Driving the future | AUT launches country’s first electric bus

The viability of large electric vehicles (EVs) as replacements for current diesel buses is being tested with a project that sees New Zealand’s first 100 per cent electric bus on the road.

New Zealand’s first fully battery powered electric bus hit the road earlier this month, thanks to a joint initiative by Tranzit Group, EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) and AUT.

The 35-seater bus became part of AUT’s fleet, servicing the university’s North-City Campus and South-City Campus bus routes. As well as providing sustainable transport for hundreds of students every day, it will operate as a mobile research tool, providing vital data to understand the economics and performance of electric buses on New Zealand roads. ​

“Through the government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, which encourages innovation and investment in low emission vehicles, EECA is supporting this demonstration of EV technology to create awareness and influence change in the sector,” EECA’s Transport Development Manager, Elizabeth Yeaman said.

Joint funding from EECA and Tranzit Group has covered the cost of the development and build, charging infrastructure, and the upskilling of Kiwi engineers, meaning New Zealand’s first battery electric bus is also built on home soil.

Kiwi Bus Builders in Tauranga constructed the body of the bus, with electric engines and chassis built by Times Electric Group in China. 

Tranzit Group’s Managing Director Paul Snelgrove said the project was an important step in the evolution of bus transport in New Zealand.

“There are more than 9,500 large diesel buses in New Zealand and, to replace these with a greener fleet, we need to demonstrate the performance and viability of electric buses,” he said.

As well as providing a sustainable transport option, AUT will be researching the potential impact of EV buses on the electricity grid and gathering other key information. This includes energy consumption, battery capacity, battery charging rate, duration and number of trips, mileage (km), average speed, charging duration and electricity consumption, regeneration and braking data.

PhD students Jun Su and Syed Muhammad Arif under supervision of Professor Tek Lie will be using the data collected to investigate the impacts of the bus.

“We’re proud to be the first university in New Zealand to launch a bus with zero tailpipe carbon emissions. As well as a green transport option, this bus will provide the transport sector with vital usage, impact and environmental data and research to help shape the way forward,” AUT’s Associate Director, Facilities Support Sonia Simpson said.

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