The Big Lemon’s first electric bus “Om Shanti” last weekend drove our entire public bus service route network in service with passengers, running all the routes to the right timetable, on one charge.
The challenge was set to mark the launch of our Solar Bus Bonds, our £405,000 investment offer to raise money for four more electric buses so that we can run all our six public routes with electric buses, powered by solar energy produced on the roof of our bus depot.
So how did we get on? Watch the video below to find out!
Would you like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds and help bring more zero-emissions electric buses to Brighton & Hove?
For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:
All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:
The Big Lemon is launching the next stage of its transition to an all electric future today (Saturday) with plans for the UK’s first all-electric route network.
Last year we launched the UK’s first solar-powered bus last year, and currently has three electric vehicles powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot at Black Rock.
The electric buses are powered by a 138kW battery system and electric motors built by Magtec in Sheffield. They’re charged by a 21 kWh solar array on the roof of the depot, and can do approximately 100 miles on one charge, saving 140kg of CO2 emissions every day.
The Big Lemon won contracts last year to operate six routes in the city (the 16, 47, 52, 56, 57 and 66) and aims to be the first bus company in the UK to run its whole public bus network with electric vehicles.
Last year we won £0.5m funding from the Department for Transport as part of the government’s Low Emission Bus Scheme to part-fund three brand new electric buses, and today we are launching our Solar Bus Bond to raise £405,000 to fund the rest of the cost. The three buses will be built by Optare and enter into service in the autumn.
We are issuing Solar Bus Bonds to members of the public to fund the purchases, offering a 5% return on a 5 year investment. Launching the plans today, we’re embarking on a Solar Bus Challenge to see if Om Shanti, our first solar-powered bus, can complete the full length of each route on our network, in service, with passengers, on the official timetable, in one day, without running out of charge.
“The electric buses are really very good; quiet, comfortable and powerful on the hills, they have proved popular with drivers and passengers alike. We are out today to demonstrate the electric bus technology and learn how far we can push them. We are committed to running all our Brighton & Hove bus services with electric buses by the end of the year to tackle the terrible air quality issues in the city, and are calling on members of the public to get involved”
Tom Druitt, Founder
The Big Lemon Community Interest Company was founded in 2007 following a conversation between childhood friends Tom Druitt and Graeme Simpson about how the corporate bus operators were failing communities.
Tom and Graeme thought there must be a better way, and Tom organised a public meeting in Brighton to explore alternatives which would be more community focussed and offer more affordable, more sustainable travel choices.
Our mission is to enable everyone to get around their community in an affordable, enjoyable and environmentally-sustainable way.
As a Community Interest Company, we are owned by members of the local community and our assets belong to the community in the same way as those of a charity.
Our first service was the 42X between Falmer and Brighton Station, using three buses running on recycled waste cooking oil from local restaurants. Our depot was the corner of a lorry park in Southwick and our office was Tom’s kitchen table.
Our service quickly became popular with passengers, and our drivers soon gained a reputation for giving a friendly, personal service. Over the next few years we increased our services, moved to a proper depot near Brighton Marina and started offering coach hire, music festival transport, waste cooking oil collection and a programme of Sunday Walks.
Since our launch in 2007 over four million passenger journeys have been made on The Big Lemon. We have driven over 2 million miles, putting over a thousand tonnes of waste cooking oil to good use, and saving over 1800 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the process.
Over the last two years we have been working on a project to turn our buses electric. The environmental benefits of using biodiesel from waste cooking oil are huge, with an average 86% reduction in CO2 emissions. However there are still tailpipe emissions, and these do of course contribute to poor air quality in urban areas.
The quality of the air we breathe in Britain’s towns and cities is a national scandal. A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2017 assessed particulate levels in 51 UK towns and cities and found 44 of them, including Brighton & Hove, had air which the World Health Organisation considers “too dangerous to breathe”.
According to Brighton & Hove City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan (October 2015) air pollution is linked to 175 premature deaths in the city every year.
Tailpipe emissions by route
(Euro 5 diesel)
Carbon monoxide (CO kg/yr)
Particulates (PM kg/yr)
Saving per year
The Big Lemon believes buses have a big role to play in solving the UK’s air quality crisis and in 2016 we launched a campaign to go electric. We raised £250,000 through a community bond issue, bought two mid-life diesel buses and converted them to electric.
