Electric coach pioneer Ember looks to expand Scottish network and tech with £11 million funds boost

Venture was set up in Edinburgh just four years ago and already operates services connecting the Central Belt and Dundee.

An inter-city electric coach venture founded in Edinburgh has raised £11 million as it looks to accelerate its growth and persuade more drivers to switch from car to bus.

Ember, which was set up just four years ago and already operates services connecting the Central Belt and Dundee, has seen existing investors Pale Blue Dot and Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams participate in the oversubscribed funding round, led by Inven Capital, 2150 and AENU.

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Company bosses said they were tackling the challenge of electrifying the most highly utilised vehicles on the road - intercity coaches. These often travel more than 150,000 miles a year, exceeding the mileage of even long-distance trucks. The vast distances and large vehicle size mean the emissions saved from electrifying each intercity bus far outweighs other vehicle categories.

Coaches parked at the venture's Dundee hub.Coaches parked at the venture's Dundee hub.
Coaches parked at the venture's Dundee hub.

Ember’s “first-principles” approach aims to create a new, “highly optimised” all-electric network. This approach includes building its own dedicated ultra-fast charging network, designing and operating its own routes and working closely with its manufacturing partner on vehicle development. Everything is brought together through EmberOS, a proprietary technology platform that orchestrates all operations - including charge management, routing and end-to-end network optimisation.

More than 750,000 journeys have already been made with Ember and that total is expected to double over the coming year as the network expands. The firm will soon take delivery of the first batch of its next-generation bus, with a powerful 563 kWh battery and a range in excess of 500 kilometres. Ember is already running services 24/7 at an hourly frequency.

Company co-founder Keith Bradbury said the goal was to both take advantage of the superior margins achieved by optimal use of electric buses and to take cars off the road by offering a “dramatically superior and far more climate-friendly travel experience” at a lower cost.

“Travelling by bus or coach doesn’t have to be rubbish,” he said. “It should be possible to deliver an experience that beats a car - because someone else is doing the driving so you can have your time back - but that requires a relentless focus on the passenger experience. Things like live tracking that actually works, super-simple pricing, easy ticket changes and near-perfect reliability.”

Ember co-founders Keith Bradbury and Pierce Glennie. Picture: Chris Watt PhotographyEmber co-founders Keith Bradbury and Pierce Glennie. Picture: Chris Watt Photography
Ember co-founders Keith Bradbury and Pierce Glennie. Picture: Chris Watt Photography

The start-up venture has five new charging hubs under parallel development, all modelled on a core hub blueprint. Ember’s Dundee hub is capable of delivering charging speeds of 600 kW to a single bus, with a large proportion of the power coming from the four megawatts of on-site wind turbines. Future hubs are co-located with renewables where possible, further reducing energy costs.

Fellow co-founder Pierce Glennie said: “Under the hood, it’s a delightfully complicated problem to solve. EmberOS is the digital twin of our network, and we continue to add layers of data that enable the system to always know what’s going on. That means things like real-time vehicle states, current traffic conditions, nearby bus lanes, battery cell temperatures and the health of our chargers. When you put all of that together you can really bring down operational costs and deliver a better experience.”

Ember is now backed by Inven Capital, 2150, AENU, Pale Blue Dot and Contrarian Ventures, alongside notable business angels including Tom Blomfield, co-founder of Monzo. Inven Capital said it was “excited” to co-lead Ember’s financing round, alongside 2150 and AENU, and to join the existing investors that also include Gareth Williams, one of the founders of Skyscanner, the Edinburgh-based travel search website that was sold to Chinese giant Ctrip in 2016 in a £1 billion-plus deal.

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Daniel Edgerley, investment director at Inven Capital, said: “We have been impressed with both Keith and Pierce as founders and as visionaries of the future of shared transportation. Our commitment to the company underscores our belief in their customer-centric and innovative approach to electrification and digitalisation across the business. Their decision to fundamentally link their smart infrastructure design, assets and technology platform enables unparalleled optimisation, as well as visibility and data-evidenced insights that gives clean transportation a clear advantage over incumbent solutions. We are excited to be a part of Ember’s mission of revolutionising transportation.”

Rahul Parekh, a partner at venture capital firm 2150, said: “At 2150, we love founders that are solving some of the world’s biggest problems. Inter-city travel represents the majority of passenger miles and 90 per cent of those journeys happen in the car so decarbonising this sector has huge sustainability impact.

“With Ember, Keith and Pierce have developed an innovative, full-stack, electrified bus fleet, using technology to provide superior customer service and fantastic operating margins compared to legacy solutions. We are delighted to be supporting them alongside our friends at Inven Capital and AENU in building the next generation of inter-city transport.”

Siobhan Brewster, a partner at AENU, a climate tech fund that is focused on early stage investments in northern Europe, added “Transport accounts for about 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions - almost half of which stem from passenger road transport. AENU believes that the electrification of intercity bus transport has tremendous impact and commercial potential but it takes a special team to build a fully-integrated solution. Keith and Pierce are driving forward a tech-first approach that incorporates multi-layers of pioneering software and customised hardware within its proprietary EmberOS.

“We are thrilled to support them on this journey as we enable a modal shift to greener transportation and expect the technology to power many networks going forward as they grapple with the complexities of electrification at scale.”



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