Some good news late on Friday with Auckland Transport announcing they would trial two fully electric buses in Auckland.

Auckland Transport is to carry out a full trial of electric buses.

The government has announced funding for the E-Bus trial and related infrastructure as part of the EECA Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.

AT has been awarded up to $500,000 to part fund an electric bus trial and close to $300,00 for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Auckland Transport will top up the funding so two buses can be used in the trial.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “Great news for Auckland as we do our part to reduce emissions and combat climate change. Whether it is trains, buses or cars, electrification of our transport network is key to making Auckland a cleaner more sustainable city, and providing a better customer experience for our public transport users.”

Auckland Transport Chief AT Metro Officer Mark Lambert says AT wants to test current E-Bus technology in Auckland. “We will trial two E-Buses to gather real operating data and to raise public awareness of the technology. We expect them to be used over different routes and conditions to fully test them.”

Mr Lambert says AT is constantly reviewing planning to ensure emerging technology like E-Buses is considered when new infrastructure and services are planned and delivered. “One of our challenges is to accurately estimate when this technology will meet the needs of our customers and service and route characteristics and also commercial viability.”

Mr Lambert says the grant from EECA will mean that a full trial can begin later this year. “Auckland Transport is working to develop a Clean Bus Roadmap for Auckland.”

Modern electric buses can have a range of more than 200 km with one charge and can be enabled for fast or overnight charging.

Funding has also been provided for installing 60 EV charging stations at AT parking facilities around Auckland.

AT say they still have to work out the exact details but it is likely they will own the buses themselves and used on various routes by different operators.

It may only be two buses but this is a positive step and are hopeful we’ll soon see many more electric buses rolled out in Auckland. They along with other improvements to buses we’ve been seeing, such as the double deckers, will help in changing the image of buses in Auckland and eventually other parts of New Zealand. We’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on what happens with this trial.

BYD is a large builder of electric buses, here’s an example of one of their buses in London.

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34 comments

  1. Presumably you have to buy a spare battery for each bus because each time you go to use it the damn thing will be flat. Just like cameras and cordless drills.

    1. Are you refering to issues with self discharge when equipment is used infrequently? Or simply because you don’t charge the batteries either after or before use?

      Either way, this isn’t much of an issue for city buses. Given the capital cost is sunk and the low cost of electric running these buses will have the lowest marginal cost of operation. As such I imagine they will be used every single day. A charging schedule will be set for these busses. Most likely they will be charged every night, plus possibly a boost during the interpeak period.

    2. If you buy a modern cordless drill with a proper battery you won’t have this problem. Mine goes months between charges using it fairly regularly.

  2. Transport for London run electric buses on one of the world’s most established metro and transport systems, so they’re not a joke as some (mfwic) would presume. Battery and recharge technology is sufficiently mature to allow them to fit many (but not all) use-cases at the moment. Within the next 3-4 years that should increase further.

  3. The other good thing about electric is reduced noise emissions. Buses are typically a major source of noise in the urban environment, particularly in the inner city.

    This has health impacts, including higher blood pressure – which is a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Increased noise is also associated with lower levels of mental health.

    Electric buses won’t solve these problems completely, but will mitigate them.

    1. Noise from buses is still better than noise from some motorcycles or some boy racers’ cars. Idling buses are a nusance – that’s for sure.

      1. Buses are almost silent. Not in absolute terms, but compared to those other things…

        From my apartment on Hobson Street, we had a few sources of noise from the street:
        – buses: there are a few lines towards the western suburbs on Hobson Street. Which was removed using a hammer drill on a backhoe.
        – Trucks, especially the ones using engine braking.
        – boy racer cars.
        – the guy with The Big Car Stereo. (I don’t know if he’s still around)
        – motorcycles

        I’ve listed those in increasing order of loudness. Buses are almost imperceptible. The hammer drill made a gentle purr. The trucks and boy racer cars can be quite loud.

        Motorcycles are absurdly loud. Even inside on the 8th floor they’re loud enough to totally drown out conversations.

        Oh yeah, the police sirens. Not as loud as the motorcycles, but a lot more frequent.