With the help of the M&S Community Energy Fund, 172 crowdfunding supporters and over 1500 voters, we also raised enough money for a 21kW solar array on our depot roof, enough to power our offices and workshops and the two electric buses.
The first one launched last April, with the second one joined it in July. Both buses have proved a hit with passengers and drivers alike, offering a much quieter, smoother, more comfortable ride.
Last autumn The Big Lemon won contracts for additional local bus services, so we now operate routes 16, 47, 52, 56, 57 and 66, serving the communities of Portslade, Hangleton, Patcham, Hollingbury, Woodingdean, Ovingdean, Rottingdean and Saltdean.
These services provide connections to Seven Dials, Brighton Station and the city centre, London Road, Fiveways, Kemptown, the Hospital and Brighton Marina.
Our goal is to run all of these services with electric buses, which means we need at least four more. Now we have tried the technology and know it works, the next challenge is to raise the money required for the vehicles.
In total, the funding required for four electric buses is just over a million pounds. However we have been very lucky with our efforts to raise funding for the vehicles, with Brighton & Hove City Council committing £114,000 from their Clean Bus Fund for another electric bus conversion, and the Department for Transport committing £513,000 towards the purchase of three brand new electric buses.
To take advantage of these funds we have to raise the remaining £405,000.
What do we need to get four more electric buses?
One 218 kWh Magtec retrofit @£114,000
Three Optare Solo 138 kWh electric buses @£289,000
Where is the money coming from?
Clean Bus Fund
DfT Low Emission Bus Scheme
In order to do this we have launched a three year bond at 4%, and a five year bond at 5%. The minimum investment is £100, and interest will be paid annually. The buses will be offered as security on all investments.
Investment per bond
Return on investment
Interest per bond over the period
Closing date for applications
We have a strong team of committed people led by Founder and Chief Executive Tom Druitt and supported by an active Board of Directors with over 70 years of business experience between them. Our day-to-day operations are led by our Management Team, committed to The Big Lemon’s values of community, sustainability, and empowerment, and many of whom have been with the Company since the very early days. And our services are provided by an engaged and committed team of the best of Brighton & Hove’s bus and coach drivers.
The Big Lemon is accredited with international quality standard ISO9001, and sustainability standard ISO14001. We are a Living Wage employer, and have won a number of accolades in recent years including the Green Business Award and Award for Innovation at the 2016 Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, the Best Place to Work, Best Green Business and Business of the Year at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards 2016, Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year at the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2016 and Most Sustainable Business at the Sussex Business Awards 2017.
Will you help us make Brighton & Hove a healthier place to live?
Across the UK, air pollution and congestion blights our cities, communities are losing their bus services, and climate change is beginning to be felt all around us. Big business has failed to address the challenges we face, and it is up to us to make a difference through the work we do in our communities.
We have a huge opportunity. With the Clean Bus Fund and the Low Emission Bus Scheme we have more than half the funds we need to bring four more zero-emissions electric buses to the streets of Brighton & Hove. With lower running costs than diesel buses, these buses will help us make those services that people rely on in our outlying communities more viable, so they can be maintained long into the future. With the experience we gain, we can help other communities safeguard and develop their own sustainable transport. But we can only take advantage of this funding and make these things happen with your help!
Many thanks for your support
Tom Druitt FRSA
Founder and Chief Executive
For a Solar Bus Bond Prospectus please click on the image below:
All investments are covered by our Solar Bus Bond Agreements:
If you’d like to invest in our Solar Bus Bonds please complete the fields below:
Upon receipt of your application we will send you an invoice for the funds with details of how to transfer the funds.
Upon receipt of your funds we will issue a bond certificate within 14 days. Your bond certificate will be dated the date of receipt of your funds and your investment will be returned to you with interest at the end of the term.
We reserve the right to refuse investments and we do not need to give a reason. The Big Lemon does not give financial advice and you are advised to seek independent financial advice on your investments.
