27 December 2022

Canberra's first of 12 electric buses charging up ready for next year

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
bus driver

The ACT’s first 12 electric buses have arrived in the Territory ready for service next year. Mechanic Stuart Shiell is excited to see this new technology on the road. Photo: ACT Government.

The $23 million rollout of the ACT’s electric bus fleet has – at long last – commenced, with the first electric buses now being charged up ahead of their introduction to service next year.

Transport Minister Chris Steel said he was delighted to have these join the fleet where they would deliver cleaner, quieter and more comfortable transport services.

“The ACT Government is also delivering on our promise to buy a further 90 battery-electric buses as part of our Zero Emissions Transition Plan,” he said.

“The future of our transport system is mass-transit light rail linking our city and town centres integrated with electric buses running to the suburbs, all running on 100 per cent renewable energy.”

READ ALSO Almost 400 drug samples now tested in Australian-first trial

The first of the Yutong battery electric buses being leased by the Government has now arrived in the ACT where it is being made “passenger-ready”.

A spokesperson for Transport Canberra said the other 12 buses had arrived in the country.

“The buses are required to undergo a commissioning and registration process that includes the installation of hardware systems for ticketing, CCTV and communications, and the application of decals that distinguish them as zero-emission buses,” they said in a statement.

An additional 90 electric buses are currently being procured by the Government. They are expected to be delivered in the next three years.

READ ALSO Integrity Commission aware of ‘unclear, jargon-filled’ CIT contracts as early as November 2021

These first Chinese-made Yutong E12 buses will be charged at the existing Tuggeranong depot. The next will be charged in Belconnen and the new Woden depot upon completion.

Construction on the second stage of the depot is underway.

Each of the buses will be able to travel between 300 and 350 kilometres a day and will be charged overnight for between three-and-a-half and four hours.

The Government earlier this year announced it would procure eight electric buses from Yutong VDI and four from Custom Denning.

But instead, Yutong VDI is now providing 12 electric buses and negotiations are ongoing with Custom Denning.

Mark Parton, MLA.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton has been pressuring the Government to ensure the delivery of the electric buses. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It follows months of pressure on the Government from the Opposition to ensure this fleet was ready this year as had been promised.

Canberra Liberals’ spokesperson for public transport Mark Parton had even questioned whether a reduced service timetable announced for next year was due to the failure of these buses to arrive.

But this was rubbished by the Government which has instead attributed cuts to the timetable to construction-related delays.

Major works are not only underway in Woden for the new bus depot but in the city with the raising of London Circuit.

In turn, public advocates have argued that excuse does not stack up.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

It’s laughable people here think these buses are better for the environment. Let’s not count all the material that are required to make them. Plenty of children working the cobalt mines , so a bunch of canberra can fell warm and fizzy about ev buses. They will cost more in the long term. People will believe and garage the government feeds them

How much is Transport Canberra spending on imported-diesel each year and what’s the ROI of EVs against this with reduced maintenance and fuel costs? I suspect it’s not trivial, lets say under five years? Can anyone comment?

I also roughly estimate around 15,000 m2 of bus-depot roof-space, I assume currently largely if not entirely un-used. Averaging around 1 KWh/m2/day from rooftop solar, that’s around 15 MWh/year? If an EV bus consumes around 300 Wh/KM – that’s around 50,000 kms of free fuel a year?

Super rough figures just to start discussion but hoping someone more knowledgeable can comment.

Australia spends $40 billion / year to send offshore to enrich marauding despots like Putin and human rights abusing regimes – while leaving us vulnerable to fuel-import disruption – so I wonder how much electrifying transport will improve our local economy and national security.

I assume for tradies alone like electricians – there’s a generation of well paid local tax paying jobs in this to build out the required infrastructure – that we would have spent on importing fuel.

Can anyone comment?