        But buses? Meh. They’re a bit louder than cars, and the exhaust smoke can be a nuisance. But for noise, there’s other things to tackle first.

        1. I’ve complained to the police about loud cars, and the guy with the speaker (still around, as of last weekend). Their response is that I need to go down to the street, record the number plate, call them and hope that they turn up before the vehicle is gone from the immediate area.

          Completely hopeless.

          But then, I’ve approached police sitting in their car on lower Queen street to ask them to deal with some drunkards/high people being agressive and throwing glass bottles at cars outside my apartment less than 50 meters away and they just stared at me as if I were asking them to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I was gobsmacked. So I can’t imagine there is much care for enforcing speed limits, bus lane enfringments, absurdly loud motorcycles and cars, burnouts and everything else that I see and hear daily.

          1. I heard that the guy with the speaker is brandishing something sufficiently-gun-shaped that police might care about it.

    2. And arguably even better than noise reductions, are the reductions in particulates and other unwanted byproducts of diesel combustion.
      But it’s early days, this is a trial… the technology will get better and cheaper over time.

      1. This.

        Lower Queen Street has below acceptable levels of air quality. My BC also has to pay to wipe off the black much on the exterior of my building every few years. Anything in the Queen Street Valley should be pushed to electric ASAP.

        The noise is a big issue also, walking along Customs Street/Commerce with 20 busses in earshot can be extremely unpleasant – this is my biggest gripe with buses as they exist now (bring on LRT!)

      2. Euro 5 might work with brand new vehicles under test conditions, but sitting behind any of Auckland’s buses as a cyclist proves that it has significant shortcomings.

        1. It also depends who does the testing for the standards… if VW was involved, then we’re all on the joke 😉

  4. Meanwhile, Wellington is still planning to get rid of its fleet of fully electric buses, which use fully tried and tested technology… Duh!

    Aparently the abandonment of the trolleys has been delayed by up to five months because of delays with Infratil’s Wrightspeed programme (the first prototype was due last October), so while it was apparently impossible to extend the life of the trolleys for technical reasons, one contractor having problems with unproved and untried technology means that those technical reasons are suddenly no longer such an issue.

  5. And last week Radio NZ announced that EECA has such success (not) with getting trucking firms to take part in its “3 year program” to reduce emissions from trucks by 30% that it sacked all its staff involved with that program just before Christmas just gone.

    See this link http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/322623/lack-of-participants-puts-truck-fuel-savings-programme-on-hold

    So the usual trucking industry corporate apathy is at work with “Folks, there’s really no problem here, just move along” being the order of the day.

    And as much as I’d like this trial to succeed I think this will just end up another pissing money against the wall exercise, as we faff about for years trialling 2 electric buses off and on while we try and convince NZ Bus and Go Bus and Birkenhead Transport and Ritchies to give it a go.

    Meanwhile the real environmental culprits of mammoth, minimal, if any, anti-pollution technology diesel trucks keep on driving on past spewing noise, pollution, PM10s, PM2.5s and disinterest in the environment when and where ever they go.

    And please do not bother with “electric” buses which are nothing but Hybrid Diesel/Electric buses in drag.
    Its 201, its got to be either all electric or don’t bother.
    Hybrid Diesel buses are last decades excuse to do nothing for 20 more years, while “clean diesels” come along.
    Well we know what a fiction that is and was. Meanwhile we squandered a decade of action “waiting for Godot”.

    I think we need a bigger bus trial, with more skin in the game than 2 buses
    *per bus company*, because when and if one of them breaks down or has a minor problem, well soon hear that “AT tests show that 50% of its electric buses are unreliable/breakdown”.

    And while we’re at it, lets take a fresh look at EECA.

    EECA, the Government Body thats always looking in the wrong place, using yesterdays solutions, to solve tomorrows problems, and justify its continued existence. Either beef up its powers to make it a enforcement arm of the EPA so it can compel the trucking industry to take part, or just get rid of it.
    This “please consider the environment next time you by stuff before you buy the cheapest piece of crap” stuff they peddle is just Central Government greenwash and propaganda in disguise.