This Solar Bus Bond issue falls outside the scope of regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
The Big Lemon CIC is Registered in England & Wales, Number 06045786
Registered Office: Protran House, Boundary Road, Brighton BN2 5TJ
Telephone: 01273 681681
The Big Lemon’s Managing Director, Norman Baker, has announced he will be leaving The Big Lemon in January 2018 to pursue new challenges, having achieved what he set out to do by raising the profile of the organisation locally, nationally and internationally; and winning a number of new contracts, thereby establishing The Big Lemon as the foremost independent bus operator in Brighton & Hove.
Norman said “It’s been an exciting challenge to lead The Big Lemon through a period of significant growth and I believe the company has a bright future. I would like to thank the team for their dedication and support, and all those in the community including our passengers and supporters, the city council and our industry colleagues. It has been a pleasure working with you all.”
Tom Druitt, The Big Lemon’s founder and CEO said “I would like to thank Norman for his huge contribution to The Big Lemon this last year. He has taken the organisation to the next level and we now have the opportunity to grow our impact far beyond what was previously possible. I wish Norman all the very best of luck in his future endeavours.”
At a magnificent ceremony held last night at Brighton’s Grand Hotel to celebrate the 29th annual Sussex Business Awards, The Big Lemon won the award for theMost Sustainable Business.
The Big Lemon was shortlisted in both the Innovation and the Sustainable Business categories, in recognition of our work over the last ten years reducing waste and CO2 emissions by running bus services on recycled cooking oil from local restaurants, and electricity generated by solar panels on the roof of our bus depot.
The Award for the Most Sustainable Business is described by the Sussex Business Awards as “for outstanding achievement by those businesses for whom the protection or enhancement of the environment is placed at the core of their activities, or whose products or practices have resulted in significant beneficial environmental impact”.
Collecting the award, founder Tom Druitt said “A massive thank you to the most amazing team in the world who have made this possible, and to all our friends in the community who have supported us on our journey.”
The winners were drawn from 40 finalists representing 17 Sussex towns . There were 17 different categories, with Bluebird Tea Co named as the big winners of the night, taking home awards for Best Employer and Best Customer Service, and whose founders Mike Turner & Krisi Smith, won Sussex Businessperson of the Year.
New Benefit-Cost Ratio analysis reveals enormous value of bus travel
Greener Journeys worked with KPMG LLP to update the Benefit-Cost Ratios (BCRs) of bus travel, illustrating how investment in buses delivers value for money.
The new research looked at the economic, social and environmental benefits of the bus, examining the value of concessionary bus travel, the Bus Service Operators Grant and investment in bus infrastructure.
This new analysis reveals that every pound spent on local bus infrastructure can generate more than £8 of benefits for local businesses, communities and the environment. The study, which explores the ‘true value’ of local bus services, also found that each £1 spent on concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people generates £3.80 in wider benefits to society.
Buses are Britain’s most widely used mode of public transport and carry more commuters than all other forms of public transport combined, helping to generate £64bn per year for local economies. This vital research demonstrates the significant contribution that our buses make in keeping the UK moving and growing.
Once again The Big Lemon will be running coaches to the Lewes Bonfire from Brighton. The bonfire is one of the biggest in the country, there are six societies putting on five separate parades and firework displays on the 5th, and this can mean 3,000 people taking part in the celebrations, and up to 80,000 spectators attending in the small market town with a permanent population of just 16,000.
Careful travel planning is essential for Lewes Bonfire because on bonfire night a lot of the roads are closed and you can’t park anywhere. Buses and trains are difficult too, because on bonfire night everyone and their dog wants to go to Lewes.
With The Big Lemon you can reserve a seat on a dedicated coach that will take you direct to the heart of the action and give you a guaranteed seat on the way home too 🙂
Coaches leave from Old Steine, Lewes Road (by Elm Grove), Lewes Road Bus Garage and Falmer (adj Sussex University on the A27).
Yesterday was perhaps the most challenging day ever for The Big Lemon. On Saturday we had been running one route, the 52. On Monday we added the 47, 57, 16, 16A, 66, 56, and 56E.
What’s more, because of circumstances beyond our control, we had less than two weeks to get everything in place. That has meant, amongst many other things, recruiting ten new drivers, and sourcing buses to run the routes.
