This week will see the first two 100% battery powered electric buses for public transport hit the streets in Auckland on the City Link route. They’re not quite the first ones overall though as AUT launched one as a shuttle between their campuses last month. The buses have been bought by Auckland Transport and are also funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The buses are the electric version of the ones currently used on the City Link, and a number of other NZ Bus routes. Other than some changes to the styling, there are a couple of useful to the buses. The rear door is slightly larger which will make it easier for people getting off, however for some reason, AT have only put one HOP card reader at the back door. Having a second reader would make alighting much faster. There is also a bit more standing space thanks to the folding seats, although I wonder if they couldn’t have been extended all the way to the rear door. Most people using the City Link are doing very short trips, such as from Wynyard to Britomart, so having more people standing isn’t to much of an issue.

Sadly, I think these will be the only buses of their kind we see in Auckland for a while. With the new bus network rolling out and aligned with new long term contracts, the bus companies have had to invest in a lot of new buses to meet ATs criteria. With much newer fleets, it means it could be quite some time before those companies need to invest in new buses again.

Here’s the press release

The future is electric and Auckland Transport is driving into the future with its first electric buses.

The two buses are a trial funded by the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Auckland Transport (AT).

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter have launched the buses which will operate on the City Link service from next week.

Mr Goff says, “Last year I pledged with mayors from around the world to work towards making our streets fossil-fuel free. As part of the declaration I committed Auckland to procure only zero-emission buses by 2025. Today marks a positive step towards achieving that goal.

“Compared to diesel buses, the new e-buses will be cleaner, quieter and provide our passengers with a better experience. Modern electric buses can have a range of more than 200 km with one charge so the shorter runs on the hilly city loop are a great testing ground.

“Auckland is serious about leading the response to climate change in New Zealand and internationally. Transport contributes over a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland and this trial supports our efforts to lower emissions in our city,” says Mr Goff.

Ms Genter says electric buses are great news for people working, visiting, and living in the city. They’re better for the climate, they’re quieter, and keep the air we breathe clean.

“It’s great to see trials like this, which will help local and central government learn and plan for large scale deployment of zero emissions buses.”

Mr Goff says, “I want council to lead the way on reducing transport emissions by finding efficiencies, shrinking our fleet numbers and progressively replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with EVs.”.

Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says the two buses will help AT develop a Zero Emission Bus Roadmap for Auckland. “These buses will help us accurately estimate whether electric buses meet the needs of our customers, what routes they can operate on and, of course, whether they’re commercially viable.

Mr Ellison says these are exciting times for electric vehicle technology. “In January, we replaced some of our fleet vehicles with electric cars. These 20 cars are performing well and are just the beginning of the change to EVs for Auckland Transport.”

The supplier of the buses is Alexander Dennis/BYD. Tony Moore, General Manager of ADL New Zealand says the buses for the trial are based on the Transport for London e-buses. “We are working with progressive transport authorities, cities and enlightened political leaders around the world to introduce, emission-free transport solutions.

“The Mayor has made it clear that Auckland intends to lead the way in the drive towards a greener, cleaner environment and the introduction of these buses is important in that journey.”

Auckland Transport was awarded $500,000 from the EECA Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund towards one of the buses and charging infrastructure. Auckland Transport’s contribution towards the cost of the buses is $1.21m.

EECA is also funding the installation of 60 EV charging stations at Auckland Transport parking facilities.

Battery powered electric buses are on their way to other cities too. Wellington is getting 10 electric double deckers in the middle of the year (having just ripped out it’s trolley buses) and Tauranga is getting five electric buses as part of an overhaul of it’s bus network at the end of the year.

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    1. Just came back form there and there buses ( and lots of the taxi fleet are EVs). So quiet to ride on. I think some other cities in china have or about to more to EVs in a big way.

      Shenzhen metro is great as well. AT should look at how this city has approached its transport issues ( note it is only 1-1.5 hour trip by high speed train to see the new LR supertrams as well).

  1. Bah, I thought they were bigger, why are they still using ADL sized buses on the city link or any other high patronage route…

    They are really not suitable for sitting next to people, I am not that wide and part of me is on the seat next to me even when I am right up against the wall, a wider person would take up almost two seats. Yet compare this with almost every other bus and you have plenty of room.

