ACT The government plans to invest in electric buses despite serious reliability problems

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September 30, 2019 16:52:53

The ACT government wants to invest more money in electric buses, despite an assessment that the buses failed to complete more than a third of their travels in the peak period, in some cases due to breakdowns.

  • An evaluation commissioned by the government found that electric buses lost one in three peak services
  • But ACT Transportation Minister Chris Steel says they are a "viable alternative" for Canberra
  • The ACT government wants to buy 84 electric buses in the coming years

During the 12-month trial period, Canberra's two electric buses lost 35.7% of their services, compared to only 0.8% of the low-emission diesel alternative, which makes up most of the fleet of ACT buses.

The evaluation commissioned by the government did not specify what caused the failures and missed services for electric buses, but at the ABC problems and delays were reported in the maintenance of electric vehicles in case of problems.

But releasing the results this morning, ACT Transportation Minister Chris Steel said the process showed that buses were a "viable alternative" for the city.

Plans are now being drawn up to include electric buses in a fleet of 84 new buses purchased in the coming years.

The ACT government pointed out the surprising finding that electric vehicles are much less emission-intensive than the diesel alternative as a reason to create an electric fleet.

Steel said that reliability is clearly a problem, but trusts that the government can buy buses without such problems.

"The new buses that are coming to market are now much improved in terms of build quality and are much more reliable," he said.

The government has recently committed to reducing its zero transport emissions by 2040, including a complete transition from diesel buses.

Steel said that despite the results, the trial showed that it could be done.

"Electric buses are a viable alternative to our bus fleet in the future and we are now doing the detailed work we need to do to transfer our fleet," he said.

However, he clarified that the vehicles purchased should be more reliable than those used during the process.

"We hope that the new buses on the market will be able to offer the reliability that the bus process has not done," he said.

Industry figures criticize the "incomplete" process

Some industry figures have criticized the process and its results, arguing that the ACT government was willing to try the technology, very little could be taken from the results.

This included the use of the Toro Carbridge, an "airport-style" bus designed to ferry passengers on short journeys between parking lots and runways.

Currently the ACT diesel buses offer twice the average range of electric buses, at 810 km against 450 km.

But Toby Roxburgh, who runs the infrastructure provider for electric buses Electromotiv, said the results were a misrepresentation of the capabilities of the technology and that electric buses were reliable.

"Electric buses are as reliable as diesel buses and electric buses have far fewer moving parts than diesel buses," he said.

"The beauty of electric buses is that you don't have to worry about engine failure."

Roxburgh said the ACT is well on its way, as other jurisdictions around the world have a growing interest in electric buses.

"Australia is really the laggard of the world and the only part that is not really starting to buy significant volumes of electric buses," he said.

Themes:

the states-and-territories,

urban-planning-and-development,

Sustainable Development,

alternative energy,

environment,

Canberra-2600,

act

First published

September 30, 2019 16:29:58

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