An electric future comes a step closer for Brighton & Hove

Ten days into our fundraising campaign The Big Lemon is halfway to its target of £100,000 for our first electric bus – what will be the first fully electric bus in Brighton & Hove.

As reported in the Brighton & Hove Independent last week, and on Latest TV just yesterday, The Big Lemon is in the middle of a campaign to raise money to buy electric buses to help address air quality in Brighton & Hove and trial new technology to enable us to develop even greener, cleaner bus services.


This will be a huge investment for us, as each electric bus costs approximately twice as much as the equivalent diesel vehicle:

What do we need to get our first electric bus? Cost
Electric bus £233,803
‘Slow’ charger for overnight charging £2,440
‘Fast’ charger for topping up the charge £23,111
Total £259,354

The response from the public has been incredible, with over £50,000 pledged in just ten days!  This is half of what we need for our first electric bus, and together with some of our own money and a government grant, we are hoping to be able to raise what we need by the end of February, so we can have the bus on the road in September:

Where is the money coming from? Target
Bond issue £100,000
Government grant for the bus £108,865
Government grant for the charging infrastructure £19,163
Company funds £31,326
Total £259,354

Tom Druitt, Managing Director, said

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support – it’s been overwhelming. It’s really happening now, and to raise that much money in such a short time shows us that people are keen to see this technology in Brighton & Hove.  We have £50,000 left to raise, so I’d like to ask everyone to spread the word, check behind your sofas and take advantage of what is a fantastic investment opportunity”

Andrew Boag, from Brighton Area Buswatch said

“Brighton Area Buswatch welcomes this bid which will make a significant contribution to improving air quality in the city”
To find out more please visit

An electric future for The Big Lemon

Since our launch in 2007 over a million passenger journeys have been made on The Big Lemon and we have used over half a million litres of waste cooking oil and saved 900 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the process.

In 2016 our aim is to take it to the next level and run bus services on electricity from renewable sources. No emissions, no carbon footprint.

Why isn’t everyone doing this already?!

Sadly the main reason is it simply costs too much to buy the buses – as the technology is still young it costs roughly twice as much for an electric bus as it would for a diesel bus.

In today’s money that’s roughly a quarter of a million pounds.

An Electric Bus similar to what we hope to operate in Brighton & Hove
An Electric Bus similar to what we hope to operate in Brighton & Hove

How going electric will help our city and our environment

Brighton & Hove City Council’s 2015 Air Quality Action Plan priorities improvements in roadside NOx levels and welcomes initiatives to reduce NOx emissions from buses.

The Big Lemon’s routes include North Street (B2066) which is one of the busiest routes in the UK with nearly all (97%) of the cities bus routes passing along this road. North Street to Western Road has the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in Sussex and currently exceeds the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Western Road NOx Emissions
Based on Variable Tailpipe Emissions of NOx on the B2066 Western Road by traffic type

The reduction of emissions from buses along this route is a priority in tackling air pollution in the city. Although The Big Lemon uses sustainably sourced fuel from waste cooking oils, our current fleet of biodiesel buses produce relatively high levels of NOx. Replacing these buses with electric vehicles would reduce the NOx emissions (as well as particulate matter, CO2 and everything else!) to zero.

Just look at the emissions we could save from converting from biodiesel to electric:

 Per Bus Carbon monoxide (CO) Hydrocarbons (HC) Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Particulates (PM)
Annual emissions (biodiesel) 836 kg 314 kg 1,419 kg 81 kg
Annual emissions (electric) 0 0 0 0
Saving over 10 years 8,360 kg 3,140 kg 14,190 kg 810 kg

Will you help us make Brighton & Hove a healthier city?

We’ve applied for a government grant to help us raise the money to buy three of these buses, but in order to get our first one we need to raise £100,000 ourselves.  We have therefore released 1000 community bonds at £100 each to enable us to reach that target.

Tom Druitt, founder of the Big Lemon Bus Company, a fleet of yellow buses that run on recycled cooking oil and offer cheap fares on routes dominated by students. Brighton, Sussex, England. Photo: Alec Kingham, M & Y Media
Managing Director, Tom Druitt, said “Sustainability has always been at the heart of our business model. The Big Lemon is owned by members of the community and we are asking local people to get on board and invest in this project, to improve air quality in the city and make a healthy profit on your investment at the same time”

Our offer to you:

We are offering 1000 two-year fixed rate £100 community bonds at an interest rate of 6% per annum.  In plain English that means that if you invest £100 today, in two years’ time we’ll give you £112.36 – guaranteed.

Better than the Banks

Currently Moneysupermarket’s featured ‘market-leading’ savings product is a two-year fixed rate cash ISA which earns 2% AER.  Invest with us and your money money will be working three times as hard for you, as well as working hard for the local community too!