    1. The seats look different in those buses from the photo above, will be interesting if they more comfortable or not

  2. Although this appears to be a good step, battery powered vehicles are inherently short range (200 k’s for a bus is fairly useless) and will need the batteries replaced at great expense in a few years. And really, what becomes of the E waste? This is not a subject to bury heads over because of the short term feel good factor of no emissions. Yes I know some goes toward low grade storage but otherwise? And yep, one day, some day, the range just might improve but then again maybe not so much.

    That Wellington removed its Trolley buses to be replaced with diesel is astoundingly stupid when it comes to forward thinking and carbon reduction but hey, they did it and Wellington scores many of Auckland’s old diesel buses as a result. Who cares about emissions?

    Electric buses are where we should be heading but a far more sustainable model is needed. Trolley buses are the only way forward in this area!

    1. How many Auckland buses cover more than 200km a day? Most only run the morning and afternoon peaks, so one bus could do two return trips from Orewa to CBD (40km 1 hour trip) in the morning, and then recharge for two return trips in the afternoon/evening peak.

      A 200km range would just about be enough to allow a pair of buses to do the 31 return trips on the 7.3km 143 Ranui to Henderson route (260km including the run to Pavlovic’s Mt Roskill depot). However, since they require a driver change sometime between 6am and 8pm, I presume they use more than two buses on the route?

      1. I’d be surprised if *any* buses other than the NEX/881 did significantly more than 200km a day. When talking about electric vehicles, we often forget that electric vehicles don’t lose range in very slow traffic like ICE vehicles do.

        1. The 120 route runs bothways between Constellation Station and Henderson via the Upper Harbour. That’s a pretty long route, but it pales in significance to the 120’s predecessor, the 130, which used to run between Takapuna and New Lynn via Constellation, Westgate, and Henderson.

          1. Hadn’t thought about the 120. It takes an hour to do a 20km long route. Although, with 200km of range, you can get ten hours of service out of a single charge!

            I would suggest that buses on the old route would actually do fewer service kms each day as the route would be so much slower.

        2. Many buses would do more than 200km a day. Some are on the road from the start of the morning peak until late at night, sixteen or eighteen hours. They might reposition or layover, but not return to a depot where they could plug in. By my guesstimate about half of the total fleet is running around all day with little or no chance to recharge.

      2. Surely you want a commercial vehicle in service as many hours of the day as possible to pay back the investment. Sitting at a wall plug does not make money!

        And the Link buses must cover hundreds of k’s per day, easy!

        1. Yes, you do want buses in service for as long as possible, which is why peak only services are so inefficient.

          The City Link buses run 8 times an hour for 17 hours, over a 7 km long loop. That is 950 service kilometres. 5 buses with a range of 200km could service that route all day. To manage that, they would have to go Wynyard to K Road and back in less than 38 minutes (to keep to timetable). I don’t think that is possible.

          The City Link probably uses 6 buses expecting a return journey in 40 minutes, with a couple of minutes spare for timekeeping. Each bus would do just over 150 km per day.

          1. Let’s skip the Inner Link. How about the Outer Link? Do you have any figures on those and whether EVs would be suitable?

          2. Maybe…. I sincerely doubt that they average more than about 15km/h, so would need to be in service for at least 14 hours to get to 200 service kilometres.

            I think you are thinking of the wrong sort of routes routes by the way. All bus routes have at least 1 bus in service for at least 15 hours. The fastest routes will be the ones with high service kilometres and the links are our slowest routes. If any routes are doing more than 200km it would be those that are running on a lot of rural roads, or uncongested arterials. Maybe the 396 or the 35 in South Auckland, or the Kumeu/Waimauku services out west?

    2. The 10 electric double deckers that will be used on the Island Bay to Churton Park services are going to struggle on the City to Churton Park sector due to hill work. I curious to the how service disruptions will be on this routes due to battery problems.

      1. Why will they be impacted by hills?
        Cause you think they’re glorified golf carts?

        Electric buses will be able to go up hills even when fully loaded way faster than the existing diesel buses can.

        And when they go down the other side, they put a lot of the energy back into the batteries while providing braking.

        Unlike the old diesel buses that just blow smoke the whole time and can’t ever capture any of that downhill motion to reduce energy consumption.

        While trundling back and forth on a longish route all day might be a challenge for current electric buses – very few buses [whether diesel or electric] actually manage to do that all day every day. As many do peaks only, then rest up for several hours between.

        Of for others the average time they take to complete a round trip is measured in hours not minutes due to congestion.

        As was pointed out before, a bus that travels a 20km in an hour, can do a 10 hour stint between full recharges.