Ian, thanks – a well-considered post.
I’d also like to highlight your reference to reduced maintenance cost of EV vs ICE. A full EV does not require oil or oil filters, and if the bus also offers regenerative braking (which uses momentum to return a charge to the batteries while slowing the vehicle down) then brake linings and fluid requires less frequent replacement. Annual running cost of an electric bus would therefore be less than an ICE bus, with less environmental impact overall.
All that said, it’s a visionary trial by local govt. My guess is that we’re more likely to end up in years to come with batteries in cars and hydrogen (and smaller batteries) powering larger vehicles – like buses and trucks – with tanks in depots.

Minister Steele might be the best person to answer your “business case” style questions regarding the electrification of the bus service. That said, the Minister can’t or won’t provide “business case” /ROI information to the Opposition about LR, so somehow, I doubt that a RiotAct commentator will get more.

Just a personal reflection here. Modern diesels are relatively clean, complying with Euro 5 or 6 standards and are quite fuel efficient.

A bus full of passengers use less fuel and creates less emissions that the equivalent number of passengers driving their cars everyday.

To me, it’d makes a lot more sense to make public transport free (to encourage people out of their cars), then buying expensive electric buses from China.

Capital Retro3:32 pm 29 Dec 22

I’m linking to a very recent factual event and will not express an opinion to avoid being ridiculed again:


You actually expressed an opinion by posting this (hehe), but, yes, an unfortunate incident. Fortunately incidents like this are exceptionally rare, and typically occurs as the result of a battery fault in manufacture or a cell breach after significant impact. I recall reading a similar event with a particular Samsung mobile a couple of years ago, but people still use mobile phones. Regardless, no-one wants to risk such an outcome, so the technology and quality continues to be improved with new chemistries being introduced which reduce risk of thermal run-away.
That said, it is clearly twilight in the age of non-renewable fuel-based engines, and so we must start investing in alternate transport solutions as the ramp up can’t happen in a day, month or year. We need to start NOW, and these buses and supporting depot infrastructure are a good start in preparing for the future.

One example, 6 months ago.

You get ridiculed because you selectively google news then think your anecdotes equal data.

Despite actual research being linked to you repeatedly showing that the fire risk from ICE vehicles is far higher than for EVs.

Hey look Pa, I can google too:




Those ICE buses are clearly ticking time bombs.

Not to worry, petrol is a fire retardant so all the surrounding petrol cars will contain the blaze.

At least all the buses are charged next to each other at high rates.
They’ll all fall like dominoes.

Everyone seems to be in denial. We have 3 hour wait times for charging stations for cars that have 3 hours of range.
Many of the charging stations are underground most chargers are designed to limit charging rates while indoors to lower the fire risk.

Gooterz, there’s nothing in your post which is accurate. Do you drive an EV so are talking with experience? Well, I do, and I can advise that I’ve covered almost 50,000 klm around NSW and ACT in mine, and I’ve only needed to wait to charge once so far (and that was for 10 min). My car will cover 450+ klm with a charge, and the longest time I’ve charged for is 40 min (low to high) with a fast charger.
Only a small proportion of commercial chargers are underground. Regardless, charge rates for all are limited by the power infrastructure which supports them, and otherwise the car will only charge at a rate what it’s designed to accept.
The reality is that most EVs will be charged overnight at home from a standard 10a plug anyway, with a drain less that a kettle.

The night proves the sun doesn’t exist either. True. Every night it ceases to exist. Same selective reasoning employed by fossil fuel loyalists.

I can only assume these buses have a 500 – 1000kwh battery. That’s going to take a lot of power to recharge, more power than your average Tesla supercharger. Megawatt power, I’d say

Where did you get that figure? After a 5 second search on the internet, I found a company specification sheet for that bus which states battery capacity as either 422Kwh or 350Kwh. That’s easily rechargable overnight, and I doubt all buses will arrive back at the depot at 0% anyway. With respect to the impact of charging a number of buses at once, there are numerous supply configurations and scheduling which could mitigate the impact on the local grid, with one clear option to have the depot supported by large batteries themselves.
I read elsewhere the phrase “Fact before opinion please” – very wise indeed.