No investment is 100% secure, and even the biggest banks can fail.  Having said that, bonds are one of the safest investments, because they are not tied to performance, so as long as the business doesn’t go out of business (and we’ve no intention of doing that!) you get the agreed return on your investment.

The Big Lemon has been growing steadily over the last few years, consistently improving its performance and resilience year on year. The following table shows the last four years’ financial performance, with each year better than the one before, and last year being our best yet!

2012  2013 2014 2015 (Draft)
Total Income £391,340 £530,195 £616,873 £654,564
Cost of Sales  £295,996 £442,984 £473,436 £481,937
Gross Profit £95,344 £87,211 £143,437 £172,627
Overheads £90,690 £80,513 £103,413 £101,656
Profit £4,654 £6,698 £40,024 £70,971


The Big Lemon is offering a fantastic investment opportunity, with much better rates than savings accounts and ISAs, a lot less hassle than property, and much less risk than the stock market.  With our community bonds you get the best of all worlds: a great rate, incredibly low risk, and no hassle at all.

Investment per bond £100
Period 2 Years
Return on investment  6% pa
Total amount returned to you after two years (per bond) £112.36
Closing date for applications 29 February 2016

Any Questions?

If you have any questions please put them in the comments box below and we will answer them, then both question and answer will be visible to help others.

I’m in, what do I do now?

If you’d like to invest in The Big Lemon please complete the following:

Upon receipt of your form we will send you an invoice for your bonds with payment information.  We will reserve your bonds for seven days. Upon receipt of your funds we will issue a bond certificate within 14 days. 

The Big Lemon does not accept investments from companies, only from individuals.  We reserve the right to refuse investments and we do not need to give a reason. Maximum investment per person £40,000. The Big Lemon does not give financial advice and you are advised to seek independent financial advice on your investments. 

Christmas Timetable

The Big Lemon will be running the 52 bus service throughout the Christmas Holiday period except on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Monday 28th December and New Year’s Day.

City College bus services and University of Brighton bus services are not running during the holiday period; both will start again on Monday 4th January 2016.

The Big Lemon in the snow outside Brighton's Royal Pavilion
The Big Lemon in the snow outside Brighton’s Royal Pavilion

We would like to thank all our passengers and friends for your support this year and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bus & Coach Drivers Wanted!

falmer bus 2
The Big Lemon is looking for full time and part time bus & coach drivers to start immediately.

The Big Lemon has a reputation for friendly personal service and we always look for the most cheerful friendly drivers to drive our buses!

We have a variety of positions available for full time and part-time work, both on local bus services and private coach hire. Drivers must be over 25 years of age with two years driving experience. A manual PCV licence is essential.
We have opportunities for immediate start – if you’re interested please download a Microsoft Word application form and email it to us here.

‘Key’ Cards and Mobile Tickets Now Accepted on Big Lemon Buses

multiticketing small

It’s here – a real mulit-operator ticketing system is now in use on Brighton & Hove’s buses with The Big Lemon, Compass Bus and Brighton & Hove Buses now sharing the same system. This enables passengers to use mobile tickets, ‘key cards’ and paper tickets interchangeably on all three companies’ buses.

Until now, smartcard tickets, known as The Key, used on Brighton & Hove Bus Company services, could not be accepted by other firms. It meant anyone who needed to make a journey involving more than one company had to buy tickets from different sources.

From 3rd August 2015 the new multi operator ticketing scheme has been available on service 52 run by The Big Lemon and on all Compass Buses operating on the Brighton & Hove network.
They can be bought online at or at Brighton & Hove Buses’ North Street shop. M-Tickets bought and displayed on mobile phones via an app will also be accepted across the three companies. More information at

The move has been made possible by a £71,000 grant the council won from the Department for Transport, plus resources from Brighton & Hove Buses and their parent company Go Ahead.

The project has funded computing changes to integrate the services, plus installation of card-readers on buses run by Compass Travel and The Big Lemon.

The companies provide supported bus services, subsidised by the council, which would otherwise not be commercially viable. The three-year pilot scheme will cover Compass Travel services 37, 37B, 47 56, 57, 16 and 66, plus service 52 operated by The Big Lemon.

As well as winning the grant and facilitating the project, the city council is also contributing £27,000 towards set-up costs, with bus companies meeting the running costs.

Smartcards can be topped up online or at Brighton & Hove Buses’ North Street shop, providing tickets ranging from single journeys to one-year seasons.

If successful the council’s multi-operator scheme could be extended to all operators of bus services in the city.

Chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee Cllr Gill Mitchell said: “This makes cross-city bus travel much more practical. It could increase travel on routes which have to be subsidised and make them increasingly viable.

“This has been a very positive exercise, with the council assisting co-operation between our different bus companies for the benefit of the travelling public.”