        In as also pointed out below, The Wellington electric double deckers will be able to fast top up charge en-route in a couple of places, easily adding several more hours to their daily on road usage by doing so. More than enough.

        I think the problem Wellington will have iis not that they will prove unreliable, but that they will prove too popular with drivers and passengers. Who will end up preferring them to the old diesel powered buses. Which may cause people to wait for the “next” electric bus over getting on the diesel bus right in front of them.
        Fortunately thats easily fixed with more electric buses.

        1. As was pointed out before, a bus that travels a 20km in an hour, can do a 10 hour stint between full recharges.

          Assuming air conditioning is not running ?

    3. Electric buses can have range extended by fast charge top up during the day (using a pantograph connection to overhead charger).

      Which is what will happen in Wellington with the electric double deckers.
      (Top up charging stations at Island Bay & Wellington Rail interchange + overnight charge at depot.)

      1. Has anybody considered that there’s quite a number of bus stops all over Auckland where drivers are required to take mandatory breaks as part of Class 2 license and log book requirements.

        Perhaps they would be good places to consider installing fast charge stations for bus batteries?

    4. The decision to retire Wellington’s trolley bus fleet was made years ago in recognition of the fact that some of the infrastructure used by the trolley bus network had reached the end of its serviceable life. The choices were to spend a significant amount of money on an upgrade of the infrastructure in question, or replacement (of the network) with something new. Technology has moved on since trolley buses were introduced, with battery powered vehicles now a viable option.

      This isn’t the first time electric vehicles have been withdrawn in New Zealand because it was decided that worn out infrastructure wasn’t worth replacing. Electric locomotives in Christchurch were retired in 1970 when the power infrastructure reached EOL, and the electric locomotives at Otira were withdrawn, in part, because the equipment was worn out.

      1. Joe90 – “The decision to retire Wellington’s trolley bus fleet was made years ago”
        umm, no, it was more politically driven than that. Ideology rules.
        “battery powered vehicles now a viable option”. except that they have just imported old used diesels, until the technology actually reliably exists.

    5. Has anybody considered that there are quite a number of bus stops all over Auckland where drivers are required to take mandatory breaks as part of Class 2 license and log book requirements.

      Perhaps they would be good places to consider installing fast charge stations for bus batteries?

  3. I don’t know why AT makes this a tag-on route only, given all journeys using the City Link are within the CBD zone.

    1. data. When you have the tag on and off you can calculate loadings along the route, which is quite useful for planning purposes.

        1. It is if you want to know how many people are using the service.

          Do you want to go back and rely on the bus driver estimating the loadings of people on the bus?

          Or leverage HOP data to tell you exactly how many and where they use the buses?
          At a small inconvenience.

          In any case you can tag off before the bus stops to save time.

          Mind you, I do agree that whatever data AT collect seems to fall on deaf ears as to putting big enough buses on the route.

          I suspect AT’s transport minions do a simple average of the loadings over all stops on the route, then pick a bus which handle that many, hence why we get these pokey ADLs on these well used routes. Which are massively packed some parts of the route and woefully empty other parts.

          1. Seems to be a misconception here that you don’t need to tag on because the City Link is free. It’s not. BUT, if you just tagged off another service (ie. a transfer) then, yes, it’s no charge.

  4. I does feel like just a photo shoot opportunity. Obviously all the operators that tendered for various routes will not replace the current diesels for years to come.

    1. The oldest of NZ Bus’s ADL Enviro200s are 7 years old, the larger Designline buses are even older. To keep the average age below the NZTA’s 10 year cap, many of those will need to replaced over the next 5 years. What has happened to the NZ Bus WrightSpeed retrofit program?

      1. All of us in Wellington are wondering “happened to the NZ Bus WrightSpeed retrofit program”. As far as I understand, they converted one bus to the Wrightspeed system, took the Regional Councillors for a drive in it, they went up Ngauranga Gorge (a long steep drive), and we’ve honestly never heard about it again. We don’t know if it conked out, if it succeeded perfectly, or something in between – it has just never been discussed again. The consensus would seem to be that the end result was not quite as good as hoped for.

        But the WrightSpeed technology is pretty much fundamentally flawed, is it not? Using a small combustion engine (diesel? petrol? gas?) to spin a turbine to provide electric power to turn the wheels is, I would have thought, a pretty pathetic use of energy. Loss of entropy at every stage? And still emitting CO2? I mean seriously – why bother?