Capital Retro3:21 pm 29 Dec 22

Sounds like they will spend millions on solar panels to charge millions worth of batteries so buses can be independent of the grid to guarantee they are running on renewables..

Where is the money coming, by the way?

Steven Green3:32 pm 29 Dec 22

Well, obviously each bus might use 1 MWh per day. But it will be more efficient than running a diesel bus and, in any case, 100% of the ACT’S electricity comes from renewable sources so it’s all good.

Steven Green6:43 pm 29 Dec 22

100% of the ACT’s electricity is already sourced from renewables, so more more money needs to be spent there.

Probably… sounds like a lot of local tax paying jobs to me so bring it on 🙂

You’re probably looking at like 250-350 Wh/KM – hardly a big deal considering the abundance of photons and electrons compared to imported diesel. I assume there’s around 15,000m2 of bus depot roof space as well – assume around 1KWh/m2/day on average that’s around 15 MWh / year, or around 50,000 kms / year of free fuel from bus depot roof space alone. I’m not sure how imported diesel costs, but I assume 50,000 kms of bus-fuel is not cheap so I would be surprised if the ROI would be over four years for the bus depot rooftop solar. Not sure about the additional capital cost of the buses but I assume at some point it becomes a cost saving as well (before considering the economic benefits from reducing fuel imports).

StuartM, I don’t doubt that the bus has those specs as you describe, but the power requirement to recharge is going to be something to behold, especially when you have a fleet of them to recharge at the depot. Hence my comment about megawatt charging. Solar panels are not going to cut it. You would need three football fields of coverage just for the bus recharging, not to mention some very fancy and costly inverters

Yep spot on, imagine the local jobs that will create. AEMO have roughly estimated around 1/3 increased grid demand if we replace all imported fuel with local energy, I’m sure we’ll cope. And it can be easily automated, grid price linked and storage buffered.

We’ll be fine. The only losers here is OPEC and Russian oil.

Tom Worthington9:33 am 29 Dec 22

In Singapore a few weeks ago I saw an autonomous electric bus on display at a transport conference. This is intended for regular routes, but is still a work in progress. What would be possible sooner is convoys of buses for the express routes from Civic to Woden and Turragnong. At peak times one bus with a driver would be followed by one or more driverless, making a virtual bendy bus. This would have a higher capacity than light rail, at a lower cost.

Steven Green3:34 pm 29 Dec 22

A large fleet of autonomous taxis would make better sense. 24×7 door-to-door mobility for all.

I hope they aren’t using the coal connected power grid..

Steven Green6:44 pm 29 Dec 22

100% of the ACT’s electricity is sourced from renewable sources.

So what if they are? Even if completely powered by coal (and it won’t be) – how is this worse than imported diesel?

Renewable offset, slightly different. The grid overall is 30-40% renewable but rising.

Even if powered entirely by coal it’s still a step forward anyway due to EV efficiency vs combustion, and supporting local rather than overseas policy jobs.

Fully charged by 100% renewable energy. There’s a big story about the work involved in getting the depots ready. A brand new one being built in Woden.

Hopefully all the Fire Brigade staff, police, bus drivers and bus maintenance people are fully trained in handling (or better escaping) lithium ion battery fires. Perhaps even the passengers might need to be educated on the dangers of these types of fires.

I don’t recall any training for potential passengers on the dangers of fuel fires – statistically there’s a greater risk of fuel fire than from batteries. That said, newer battery chemistry (such as that shipped in Teslas from the Shanghai factory) have reduced likelihood of “thermal run-away” should the battery pack be breached on impact, so I expect to see those stats going down further. People need to realise that like any new technology, efficiency and safety is improved as more research is matured.

calyptorhynchus2:06 pm 29 Dec 22

How about if you’re on an electric bus that catches fire you jump off as quickly as possible?

Capital Retro3:23 pm 29 Dec 22

Swipe your MyWay card first or you will lose credit.

