Qld’s full-size electric bus powered by 100% solar

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The transport sector accounts for 18.9% of Australia’s carbon emissions, so expanding the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is one of the most effective ways to lower these emissions. Global e-mobility leader and bus operator Transdev has now risen to the task, placing what is claimed to be Australia’s first 100% sustainably powered full-size electric bus on the roads in South East Queensland.

Transdev has been operating the 39-seat e-bus, carrying 61 passengers on TransLink routes throughout Brisbane and the Redlands, since early 2021, under a two-year partnership with the Queensland Government. The bus is 100% powered by ‘harvested’ solar energy from 250 solar panels, designed to capture more than 159,000 kWh of local sunshine onsite at Transdev’s Capalaba depot each year.

ABB Electrification and its installation partners worked with Transdev Australasia to provide an integrated grid-to-plug solution to support their bid to transfer their fleet to electric. All aspects of Transdev’s Queensland depot were evaluated prior to submitting a charging proposal, including analysis of proposed vehicle specification and the number of vehicles being considered, while also accommodating proposed future expansion of the e-bus fleet.

“Given that nothing of this scale had been done before in Australia or New Zealand, having a supplier like ABB that had local know-how backed with international experience was essential,” Transdev Australasia Chief Engineer Marc Cleave said.

“ABB is proud to be playing its part in powering the future of public transport in Australia,” added Steven Amor, ABB Australia’s E-Mobility Segment Lead. “We worked with both Transdev and Australian bus body manufacturer Volgren to develop a charging solution that would enable zero-emission transportation along the bus routes.

“Because buses follow fixed schedules and routes, there is no unpredictability around the range. The anchor decision is the bus charging strategy — because efficient recharging reduces electric bus operating costs. For Transdev, ABB deployed its e-bus ready Terra 124 dual-outlet fast-charging stations that can provide a single 120 kW charge or simultaneously charge two buses at 60 kW [in] under five hours and up to a 300-km range per charge. This solution minimises downtime and improves utilisation of the buses across the planned route.”

The new electric buses were built at Volgren’s factory in Dandenong, Melbourne, using close to 100 Australian suppliers and almost 90% proportion of local production. The chassis and the 348 kW lithium phosphate battery were manufactured by Chinese company BYD.

Volgren CEO Thiago Deiro said the introduction of zero-emission buses in Australia would have significant benefits for commuters, fleet operators, the health sector and, most importantly, the environment. “The fleet transition to electric buses that we’re now seeing will play an important part in reducing transport emissions in Australia and globally, which is essential for the community in so many ways,” he said.

“Our goal is to not only make the very best electric bus bodies, but to share knowledge and be part of the solution with international partners like ABB and Transdev.”

Transdev was also looking for a digital solution that would integrate with solar-powered panels. ABB’s high-power chargers form part of the ABB Ability portfolio of digital solutions. They benefit from cloud connectivity, which allows network operators 24-hour availability of the charging infrastructure to perform tasks remotely, such as monitoring diagnosis and upgrades to maximise charger availability and ensure reliable and efficient infrastructure.

“Our DC fast chargers run on the ABB Ability Connected Services Platform, which employs Microsoft’s Azure cloud services to enhance uptime, scalability and operational efficiencies, as well as to provide real-time remote support services,” Amor said. “ABB provides EV charging stations and critical EV charging infrastructure components, such as substations, energy storage systems and eco-friendly switchgear. These technologies are designed so that EV charging stations, once installed, will be both futureproof and scalable.

“ABB and Transdev share a similar vision around the potential of e-mobility and transportation to transform society. Our common goal is to accelerate the introduction of emission-free transportation by creating an environmentally friendly bus fleet supported by a standardised, fast, efficient and reliable charging system that will serve Transdev’s expanding electric bus fleet both today and into the future.”

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