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Power to the future of electric bus transit

LEADING transit authorities from across the globe will have their eyes on Adelaide as Australia’s first electric urban buses begin trial on the city’s transport network.
SA Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Kyam Maher | Transit Australia Group Chief Commercial Officer, Damien Brown | ZF Lemforder Australia Managing Director, Christian Reynolds | SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis | SA Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Stephen Mullighan | Precision Components Australia Director, Mat Fitch
SA Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Kyam Maher | Transit Australia Group Chief Commercial Officer, Damien Brown | ZF Lemforder Australia Managing Director, Christian Reynolds | SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis | SA Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Stephen Mullighan | Precision Components Australia Director, Mat Fitch

They appear similar to a traditional bus, but the passenger experience aboard the 100 per cent battery-powered buses is unrivalled with quieter operation, smoother acceleration and zero environmental impact.

The wholly Australian designed and built operational electric urban buses are the innovative by-product of Transit Australia Group’s award-winning advanced bus manufacturing arm Bustech and Adelaide manufacturer Precision Components Australia.

Under their joint venture Precision Buses, the companies last year attracted a $2 million South Australian Government grant to locally develop and build two e-buses as well as Australia’s first two Euro 6 low emission diesel buses. The buses were this week launched by South Australia’s Premier and will soon take to Adelaide’s streets for trial.

While the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure examines how the buses integrate into its future transport solution, eyeballs the world over will also hone in on how the battery-powered buses stack up against Australia’s harsh operating climate.

The electric buses have a top speed of 80km/h and use regenerative braking to extend battery range. They utilise world-leading Toshiba batteries which can be charged up to 80 per cent within just 10 minutes on a network with correct infrastructure.

The ZDi and XDi Euro 6 buses also feature the hallmarks of Bustech’s unique monocoque chassis that are designed, engineered and manufactured in-house.

“We are showing Australia and the rest of the world how domestically produced electric and low emission buses which comply with Australian design standards, heavy vehicle regulations and state transit authority specifications can integrate into an urban network,” says Transit Australia Group CEO Michael McGee.

He said e-mobility transport held enormous potential for Australian manufacturers with the electric bus market in Asia-Pacific alone projected to exceed around $15 billion by 2020.

“The South Australian Government has been the first in Australia to demonstrate leadership on how governments and transport authorities can engage industry leaders to innovate and deliver market-leading transport vehicles of the future,” Mr McGee says.

“Electric buses are becoming an attractive alternative for urban transport networks across the world as more trials are conducted and vehicle design, battery and charging technology is continually enhanced.

“Bustech is not only generating jobs and supply chain opportunities as Australia adopts e-mobility technologies, but we also see strong export potential. As the global market grows, we are well poised to benefit with manufacturing facilities in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.”

Precision Components Australia director Mat Fitch said the government grant had encouraged a resurgence of advanced manufacturing in Northern Adelaide with the impending closure of Holden.

“Our alliance with Bustech has focused our skills and expertise away from automotive manufacturing and into an exciting growth industry that has already created 29 jobs and is supporting local materials and suppliers,” Mr Fitch says.

“Within six months Precision Buses has built wholly-Australian designed, engineered and manufactured electric buses and Euro 6 buses and they are rolling straight off the production line and onto Adelaide’s public transport network.

“We have also already signed agreements to build an additional 50 low carbon emission buses to supply inter-state demand for Bustech products.”

Elphinstone’s executive general manager Lee Whiteley, Tasmanian transport minister Rene Hidding and Transit Australia Group chairman Luke Gray

Bustech secures $45m deal to build 100 Metro buses in Tasmania

Elphinstone’s executive general manager Lee Whiteley, Tasmanian transport minister Rene Hidding and Transit Australia Group chairman Luke Gray
Elphinstone’s executive general manager Lee Whiteley, Tasmanian transport minister Rene Hidding and Transit Australia Group chairman Luke Gray

Transit Australia Group’s manufacturing arm Bustech has this week made history securing a contract to build 100 low emission buses for Tasmania’s Metro network.

The $45 million project marks the single biggest investment in public transport in Tasmania’s history. It is also the first time any state or national government in Australia has procured buses that are entirely made in Australia.

Bustech is Australia’s only original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with each bus built using chassis designed, engineered and made in-house.

The Metro contract will see Bustech partner with Tasmanian company Elphinstone Pty Ltd on the state’s North-West Coast to utilise existing capabilities while providing a boost to local manufacturing.

The four-year project is expected to create 40 new full-time jobs in Tasmania, including at least 24 jobs at Elphinstone and additional jobs throughout the local supply chain.

It is a similar formula Bustech applied successfully in South Australia, after forming a strategic partnership with Adelaide company Precision Components. The alliance secured a government grant supporting the build of environmentally friendly buses, including electric buses, for trial across Adelaide’s public transport network.

The initiative has already resulted in a further 50 buses ordered, helping to transition decades of advanced manufacturing expertise away from the South Australia’s declining automotive industry.

Adding to Bustech’s primary plant in Queensland, the new ventures provide a significant lift to Bustech’s annual production capacity, boosting the company’s ability to supply national and international markets.

Transit Australia Group chief executive officer Michael McGee said the Tasmania project was an exciting outcome for Australia’s manufacturing industry.

“We are delighted that the Tasmanian Government has recognised the superior build and weight reductions associated with our innovative XDI manufactured chassis,” Mr McGee says.

“It’s also great to see them support and encourage local jobs and skills growth in advanced manufacturing.”

Elphinstone executive general manager Lee Whiteley said the project would strengthen the company’s position and broaden manufacturing facilities.

“The advanced manufacturing training and skills developed through the Metro project, together with our existing expertise, will be important in securing other opportunities in similar markets and sectors,” Mr Whiteley says.

Mr McGee said the new ventures marked exciting new territory for Transit Australia Group.

“In 2015 we successfully launched Australia’s first electric bus,” he says.

“In Adelaide we are developing advanced manufacturing capabilities to produce next generation, environmentally friendly diesel and electric buses for the Australian market.

“Adding Tasmania to the mix provides unique opportunities to further develop our strategic supply chain and leverage off existing skill sets across different companies to enhance our product offerings.”

The first wave of new buses in the Metro fleet will be completed in the next 12 months.