        I have only one message for Greater Wellington Regional Council: Bring back the fully electric trolleybuses until you have your shit sorted out.

          1. Because, the GWRC wanted to have a low carbon fleet, and got rid of trolley buses which were: Electric motor → umm, that’s it. No petrol engine.
            Now we have Engine → generator → electric motor = fossil fuels and wasted energy.
            Comprendez?

          2. You missed a step, the battery/capacitors. So its a small internal combustion engine running at a constant speed and load where it is optimally efficient, which then charges battery. The electric motors then draw as much or as little current as they need to get around, and regenerate back into the battery under breaking…. meanwhile the engine continues to run at optimal load to charge.

        1. The Wrightspeed powertrain only uses the turbine to charge the battery after the capacity becomes low. Yes, you are right in saying it is inefficient, but the idea is that the turbine is hypothetically more efficient and cleaner than an internal combustion engine, even with the conversion from fuel to electricity to movement. Theoretically it is the best option to avoid the power demand of charging EVs (that’s another issue altogether).
          The major flaw in this is the battery capacity, which from what has been announced, it is critically low. Wrightspeed has oversold their ability to produce a decent battery pack that can match what BYD/ADL electric buses offer and therefore it is unlikely to take off.
          Noticed how there is very little news anywhere, even in the USA regarding Wrightspeed?

    2. With a bus life expected to be 10+ years, I assume most operators aren’t going replace buses unless the contract is renewed or extended.

      Does any know if there is any provision for contracts to be extended or automatically renewed or does AT have to re-tender them out. It sounds like most contracts are for 8+years, i wonder what conditions AT have to renegotiate them, it would be a costly exercise to get operators to change fleet before bus has reached it end of life

  5. Is that a single row of seats in front of the rear door? What were they thinking? Wouldn’t there be more seats (and lots more standing / walking room) if those seats were against the wall?

    1. Yes, to both. The ADLs are the worst possible layout for the city link route. They are perfect for a bus route meandering around Torbay for small numbers of people to access local town centres or bus stations. They are terrible for routes with really high loading and unloading rates, close stop spacing, and large numbers of passengers with prams, trollies, or mobility devices.

    2. That row of seats provides separation from the folding seats/standing area and the rear door area. No doubt partly for safety reasons and also efficiency – I’m sure AT don’t want the rear door exit area clogged with standees who are staying on the bus but who are going to prevent other folks getting off the bus easily if they are clogging up the rear door.

      That probably explains the “thinking” as to why its been done that way.

      I do think you could lose those two seats and have a smaller horizontal [padded] rail or clear panel there between the wall of the bus and the existing upright to achieve the same effect.

    3. It’s because AT wants minimum 35 seats for a “standard” bus… This is the optimal layout without going under the limit.They don’t care about the overall user-friendliness, only numbers…

  6. My main problem is that they’re unnervingly quiet, and i’m forced to listen to the conversations (or vice versa) of anyone in the vicinity.

  7. Interesting why they don’t try the electric double deckers. Double Decker doubles the capacity while only increasing the cost by 10%.

    1. May well be because double deckers weigh a heck more than single deckers, and probably the massive battery you would have to have in a electric double decker would make it weigh even more. The axle load on those beasts is such that they are having to possibly reinforce the roadways in Wellington. Also – just 10% extra? Not sure where you got that idea from – but its wrong. They cost a lot more.

  8. “With much newer fleets, it means it could be quite some time before those companies need to invest in new buses again.”

    The central and north shore new bus network has not went live yet. Can AT update the contract to allow bus operator to use their old secondhand bus – with a condition to replace it by electric bus in few years time?

    1. Interesting to read all the comments. Electric buses are the way of the future, but there is allot to consider and learn.

      Yes China is moving ahead rapidly, but comparing their progress to other parts of the world isn’t valid. Huge subsidies, lower vehicle standards, infrastucture included in building new cities, shorter vehicle life expectations, little consideration for battery disposal/recycle, swamp with vehicle numbers=reliability, etc.

      The “range” of a bus cannot be measured in kms as per a car. The vehicles are operating at low average speeds, carrying varying loads, and functional (lights, air conditioning, doors, destinations, etc) for up to 20 hours per day, and yes a diesel vehicle can do this.

      To change the Auckland fleet to electric would need some serious planning in regard to infrastucture, routes, vehicle selection, and funding.

      I’d suggest AT are at the start of the learning curve. By the way, wireless charging is a reality.

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