    And while I am sure BYD do make good buses, they are not the only [or best] game in town and I hope that AT is not doing a KR and is looking at more than a single source, or a single country for these electric buses, nor simply buying the apparent cheapest one.

    Because while its true that true electric buses may help save “our” environment, 9 times out of 10 they also ruin their own countries environment during the manufacture process, thanks to poor environmental standards of the exporting country (and yes US is included now thanks to Trump administrations “new” environmental policies).

    So unless we’re careful, all we will do by this exercise is pat ourselves on the back for doing a good job, meanwhile essentially we export our pollution and emissions to somewhere else. Which is hardly a win/win for the us or the planet.

    AT with this timid trial, you might as well go and piss yourself while wearing a dark suit – no one will really notice, but you’ll no doubt feel warm for a bit.

    1. I very much hope that AT test out other manufacturers, including Volvo.

      If you want to make something happen, you make it happen – by putting compulsory standards in place. Most of the time, we don’t want to make things happen in NZ.

  6. I wonder if the electric buses might be a viable option for short low use routes (like 363). I know the driver is the major cost of operating a bus but for some of these feeder routes would ebus make them a bit more economical?
    Looking at that link a range of 250 km and limited to about 70 passengers might not make them a viable option for some bus routes (I.e mount Eden road).

    1. I believe the trick used somewhat over a century ago was to replace the entire battery set with a fully charged set after a few hours of service, which was much quicker than waiting for batteries to charge.

      Mind you, that required one of those depot things …

    1. The Minister of Transport will shortly announce a new rule change that will require all electric buses to stay out of all bus lanes.
      This is to keep these clear for electric vehicles and driverless cars/robot taxis who are allowed to drive in them as of right.

      No its not April fools day [yet].

  7. They can only take 69 passengers due to weight of batteries. So another words only viable for low patronage routes as we head towards a more rapid style high capacity network…hopefully AT trail buses are higher capacity than these London ones

    1. 69 passengers is about maximum for any single decker in Auckland, and more than the small ones. You wouldn’t get 69 people on a Link bus for example.

        1. 69 would include standers even on the larger of the metro buses, there was once some H&E buses that would seat 70 but AT changed their seating configuration to allow for wheelchairs and they now only seat 54 (plus one wheelchair, less if there is more than one).

    2. That isn’t any different from non-electric single deckers in terms of capacity in London and is actually above planning capacity of the routes with electric. High frequency, double decker routes only use a planned capacity of 70 passengers per bus.

    1. Electricity? Can’t be the way forward.

      I know this because Wellington’s is getting rid of its trolleybuses, and the NIMT its electric locos.

      And we all know that our politicians and decision-makers make the right calls.

  8. I guess these 2 electric buses that will be trailed will be the refurbished Wellington trolley buses that are being converted to new Wrightspeed electric drivetrains that NZ Bus has $43 million into. Trolley Bus 362 was the first bus to be converted into Wrightspeed electric drivetrain in July 2016.

  9. 362 wasn’t converted to Wrightspeed in July 2016: the original planned completion date was October 2016, but this has been delayed. And Wrightspeed is a hybrid system, not fully electric – the drive train is electric, but the prime mover is a gas turbine.

    1. No you are wrong. Wrightspeed power train is battery powerd. The turbine is a “range-extender” engine that can deliver a quick-charge to the batteries while the bus is on the road. The plan is remove the turbine once battery life increases.

      Will on the 14 Jul 16, 362 was on jacks with its old running gear removed and the Wrightspeed being fitted. See Stuff article – http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/82109793/Trolley-bus-jumps-wires-gets-electric-revamp-to-get-a-new-lease-on-life

  10. kris: in what respect am I wrong? The information I gave is 100% accurate!

    Agreed that the plan is eventually to remove the turbines as technology permits, but it appears that technology doesn’t appear to have permitted the completion of 362 as a hybrid yet (it’s way behind the original October 2016 completion date, and Greater Wellington has put back the trolley withdrawal date by up to several months as a result), so I won’t be holding my breath…

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