Auckland CityLINK electric bus launch signals end of road for diesel urban buses

For Electric Autobus

The launch of Auckland CityLINK’s 12 new electric buses today signals the end of the road for diesel urban buses according to the supplier of the buses.

“Electric buses will now become mainstream in the main street,” says Electric Autobus managing director Erich Livengood who partners with the Chinese company Zhejiang CRRC Electric Vehicle Company (CRRC) to customise urban buses for New Zealand and customer requirements.

“While the purchase price of an electric bus is currently about a third higher than a diesel bus, the total cost of ownership of an electric bus is now comparable or lower than a diesel bus. And that’s not accounting for the public health benefit and climate impact of lower emissions and noise reduction in busy city streets.

“Soon New Zealand will have over 100 electric buses in service in New Zealand.  The technology is proven overseas and is now proven in New Zealand conditions.  There is no reason to sit and wait five years before going electric. The technology has advanced significantly over the last few years – the cost of batteries has come down a lot over time and electric buses are lighter than they used to be. If a council or bus company need to get a new bus it should be an electric bus.”

Mr Livengood praised NZ Bus, which operates Auckland Transport’s CityLINK’s buses, for its commitment to buying new electric buses and taking on the work required to establish the charging infrastructure.  He said two New Zealand bus companies that have trialled electric buses have told him that given the choice, they would buy no more diesel buses.

The sale to NZ Bus of the 12 CityLINK buses together with another 13 electric buses already in operation in Wellington and Auckland makes CRRC New Zealand’s largest supplier of electric buses. A further 67 buses to be delivered later this year will reaffirm Electric Autobus’s position as the leading New Zealand supplier of electric buses.

Electric Autobus partner CRRC (China Rail and Rolling Stock Corporation) has its origins in rail and is a major high speed rail manufacturer. CRRC has more than 30,000 buses in operation worldwide and provides key components for 130,000 buses.

Mr Livengood said CRRC was very responsive to customer needs ensuring the buses are road legal for general access in New Zealand. The CityLINK buses are totally built in China but the buses are designed to be easily localised and the bodies of the Wellington buses were locally made.

Mr Livengood said a barrier to the faster roll out of electric buses in New Zealand is that bus operators are currently being called on to develop the charging infrastructure, which is very expensive, has long lead times and requires specialist skills. “In China and other countries where the uptake of electric buses is high, the charging infrastructure is being independently built and managed by specialist power suppliers.”

Mr Livengood said changes to contracting bus services over the last several years to make bus contracts competitive unfortunately created a barrier to electric bus uptake.  Bus companies are being asked to make long term investments in infrastructure they would not be able to use if they lost a contract. 

“Some high dollar charging infrastructure, such as transformers will last for 30 years but bus operator contracts may only be for seven to nine years.  So not only do they have to take the risk of developing the infrastructure but they need to then write down their investment quickly in that infrastructure in case they lose the bus operation contract.

“To speed up the transition to quiet, pollution free public transport I believe we need bus operators to be free to focus on running their bus fleets well and all that entails and the charging infrastructure delt with by new industry arrangements such as a specialist charging provider, the Government or local government,” he said.

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