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Bus Talk column - 10 December 2021

The electric bus that visited Dunedin in October was popular with passengers and produced fewer carbon emissions according to trial results.

Click here for more information about the e-bus.

 

The Electric bus that visited Dunedin in October was popular with passengers and produced fewer carbon emissions according to trial results.

The electric bus trial, a collaboration between the Otago Regional Council (ORC) and Go Bus Transport, tested the viability of the e-bus on Dunedin’s public transport routes, including hills, the city centre and motorways.

The 35-seater Enviroline bus built by Global Bus Ventures in Rolleston and was driven on routes 8, 44, 55 and 77 during most of October.

 

How did it perform?

ORC Implementation Advisor (Transport) Abbey Chamberlain (pictured) said during the trial, the

bus used between 40-50% of battery on a full day of service and performed well on hills, mitigating concerns about lack of battery power and range. More of the battery charge was used on steeper hills and when the air conditioning was used, though braking regenerated energy.

“We found out that this type of electric bus can operate well on a large part of Dunedin’s public transport network. Battery usage was not an issue, and the bus worked well on the

different types of terrain.”

One of the main challenges was navigating some of the road infrastructure such as bus stops and key intersections, which require more precise driving due to the longer wheelbase and wider turning circle of larger buses. The good news is that this issue was overcome during the trial with careful driver training, said Abbey.

The electric bus travelled a total distance of 3,148km, carrying over 3,000 passengers and 20 drivers were trained to drive the bus.

 

Reducing Carbon emissions

The electric bus is estimated to have saved 2,511kg of CO2 emissions over the course of the trial, not to mention other CO2 savings  from all the passengers who opted to travel

by bus instead of their own car. That is more than 90% reduction in CO2 emission compared to regular diesel buses.

ORC’s Regional Public Transport Plan has signalled that the Council will introduce zero carbon emission vehicles, which aligns with national plans for public transport decarbonisation, where no newly purchased diesel vehicles can enter service from 2025.

 

What passengers thought

Community engagement was a key part of the trial with around 100 people answering a survey and more than double that trying the electric bus at the Otago Museum during the

school holidays.

Abbey said, “Passenger feedback about decarbonisation was positive overall and most people were excited to see more electric buses in the future.”

A key finding from the survey showed that 73% of respondents said that their current mode of travel was influenced by climate change issues.

 

What now?

At a council meeting, councillors endorsed for staff to prepare a report to be presented back to the councillors in 2022, scoping out how to transition to a zero-emission public transport fleet.

Although costs of electric buses can vary, the cost increase from purchasing them will likely be offset over the years, with lower running costs of electric vehicles.

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