Nick Hill, Head of Commercial Development, Brighton & Hove Buses, said: “We are delighted to have been able to help make this project a reality as it makes it even more attractive for people to use the bus in the city. It will make bus travel easier and cheaper for thousands of people using the council-supported routes in the city by giving them the same access to a smart card as everyone else in the city. This scheme is an example of great partnership work within Brighton and Hove.”

Chris Chatfield Managing Director, Compass Travel (Sussex) Limited said: “Compass Bus is pleased to be fully involved in this joint initiative for smart bus ticketing in Brighton. This will make local bus travel cheaper and easier and give seamless journey opportunities on one ticket.”

Neil Morgan, Director of Operations at The Big Lemon said: “This is something The Big Lemon has been very keen on for a long time as it will make passengers lives much simpler and easier, and also enable more passengers to benefit from cheaper fares. It’s been wonderful working together with other bus operators and the city council to make this happen and we look forward to the day when all bus operators in the city are included.”

Supported services mainly run to outlying areas east of the city as far as Saltdean and to Hangleton, Knoll and Portslade in the west. They cover routes or times that are socially important but not commercially viable.

New Vacancy for a PCV Engineer in Brighton

551 in the workshop

The Big Lemon is an award-winning bus and coach operator based in Brighton. We operate two local public bus services using vehicles which we run on biodiesel from recycled cooking oil. Our current fleet is as follows, although this is subject to change:

  • Three Volvo B10M 49/53 seat coaches
  • Three Dennis Mini Pointer Darts, 29 seats
  • Three Mercedes Midibuses, 25-29 seats
  • One VW LT46 minibus 16 seats

This position is a full-time post of 37.5 hours per week working principally between the hours of 0730-1530 Monday to Friday although some flexibility will be required to meet the operational needs of the company.

Reporting to the Director of Operations, the post holder shall be responsible for the maintenance of The Big Lemon’s fleet of vehicles. The post has no line management responsibilities initially but this may change as the workshop expands. The post holder will need to work unsupervised and be able to meet operational deadlines. The post holder will need to be flexible, quick-thinking and able to adapt to fast-changing operational circumstances whilst maintaining the highest quality of work. Immediate start.


  • £12 – £15 per hour depending on level of experience/whether you have your own tools.
  • 28 days paid holiday per annum.
  • The company will also be offering a workplace pension in the near future in accordance with current legislation.
  • Person Specification


  • As a minimum 1 years apprenticeship experience and hold either a City and Guilds or NVQ level 2 or 3 accreditation. Exceptions can be time served experienced engineers with verifiable references.
  • A full manual PCV licence attained not less than two years ago
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines while maintaining a high standard of work and a friendly disposition
  • The ability to work well in a team environment and work with management and drivers to provide the highest levels of service to our customers
  • To be available out of hours for emergencies
  • Non-essential but desirable

    • Own tools
    • To be familiar with Microsoft Office programs and web browsers.
    • Driver CPC certificate

    Responsibilities & Tasks

    1. Presentation for MOT & other statutory testing: to prepare and present all vehicles for annual MOT tests and any other statutory tests as required.
    2. Preventative maintenance : to carry out routine inspections on all vehicles according to stipulated inspection frequencies and carry out fault diagnostics and repairs as necessary
    3. Running repairs: to carry out repairs to vehicles as and when required to ensure roadworthiness of the fleet at all times and enable vehicles to be off the road for the absolute minimum amount of time.
    4. Stocks & Spares: to maintain stocks of workshop consumables as required and order spare parts as necessary in accordance with company policies and procedures.
    5. Breakdowns: to operate a rapid response service to all fleet vehicles in the event of a breakdown and arrange replacement and recovery of defective vehicles as required.
    6. Driving: to be available for bus driving at short notice at any time within your hours of work in the event of sickness or absence of other members of staff.
    7. Records: to keep full records in accordance with the company’s policies, procedures and statutory obligations and ensure these are available for inspection by company managers or VOSA inspectors at any time
    8. Workshop: to keep the workshop clean and tidy and maintain it as a safe working environment
    9. Health & Safety: to maintain awareness of relevant health & safety legislation, undertake risk assessment as necessary and ensure compliance with all relevant policies, procedures and legislation.
    10. Training: to attend all relevant mandatory training including external courses required for the job role
    11. To undertake all other reasonable tasks as directed by company managers.

    There will be on-going training and personal development opportunities for the right candidate.

    Applying for the role:

    If you are interested in this position please email your CV with a covering letter for the attention of Neil Morgan, Director of Operations, to

    Please outline clearly how closely you meet each aspect of the person specification, and identify relevant experience in all aspects of the job description.

    If you’d like to discuss this role further please call 01273 681681 and ask for Neil Morgan or Tom Druitt.