The Future is Electric

The Big Lemon is a pioneering social enterprise at the forefront of fresh thinking on sustainable fuels and community bus service provision.  Since our launch in Brighton in 2007 we have been carving a niche in the provision of environmentally-sustainable community bus services, coach hire and music festival transport.  All our vehicles ran on recycled waste cooking oil from 2007-2017 from local restaurants, and since 2007 we have made good use of over half a million tonnes of waste cooking oil and saved over 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere.

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.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

Through this we will consolidate our position as the Number 1 eco bus operator in the country, opening up opportunities for growth, and enabling us to offer more people access to sustainable transport, in their communities and at universities and colleges throughout the country.


In the beginning we were a small group of people discussing ideas in a pub. We had no experience, no money, and no buses, but what we lacked in money and experience we made up for with a strong vision, buckets of enthusiasm and sheer stubbornness. We worked hard, learnt fast, overcome some significant challenges and are now looking towards a future of opportunity with lots of possibilities and a healthy cash position to fund our growth.

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

Shouldn’t we wait till the technology becomes cheaper?

The Big Lemon has always been about trying new things, harnessing pioneering spirit and blazing a trail.  We were the first bus company to run all our vehicles on locally-sourced waste cooking oil, and we have been watching the electric bus market with interest in its formative years.

We feel that now is the right time to go for it.  We’re not the first; this is now proven technology: it has improved a great deal and also become more affordable since it first came on the market just a few years ago.  The Government is also keen to encourage take-up of this technology and there is a grant scheme to help with the costs, which we have applied for.  If successful, it provides funding for 90% of the extra cost on top of that of a regular diesel bus of the same specification.

Considering all these factors, there is no better time than now!

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 (Figures from Strathclyde University’s Energy Systems Research Unit):

 Per Bus Carbon dioxide (CO2) Carbon monoxide (CO) Hydro-carbons (HC) Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Particulates (PM)
Annual emissions (diesel) 83,641 kg 1227 kg 385 kg 1,214 kg 119 kg
Annual emissions (biodiesel) 11,685 kg 836 kg 314 kg 1,419 kg 81 kg
Annual emissions (electric) 0 0 0 0 0
Saving over 10 years (compared with biodiesel) 117 tonnes 8.4 tonnes 3.1 tonnes 14 tonnes 0.8 tonnes

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

We are on a mission to make our city more healthy and sustainable and we’d love you to join us on that mission.

Over the last few months we have been working hard to raise money and progress plans for electric buses for Brighton & Hove and we have found that retrofitting quality used buses with brand new electric motors and batteries is both more economically efficient and enables us to get better buses that will travel further on one charge.

Earlier this year we raised £250,000 in just a few weeks which has enabled us to make a start and we have identified three buses to convert, and have started the conversion on one of them. Will you help us finish the job?
How much money do we need for three electric buses and where are we getting it from?

What do we need to get three electric buses? Cost
Three buses @£20,000 £60,000
Retrofit with electric motors and drive systems @£140,000 £420,000
Real-time info & mobile app development, wifi, satellite tracking, diagnostics & next bus stop announcements £20,000
Total £500,000
Where is the money coming from? Target
Bond issue £250,000*
Share issue: 1500 SITR shares @£150 each £225,000
Company funds £25,000
Total £500,000

*Target reached on 29 February 2016

Our offer to you

We are offering for sale 1500 Ordinary Shares at £150 each.

2012 2013 2014 2015
Total Income £391,340 £530,195 £616,873 £668,507
Profit before Tax £4,654 £6,698 £58,806 £81,066
Capital Employed £210,682 £216,557 £217,326 £200,127
Return on Capital Employed 2.2% 3.1% 27.1% 40.5%
Profit after Interest & Tax £4,654 £6,698 £58,806 £70,307
% Returned to Shareholders 0% 0% 0% 10%*
Dividend per share £0 £0 £0 £4.38*
Return on Investment on each share (assuming £150/share) 0% 0% 0% 2.92%*

 * Figures for 2015 dividends are what Shareholders agreed at the AGM on 20 March 2016.  Up till 2015 Shareholders decided each year to re-invest 100% of any profit into the business.  At the AGM on 20 March 2016 Shareholders agreed that 80% of profit after tax is re-invested, 10% is put into a staff welfare and development pot and 10% is allocated to dividends to reward investors for their support and provide a reasonable financial return on their investment.  It is anticipated that this will be the basis for profit allocation in the future too, although the final decision rests with Shareholders at the AGM.

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 beat the best rates in the market, as well as putting your money to good use for the local community too.

Social Investment Tax Relief

Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) offers investors in social enterprises such as The Big Lemon tax incentives on shares and bonds held for a minimum of three years. Investors can benefit from Income Tax relief, Capital Gains Tax exemption, Loss relief and Capital Gains Tax deferral relief.

We have (finally!) received confirmation from HMRC that shares bought in this investment round will be fully eligible for 30% income tax relief in the tax year in which they were purchased. Further information on SITR is available on the Government website.

Is my investment safe?

No investment is 100% secure, and even the biggest banks can fail.  Having said that, 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. Click on the dates below to see our accounts for each of the last four years:

2012 2013 2014 2015
Total Income £391,340 £530,195 £616,873 £668,507
Cost of Sales  £295,996 £442,984 £453,506 £449,667
Gross Profit £95,344 £87,211 £163,367 £218,840
Overheads £90,690 £80,513 £104,561 £148,341
Profit £4,654 £6,698 £58,806 £70,499

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

We are currently offering shares for sale at £150, with full voting rights.  As of 31 December 2015 we had 1604 issued shares, making each share worth 1/1604 of our business.  This values the business at £240,000 – a conservative estimate by most standards considering the earnings of the last couple of years, but one that acknowledges the pioneering approach and the fact that the majority of our profit will always be invested in service improvements.  We believe these shares represent both an attractive investment proposition and the opportunity to join a movement – the social enterprise movement – focussed on creating a better world.

The Big Lemon electric bus campaign - creating a better future for our children


If you would like to invest in The Big Lemon please complete the form below and we will send you an invoice for the number of shares you’d like. Upon receipt of funds we will issue a share certificate with 14 days with a welcome letter.  You are also welcome to come to our AGM on Sunday 20 March, 3pm at the Synergy Centre, West Street, Brighton where you will have an opportunity to meet the team, hear more about our plans for the future, vote on resolutions and elect directors to the Board.


The Big Lemon reserves the right to refuse any investments. It is our policy that all our shareholders are individual investors, not companies. The Big Lemon does not give investment advice and you are advised to seek independent advice on your investments. We do however guarantee that we will do absolutely everything in our power to make our business a success for everyone involved, and make a positive difference to the communities we serve.

To download a PDF copy of our investment brochure please click here