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How Paragon has supported Wattsway Travel on its electric journey 

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Wattsway Travel is one of the first UK coach operators to add an electric coach to its fleet, financed by Paragon via broker, Stoke Park Finance Limited. We talk to founder and owner Mark Watts about the company’s electric journey.

“Why are we travelling in a diesel coach when electric options are available?”

That was the question pupils were asking of their South West London school utilising the coach services of Wattsway Travel and, for the company’s founder and owner Mark Watts, it was a perfectly logical and legitimate question.

“These children have grown up in an era where climate change is front of mind and challenging the conventions of how things are normally done,” he says. “Environmental issues are a priority for children and I admire them.”

The response? Wattsway Travel acquiring its first electric coach in a deal brokered by Stoke Park and funded by Paragon Bank to service its school contracts. The 53-seat Yutong TCe12 all electric coach has been in the fleet now for three months and has been a hit with the pupils.

The company estimates running an electric coach compared to a diesel vehicle of a similar size with a Euro 6 compliant engine will result in 414kg less Co2 over a 10-year period, based on 44,000 miles per year.

Mark is pleased not only with the environmental benefits of the vehicle, but also its performance. “It’s very smooth and comfortable,” he explains. “There is little noise, no vibration and no gear change movement. It’s simply a nicer experience.”

Pivoting towards electric

The company is planning to pivot its fleet towards electric coaches over the next four to five years, and in the meantime will be planting a tree for every diesel journey it makes.

The biggest hurdles it faces on the move towards electrification are cost and infrastructure. Charging an electric coach requires more power than a standard electric car and that means facilitating greater amperage into the yard where the vehicles are housed and maintained.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable,” says Mark. “The transition towards electric means we have to consider the investment in the infrastructure also. But to counter that, we believe the running and maintenance costs of the vehicle will be lower in the long run.

“Most of the key elements of the coach, such as the battery and motor, come with extensive guarantees. There are also significantly fewer parts that can go wrong with an electric vehicle.”

Pioneering electric transport

Wattsway Travel is one of the pioneers of electric coach travel in the UK. Only two other operators offer electric coaches within their fleet and Mark would like to see the industry move quicker. He is a member of the Decarbonisation Committee of an industry body and is championing change.

“We are only heading in one direction and I’d like to see more operators adding electric options to their fleets. Equally, customers need to recognise that there can be a cost element and be prepared to support the transition to electric.

“In the case of the school using the electric coach, they saw the bigger picture and the value of utilising a cleaner vehicle.”  

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