So don’t be surprised if you see some London double deckers around Brighton for a few weeks until we can get some new yellow buses out on the road! Please look out for the bus service number and destination on the front of the buses.
The short time we have had to get ready also means that Brighton and Hove Buses have not had the chance to put the new timetables up at bus stops across the city, so many people understandably will not have been aware of the new times and even routes which came into force.
On top of everything yesterday, we, along with all other bus companies, faced massive delays because of the closure of North Street for road works. This meant a good deal of late running which is not acceptable. If the road works continue to cause delays, we may have to turn buses round before their terminus, as Brighton and Hove Buses sometimes do. If we have to do this, we will use social media to try to keep people informed.
I am very grateful for the patience of our passengers as we bed down in these very challenging circumstances. I am also grateful to our drivers and the rest of our team who have worked long hours over the last week to get the show on the road.
In a fantastic result, The Big Lemon has won almost all the bus routes being tendered by Brighton and Hove Council. This means as well as the 52, local residents will soon be able to catch a Big Lemon bus on routes 16, 47, 56, 57 and 66.
This is a great vote of confidence from the council and is the result of 10 years’ hard work by Tom Druitt and the team, the wonderful friendliness of our drivers, and the environmental and passenger-centred vision we put forward in our bid.
The new services are due to begin on 17th September and there is now a huge amount to do to get ready. We need to recruit lots of driversand train them. We need to get lots more buses, get them painted and equipped with everything from ticket machines to GPS equipment. We need to carve out lots more depot space. And the rest.
The contract with the council is for four years, with an option for them to extend it for a further four years. So for the first time this gives us a significant guaranteed income stream for years into the future, which in turn puts us in a good position to think about expanding further.
As for the buses, we are naturally keen to ensure we extend our fleet of electric buses. Not only is this the right thing to do for the environment, our first two solar powered busesare now out on Route 52, and proving hugely popular with passengers. They are a great advert for bus travel generally. They will be joined in due course by three brand new electric buses, funding for which is partly coming from the Department for Transport.
So great news, and a really exciting time for us. There is no doubt that the future is bright, the future is lemon.
The Big Lemon has a reputation for a friendly personal service and we always look for the most cheerful friendly drivers to drive our buses!
We have vacancies for full time drivers, and some part-time drivers, on local bus services. Drivers ideally must be over 25 years of age with two years driving experience. A manual PCV licence is essential.
Salary: £11.10 per hour starting salary, rising to £11.50 after 3 months
Hours: 39 hour per week – overtime available
We offer a workplace pension scheme, full uniform, staff bus pass valid on the whole network, free lunches and the chance to be part of a great team that won the The Award for Best Place to Work in Brighton & Hove at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards in 2016.
On this day, ten years ago, we launched our first bus service! To celebrate, we’ve put together ten highlights of the last ten years…
2007: We launched the UK’s first bus service powered solely by recycled cooking oil from local restaurants.
2008: A thirteen year old boy came to the depot with his dad, and said he’d seen the buses and read about us in the paper. He said he would like to buy a share in the business with pocket money he’d saved, and also help out in the depot. He helped Tom wash the buses at the weekends, and also helped out in the office after school. Fast forward to 2017 and he’s our Coach Hire Manager, and, having recently passed his Certificate of Professional Competence in International Passenger Transport, the most highly qualified transport professional in the organisation.
2009: We bought our first coach, a Volvo B10m Plaxton Paramount, and launched the UK’s first waste oil-powered coach hire service. We also won our first award, the Dandelion Award for sustainable business, at a ceremony in London.
2010: We doubled the size of our bus service operation almost overnight, launched a waste cooking oil collection service and elected one of our driving team to the Board of Directors to ensure that our drivers are represented at all levels of decision-making.
2011: We launched our Sunday Walks, and won the EU’s Ethiconomy Award at a ceremony in Italy.
2012: We won our first local authority contract, to run the 52 bus. In the five years since we have built strong relationships with the communities along the route, held 11 public meetings, extended the route into the city centre, introduced multi-operator smart-ticketing (in association with the other local operators, the Department for Transport and the City Council) and increased ridership by 59%.
