Canberra’s public transport bus fleet will include three new editions over the next 12 months, with the addition of a hybrid bus from Volvo and two electric buses from Carbridge as part of a $900,000 ACT government trial to see how they perform against ACTION’s existing diesel fleet.
ACT transport minister Meegan Fitzharris said the results of the trial would help decide which technology would replace the current ageing ACTION bus fleet, in line with the Territory’s emission reductions target of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Transport currently makes up about one-quarter of the ACT’s emissions, and Fitzharris said rolling out the buses would cement Canberra’s position as a leader on climate change.
“This is a major part of our transition to more sustainable fuels in our public transport system,” she said.
The buses, which are being leased for the duration of the trial, will test two separate technologies – pure electric and hybrid diesel fuel and electric.
The two pure electric buses from Carbridge – an Australian bus manufacturer that is also the Australian distributor of Chinese EV maker BYD’s electric vehicles – are able to drive about 430km per charge on route operations, and will be recharged overnight at the Tuggeranong depot, where charging stations have already been installed.
The 12-meter BYD buses feature custom Gemilang bus-bodies, BYD chassis and a 324kWh BYD lithium iron phosphate battery pack split between the forward roof and rear engine compartment zones.
They are the same buses that are being added to the transport fleet at Brisbane Airport, and were added at Sydney Airport last year, where they have successfully replaced the diesel bus fleet that serviced the 7km shuttle route between the T2/T3 terminal precinct and the long-term car park.
The ACT trial, however, will be their first appearance on a public transport route in Australia.
As for the diesel electric hybrid model being trialled, even its supplier, Volvo concedes it is a “stepping stone” technology, to a future that is pure EV.
“The future is electric,” said Volvo Bus Australia’s national contracts manager Ian Clarke in comments last week.
“Volvo has electric chassis in development and actually in service in Europe which we are planning on bringing to Australia at some point in the future,” he said.
Part of the reasoning for using this stepping stone technology, however, is cost. The price of diesel hybrid buses is a cheaper option than pure electric buses, and uses between 30 and 40 per cent less fuel than normal diesel engines.
But Cambridge chief executive Luke Todd says that while the electric buses will be more expensive up front, they should pay themselves off in about four years.
“We have plans to roll them out across the country,” he said.