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Debunked: No, this photo doesn't show a COP26 electric bus being towed by a diesel truck

Memes spreading on social media claim this photo is proof an electric bus broke down during COP26 and required a diesel truck to tow it.

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DURING COP26 IN Glasgow over the last fortnight, a fleet of highly-publicised electric buses shuttled conference delegates between events. However a photo on social media claims to show proof they weren’t reliable. 

Facebook post N5 Truck Drivers A meme shared on social media claiming an electric bus broke down during COP26 Source: Facebook

‘The Moment When the Cop26 Showcase Electric Bus Runs Out of Power and Needs to be Towed by a Diesel Truck,’ says the caption. Above it is a photo of a bus being pulled by a truck.

This prompted user comments like ‘What a bunch of hypocrites,’ and  ‘The only way is diesel.’

But before we get too worked up, is this what happened? 

What claim are we checking: 

Is this a photo of truck towing an electric COP26 bus that ran out of power?

Who said it?

The exact origin is unknown but the photo was shared by several accounts across Facebook and Twitter, racking up thousands of likes along the way, including almost 2,000 reactions and 1,000 shares on one Irish Facebook page

The evidence:  

The photo shows a green bus with what appear to be black boxes at the top. At first glance these appear different from the electric buses that ferried delegates to and from the conference at COP26  - the single decker buses on shuttle duty in Glasgow didn’t have big black boxes on the roof and were more blue than green in colour. 

That’s probably because the bus in the viral picture appears to be a hydrogen fuel bus. The black bits on its roof are the fuel cell, batteries and hydrogen tanks. The electric buses showcased at COP26 were purely electric. 

Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus confirmed to The Journal it was one of their hydrogen buses in the viral photo. 

920x614_gb-kite-hydroliner-fcev The Wrightbus GB Kite Hydroliner

The company’s managing director, Neil Collins, said that the bus in the photo is “a prototype hydrogen single decker Wrightbus GB Kite Hydroliner vehicle” which is used by the company’s research and development department to test its zero emission technology. 

This type of bus was not in operation at COP26, according to Glasgow bus operator First Bus UK which ran the electric buses during the climate change summit. 

Graeme Lafferty, First Bus communications manager told The Journal: 

“We didn’t use any Wrightbus Hydroliners for COP26. We had 22 ADL Enviro 200 Electrics & 4 Yutongs.”

He pointed out that the branding on the electric buses was different to the branding on the bus in the viral photo: 

“The [buses] we used were branded up with First Bus/COP26/Glasgow Electric on the sides – the one in this photo has branding on the windows etc, which was not the ones we had.”

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Collins confirmed his company’s Hydroliner wasn’t at COP26. 

“This image was not taken at COP – this vehicle [in the photo being towed], of which there is only one in the world, has never been to Glasgow,” he said. 

Wrightbus did take a different hydrogen bus to COP26 but it was a double decker and only for exhibition at the conference instead of driving around delegates. 

No electric buses used during COP26 broke down or required towing by diesel vehicles according to Lafferty.

‘The buses never missed a schedule throughout and were very reliable, actually,’ he said. 

This means that both the manufacturer of the bus and COP26 bus operator both confirmed the bus being towed in the photo wasn’t the same bus being used during the conference. In fact, it’s not even a purely electric bus, it’s a hydrogen bus which has never been in Glasgow before, according to its manufacturer.

This is indeed a photo of a bus being towed but not a photo of a COP26 electric bus being towed by a diesel truck because it ran out of power as claimed. 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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