Wonder if they have all the gear ready to charge them or will they be sneaky charged with diesel generators like some other parts of the world that didn’t quite have their stuff together before the big Govt announcements

Fully charged by 100% renewable energy. Have you been on an electric bus or the tram?

You know even if they did charge them off a diesel generator it would be more efficient (read use less fuel and cause less emissions) than having a diesel engine in the bus. The figure is around 30% more efficient and this is due to losses in converting a diesel engines energy into movement. Converting it to electricity, storing it and then using electric motors is more energy efficient.

Capital Retro5:48 pm 29 Dec 22

Like converting the 12Vdc from solar panels via expensive inverters to 230Vac and then back to 12Vdc via another inverter into the EV?

For those who have been following more than SkyNews recently, you would have noticed energy prices are routinely negative last few months as solar pumps the grid. We don’t have an energy shortage, we only have a shortage of revenue for Gina Reinhardt and Murdoch’s Middle East oil investments.


A good point actually. A diesel generator is finely tuned to a specified parameter and EVs are way more efficient – so even if powered by diesel generators (and they won’t be) it’s still a step forward.

calyptorhynchus2:17 pm 28 Dec 22

Well we could have a Liberal Government and then we wouldn’t have a light rail or electric buses, because of course Liberals don’t believe in public utilities.

Well they haven’t been in power for over twenty years, but I guess the Three Stooges running the shop now make up for that

The local opposition is more concerned with silly culture wars than being electable – that only they care about within their SkyNews bubble. We need a new party…

Capital Retro2:15 pm 28 Dec 22

At a cost of $2 million each and 102 buses to be bought bought, 6,630 EV’s could be purchased instead and that is probably more than the number of daily passengers that ACTION carry now. They could be taken home at night by passengers (like gubbmint cars already are) and the surplus ones could be just dumped in the streets like those stupid e things with 2 wheels.

The gubbmint could then boast it had more EVs per head than anywhere else in Australia.

Do you even reread your comments before you mash submit?

The patronage numbers are all freely available on the internet in multiple places.


You’re not remotely close on your numbers even if you discounted the number of different routes that are required.

Actually outlines well the level of thought you put into most of your posts. Ridiculous.

Capital Retro5:50 pm 29 Dec 22

Welcome back, chewy14 !

Gee imagine the all the electric buses we could have had with the $billion we spent on the tram!! Everyone in Canberra could be enjoying emission free transport right now. And we would still have trees on northbourne avenue instead of the concrete and pole mess.

Canberra voted in Chief Minister for life and sidekick Rattenbury and will continue to do so, complaining all the way to the next election. Rinse and repeat

Did not cost $1 bullion, dying trees replaced, more people use the all electric tram than ever used the red rapid bus. Electric buses will be great but they’ll still be a bus and plenty will never travel them but will catch tram. Have you ever been on the tram?

Capital Retro5:59 pm 28 Dec 22

You are new, Robauz. Are you filling in for the usual trolley-folly apologists while they are on holidays? You seem to be quoting from the same manual as they do.

Your statement isn’t accurate.
LR didn’t just replace a Rapid bus service. The entire bus network was reworked. All buses were removed between Gungahling and the City and the buses in surrounding suburbs were redirected to feed passengers to LR.

Valid points, and the other comments offered by the same three consistently active on this subject lack any real counter-points. Northbourne Avenue looks much better (and safer) now that the old, dying trees have been removed, and the first light rail stage is well supported (with typically positive comments from those actually using it). We now also see re-vitalisation of the housing and communities along the route as a result.
And, yes, the bus network was re-worked to better leverage the light rail as a transport “back-bone” in connecting areas. That just makes fiscal and practical sense.

I should say that my earlier comment was in support of that offered by Robauz, not the original poster.

Stuart M, strange that the actual patronage rates of light rail stage 1 are well below that assumed by their business case which was barely marginal at best. With their heroic assumptions that have been savaged by independent experts.

Perhaps you can offer some “counterpoints” that justify the massive expenditure when far cheaper public transport options are available, as highlighted by this thread.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.