending as a speaker.