2013: We launched The Big Orange (a coach that was already orange so we saved the money on yellow paint and branded it The Big Orange!) and the Little Lemon wedding car service, using an ex-London taxi. The Big Orange was ultimately painted yellow as we professionalised and improved our cash-flow, and The Little Lemon is now selling beer in Belgium.
2014: We opened our own on-site maintenance facility for the first time, improving our operational capability and also offering vehicle maintenance as a service to other businesses.
2015: The turning point for our finances as we finally paid off the last of our historical debt, greatly improved our cash position, and ended the year with a healthy surplus that enabled us to pay a dividend for the first time and launch our Staff Fund. This fund is 10% of our annual profit which is managed by a staff committee elected by our drivers and is available for staff welfare, team social activities and personal development.
2016: We set our sights on electric bus technology and raised £250,000 to fund the conversion of two buses from diesel to electric. We also raised £25,000 through a crowdfunding campaign and funding from the M&S Energy Awards for solar panels on the roof of our bus depot. We won nine local and national awards including awards for recycling, innovation, and Best Workplace, Brighton & Hove Business of the Year and UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.
2017: This year we published our national strategy going forward to 2030, recruited Norman Baker as Managing Director in Brighton & Hove, and made history again by launching the UK’s first solar-powered bus, powered from electricity generated on the roof of our depot. We have also been shortlisted for three more awards including the National Transport Awards’ Contribution to Sustainable Transport Award and just a week ago heard that we have been successful in our bid to the Department for Transport for £500,000 towards three brand new zero-emissions electric buses to make Brighton & Hove an even cleaner, greener city and build a working model for community sustainable transport across the country.
It’s been a blast, thank you for being part of our story! Here’s to the next ten years…
So The Big Lemon is 10 on 1 September 2017. And we’ve come a long way since the idea for a truly sustainable, community based bus and coach company lit up like a light bulb in the head of our founder and CEO, Tom Druitt all those years ago.
I wasn’t around in Brighton when it all started but I bet there were plenty of people at the time who were patronisingly dismissive of the whole idea and regarded it as a flight of fancy that would vanish as soon as it arrived.
How wrong they were.
Ten years on, and The Big Lemon has never been stronger. Over those ten years we have built a reputation for being at the cutting edge of environmental innovation, and for great passenger service. People like us and want to use our services, which is a great testament to all those who have been involved in building the company, not least our drivers who are the public face of The Big Lemon.
Ten years on and we are still innovating and ahead of the game. This year we have introduced the first solar-powered electric bus in the UK and have since added another such bus and an electric minibus. Our solar panels not only power our buses, but our offices too, and have enough power left to export to the grid. Our conversion of diesel vehicles into electric ones is also a first for the UK, and we are working with the Sheffield company Magtec on this frontier-pushing project.
Ten years on and we are looking to expand the bus routes we offer in the Brighton area and have delivered a set of creative and seductive proposals to Brighton and Hove Council to make this a reality.
Ten years on and our finances have never been healthier, with record profits last year, demonstrating that doing the right thing by the environment and by our passengers makes sound economic sense.
Ten years on and we have accumulated a cabinet full of awards for what we do, and are currently shortlisted for three more as I write, including two highly prestigious national awards.
So I’d like to say thank you and well done to those who have got us this far. But we are also conscious that this is not the time to rest on our laurels. We have big ambitions to grow and we are already scoping out and pacing the route ahead.
Our main aim at The Big Lemon is to make sure everyone who has a ‘Big Lemon experience’ has a good one. We endeavour to make a positive impact on our community, to give our team a fulfilling and enjoyable job, and of course to give our passengers the best possible experience on the bus.
Every year we do a straw poll of our 52 passengers to see how we’re doing, and here are the results for 2017:
Our 2016 results:
We’d like to thank our passengers for their very positive feedback and we have taken on board the feedback to improve the experience, especially with regard to the vehicles. We have invested a huge amount this year in the quality of our vehicles and are pleased to say that the new electric bus is very quiet, very smooth and has a fully re-fitted interior with very comfortable seating.
We’d also like to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of our team to provide a friendly personal service to our passengers – incredible result to get 100% top marks for our drivers!
Come and see us in Brighton’s Churchill Square today where our MD Norman Baker will be showcasing our electric bus and chatting to members of the public about bus services as part of Catch the Bus Week