If Auckland Transport’s Low Emission Bus Roadmap is adopted by its board next week, all new buses in Auckland from 2025 onward and all buses by 2040 will need to have zero emissions. They also are targeting to have the City Link as the first route fully electric and are targeting that for November 2020 when a new contract for it commences.
The moves are part of AT’s response to Mayor Phil Goff signing the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration that commits Auckland to buying only zero emission buses from 2025 and ensuring a major area of the city is zero emission by 2030. Achieving these goals isn’t a straightforward task but even so I can’t help but wonder if AT couldn’t do more to achieve it even earlier.
Auckland currently has about 1,300 buses and the fleet has been increasing by about 5% per year – although much of that growth has come in the last few years associated with new contracts as part of the roll out of the new network. As part of those new contracts, AT require the average age of buses in an operators fleet to be no more than 10 years with no individual buses over 20 years old. The age and emission standard of the current fleet is shown below and in total 477 are over 10 years old.
Between 2020 and 2024, a large number of contracts are up for renewal and it that seems an opportune time to push for change rather than waiting for those contracts to be fulfilled with buses that could still be running around in 2040.
Below is a graph highlighting the options looked at for the roadmap for rolling out electric buses. They appear to be going for Option E, the slowest option of them all.
AT need to be more aggressive with this and I feel they underestimate the benefits to passengers, and potential gain in ridership, that would come with a faster adoption
Why we need this
Currently, transport makes up 34.8% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland with cars being the biggest slice at of that representing 24.9%. But “diesel vehicles are estimated to be responsible for 81% of all vehicle-related air pollution health costs, with the annual health costs estimated at $466 million”. The image below shows the city centre with many locations exceeding
AT have been trialling e-buses, how are they going?
You may recall back in April when Auckland Transport launched two electric buses to trial on the City Link service. AT say each bus and charger cost $840,000. In my opinion, these buses offer a significantly better experience to other buses in Auckland, both for bus passengers but also for pedestrians and cyclists thanks to having no emissions and being significantly quieter. The roadmap lays out the early operating costs results they’ve and they’re fantastic with costs just 25% of diesel buses.
AT, understandably, suggest that one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of e-buses is the capital cost of them. They say they paid $840,000 each for both of the bus and the chargers but also that they expect the prices to come down. The table below originally comes from Bloomberg and shows that by 2030, the capital cost of a new bus will be about the same as a diesel powered bus.
Below are some of the more interesting challenges AT have identified to reaching their goals
- Some of the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass (VDAM) regulations currently restrict capacity of some battery buses. I recall VDAM had to be changed a few years to allow double deckers on the roads more easily.
- Not only do the buses cost more, there is a high set-up cost to for the electric charging infrastructure so the network can accommodate charging all the buses in a depot overnight. They say some of the changes needed to support an electric fleet could add $30-60 million in capital costs.
- Bus manufacturers don’t currently make three-axle electric buses like we’d need in Auckland to replace our existing double decker fleet (Wellingtons new electric double deckers are only twin-axle and don’t have as much carrying capacity.
While battery powered buses are likely to be the most common, AT flag that hydrogen fuel cells are also emerging. This is notable given Ports of Auckland have just announced they’re going to build a hydrogen fuel plant.