Victoria needs to get on electric bus if it's serious about emissions and health | RenewEconomy

Victoria needs to get on electric bus if it’s serious about emissions and health

Victoria is talking up its efforts on renewable energy, but it should really be leading in the shift to electric buses too.

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An electric bus in the ACT.

The inconsistency and hypocrisy of state clean energy plans was on full display this month when Premier Daniel Andrews toured the former Ford factory in Geelong to open a wind turbine assembly plant.

Not so long ago, his Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne was touring another factory, automotive body builder Volgren, inspecting dirty diesel-powered buses the government is proposing to buy – ignoring the coaches powered by electricity that the Dandenong plant is also manufacturing.

Andrews told the assembled media in Geelong that he was championing the activism of Australian children taking time out from school to protest inaction on climate change pollution. But if Andrews truly believes this, then why has his government signed off on a fleet of 100 new buses that will spew lung-busting particulates into the air?

(Ed: Victoria is not the only state doing this. West Australia recently signed a contract for 900 diesel buses, despite competing offers for electric once).

Combusting diesel to power buses produces fine pollution particles known as PM10 and PM2.5. They are small enough to penetrate the thoracic tissues of the respiratory system and lead to lung disease, especially among children.

A 2013 World Health Organisation report explained: “Exposure to PM affects lung development in children … as well as chronically reduced lung growth rate and a deficit in long-term lung function.”

Meanwhile, the sale of electric buses globally jumped 32 per cent last year, according to Bloomberg research.

Most of them are on China’s roads. But other countries, such as India, Germany and the US, are also jumping onto the electricity-powered bus bandwagon and Victoria has missed an important opportunity to join them.

Shenzhen-based vehicle maker Build Your Dreams (BYD) received around $1 billion in subsidies toward its electric bus program in 2016. The company is backed by forward-thinking investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Electric buses may be more expensive to buy than fossil-fuel powered ones, although the gap is narrowing quickly, but they save hundreds of thousands of dollars in diesel costs per bus a year and are easier to maintain.

And they do not create pollution from their exhaust pipes. Which is why China – alarmed at the rising number of premature deaths caused by carcinogenic pollution – has rolled out more than 500,000 BYD buses.

In the world’s biggest asthma capital, Melbourne, you would think the Victorian Government might realise it could save millions of dollars in medical costs by investing in healthy electric public road transport. It would be a win-win for the state budget and the well-being of children walking or riding their bicycles to school.

Australian governments should ban any new purchases of diesel buses, just as it bans under-age cigarette smoking. Incentives and subsidies should be provided to Volgren and the several other local bus assembly plants to fast-track production of electric buses and help bring down their pricing.

A conventional bus costs between $500,000 and $800,000. Electric buses are just a tad more expensive at between $700,000 and $800,000 and costs are coming down as battery technology keeps on improving.

Further, buses can be hybridised with solar panels to add to their kilometre  range at both bus stops and stations as well as on their cabin rooftops.

Volgren’s prototype has been built on a BYD chassis and includes 324 kWh of batteries, enabling a range of more than 250km on a single charge.

The depleted batteries take between four and five hours to fully replenish.

Ongoing research and development around the world is bringing electric charging times down with every new product launch and innovative charging at stops and stations is extending the daily range beyond 250km.

BYD is understood to be installing a ground-breaking, wireless vehicle charging network in a venture with Philadelphia-based Momentum Dynamics and Indianapolis’ own public transport system, Indygo.

Three high-powered, wireless inductors will be installed to deliver 300kW charging to a fleet of 33 buses, allowing 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation.

The Chinese company is not the only player that sees a big future for electric buses. Others include CRRC, Alexander Dennis Limited, Solaris Bus & Coach, Zhengzhou Yutong, New Flyer, Volvo and Proterra.

Buffett’s own sources estimate that the electric bus market is expected to be worth $72.9 billion in the next five years, with a growth rate of 19.6 per cent between now and 2024.

Back in Spring St, Victorian parliamentarians ought to be worried about the growth rate of lung diseases attributed to their dirty diesel buses. When more people are going to die from the busses you purchase than get carried by them then we know there’s something seriously out of whack with the governments thinking.

Matthew Wright is executive director of Pure-Electric.

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7 Comments
  1. Marcus 10 months ago

    I know that at least here in Sydney they are taking electric buses very seriously. I had a ride in one just the other day – fantastic!

    https://www.transitsystems.com.au/electric-buses

  2. lin 10 months ago

    As a Melbourne commuter cyclist, I enthusiastically endorse this message. Melbourne diesel buses are the worst.

  3. Graeme McLeay 10 months ago

    Thank you Mathew for an excellent article. There is no justification for diesel buses which directly impact human health. We have been advocating electric buses to governments ever since the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions was established in 2015. If large contracts are now filled for diesel buses, that will have health consequences for the life of those buses. It is a “no brainer”. I am fed up with watching school children inhaling diesel exhaust a few meters from them.

  4. Richard Laxton 10 months ago

    I am a Melbournian who rides 60km/day on Transdev-operated buses, mainly to reduce my carbon footprint, and this sickens me. Buses last a long time, much of the current fleet is barely roadworthy, and emits huge amounts of both air and noise pollution. Many of the buses in the fleet also have barely functioning gearboxes and must go through brakes like a politician through a buffet. Standing at the city bus stop every day, with so many buses spewing filth at me every day is astonishingly depressing.

    On one hand, we have the Victorian government providing reduced stamp duty for EVs, and on the other hand they are buying more filthy diesel buses when perfectly valid options exist for longer-lasting, smoother and quieter buses which don’t poison everyone.

  5. Dennis Kavanagh 10 months ago

    kquote>I’ve b

    een forwarding online content I’ve found about electric buses from around the world to Lily Ambrosio for about 2 years now. And now they buy more diesel buses. Absolutely appalling. I can only assume there must be some sort of behind the scenes deal with the unions that is preventing Labor from acting appropriately.

  6. Moon Waxing 10 months ago

    Why isn’t the whole of Australia moving to electric buses? The WA government are blagging about a $1.3 billion surplus! They’re spending $500million+ on diesel buses ☹

  7. Andrew 10 months ago

    They ordered 50 hybrid buses in June 2018, then 100 new diesel buses in December 2018. Apparently the 100 bus order was only $16M; I don’t think $160k is enough for a locally-made bus so perhaps there is another stakeholder who loves pollution.

    And even with the Volgren hybrids, they only use 30% less fuel- moving from the straight petrol powertrain Camry to a hybrid Camry reduces fuel consumption by at least 42%, and bus driving conditions should have plenty of opportunity to use regenerative braking. Is that because diesel powertrains are already making better use of their fuel than petrol systems or is Volgren not using regenerative braking as well as they could?

    For battery-electrics, are there any significant challenges in charging an electric bus fleet in Melbourne? Will they need to tap into the tram/train substations or is grid capacity not an issue?
    I guess a bus doesn’t need to start the day full with that daytime top-up charging. We could have big grid batteries charging from local small solar and dumping it all into a bus when they’re having a rest.

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