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Electric buses missed 35 per cent of their peak services during Canberra trial

Lachlan Roberts 30 September 2019 86
Electric bus.

During the trial, electric buses missed 35.7 per cent of their peak services. Photo: ACT Government.

A trial of electric buses in Transport Canberra’s fleet has found that the battery-powered vehicles missed 35 per cent of their peak services, but the ACT Government said it remains determined to replace its ageing 450-strong bus fleet with zero-emissions vehicles by 2040.

The ACT Government ran a 12-month trial comparing two fully electric buses and two hybrid buses against three low-emission diesel buses which are currently the backbone of Transport Canberra’s bus fleet.

Despite the electric buses easily having the best environmental performance, the trial found that the electric buses could only carry 55 passengers due to the additional weight of its batteries, whereas their diesel counterparts could carry 68 passengers.

The trial also found that the electric buses were unreliable, missing 35.7 per cent of their peak services compared to a 0.8 per cent failure rate for diesel buses.

The electric buses also had nearly half the range of the diesel and hybrid buses, only being able to travel 450 kilometres compared to the 810-kilometre range of diesel buses.

Despite the damning comparison, ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said the future of diesel buses is limited due to the ACT’s commitment to transitioning to a zero-emissions fleet by 2040.

“There is no doubt that in terms of operational reliability, the diesel buses performed much better than the electric or hybrid buses, with fewer unscheduled breakdowns,” Mr Steel said in a speech to the Australian Transport Research Forum.

“The fully electric bus proved to be the most unreliable of the three bus types during the trial and often missed peak services. But this is likely to be improved with better build quality, better local familiarity and access to spare parts which would, in turn, reduce downtime and improve reliability in the future.”

Despite the failures of electric buses, Mr Steel said he believes the zero-emission buses that are now available far exceed the technology and build quality of those evaluated in the ACT trial.

The trial also surveyed passengers onboard the electric buses, with most patrons saying that that they were satisfied with both the hybrid and electric buses in terms of noise, smell and smoothness of travel.

“Despite the reliability issues experienced with the electric and hybrid buses trialled, we are very optimistic about the future of zero-emissions buses,” Mr Steel said.

“The speed in which the technology has already changed means that transit operators can have much greater confidence in new zero-emission buses that are now emerging on the market.

Chris Steel.

Despite the failures from electric buses in the trial, Mr Steel said the Government is committed to the 2040 target. Photo: File.

“While low emission diesel buses will still remain the backbone of our bus fleet in the medium term, their future is limited. The trial has shown that zero-emissions vehicles are a viable alternative for Canberra’s public transport network going forward.”

Mr Steel said the ACT Government will continue to review the technology and capability of electric and other zero-emission buses available including the latest trials in NSW which are demonstrating “promising results”.

“The trial results will inform the work that is already underway in the ACT to develop, plan for the infrastructure, investment and skills needed to transition to zero-emissions transport,” he said.

“These trials are enabling transit agencies like ours to develop a detailed plan for the procurement of zero-emissions buses and the infrastructure required to support it [on] a large scale, upgrades to buses and facilities, and how we ensure that zero-emission buses can reliably service our large network footprint.”

Bus comparison chart.

Summary of the key comparisons of diesel, electric and hybrid buses used in the trial. Chart: ACT Government.


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86 Responses to Electric buses missed 35 per cent of their peak services during Canberra trial
Tim Walsh 5:31 pm 04 Oct 19

Im reading alot of whinging about the EV buses here. Comments about the reliability etc. Yet failing to acknowledge the buses trialed is older tech, and, spare parts not readily available.

What did the very first petroleum based vehicle look and perform like? Yep. Slow, low mileage, terrible performance.

Fundamentally EV technology is superior in every sense. Give it a few years and watch price continue to drop, performance continue to rise

Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 3:21 pm 03 Oct 19

ACTION used to be the number 1 bus service in Australia.. now the Barr government and the Greens have destroyed it and infact forced more people onto the roads. Well done!

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 3:52 pm 03 Oct 19

    Julian Hayes the ironic thing with this comment is what they have done with local feeder buses connecting to rapids is essentially restore the network to the days before self government. Back when it was number 1 (that is debatable though) with all suburban buses going to an interchange connecting to a 333 to get to another interchange and change again.

    Only difference now is the number of interchange locations is higher and the 333 has been replaced by several rapid routes.

Daniel Evans Daniel Evans 10:05 pm 02 Oct 19

That’s funny, so they find that something is not a good idea at all but say they don’t care and will keep going... wow that’s stubborn 😂

Anthony Colin Edmunds Anthony Colin Edmunds 4:20 am 02 Oct 19

Its time to develop the Hydrogen power cell,the type where the fuel is water,split into hydrogen/oxygen and then burned ,the exhaust is then Water.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 12:00 pm 02 Oct 19

    Anthony Colin Edmunds they have those on buses for years now too London trailed it and had it on a couple of routes, think Perth had a couple too.

    In London the hydrogen buses have just been replaced by electric buses.

    Anthony Colin Edmunds Anthony Colin Edmunds 10:01 pm 02 Oct 19

    Ashley Wright

Anthony Colin Edmunds Anthony Colin Edmunds 4:16 am 02 Oct 19

They're not zero emissions,they just shift the emissions somewhere else.The old trolley buses in the UK were ultra reliable and all did millions of miles until they were scrapped in favour of more flexible diesels..

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 12:33 pm 03 Oct 19

    The ACT purchases 100% renewable power. Thee are no emissions.

Christopher Stuart Veilands Christopher Stuart Veilands 8:11 pm 01 Oct 19

33% success rate and thats the winner. What bus will pick up the stranded passengers. A diesel?

Capital Retro 9:15 am 01 Oct 19

“Just a thought, but why not install light weight film solar panels on top of the buses.”

It would cost more to clean them every day than it would be worth and there is the capital cost also.

Dan Smith Dan Smith 9:07 am 01 Oct 19

The dirty power required to build the batteries, pollution from mining the ore to make the batteries is off the charts. Same with pollution to make solar cells and the factories that are completely unregulated.

But go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back because you can’t see that pollution and destruction of

The environment.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:08 am 01 Oct 19

    Yes, never build solar/wind farms etc, because the power to build them comes from coal. Only build clean energy when we can build it with clean energy. I see your thinking.

Ren Webb Ren Webb 8:41 am 01 Oct 19

Bring on all electric buses. That’s the difference we can make in Australia/the world. Experimenting and showing what is possible. Climate change is constantly proving to be worse than we thought while the solutions are always cheaper and easier once we try.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 6:19 am 01 Oct 19

Just a thought, but why not install light weight film solar panels on top of the buses. They are in the sun every day so why not boost the batteries whilst driving around?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:28 am 05 Oct 19

    Cary Elliot Johnson electrics and hybrids get a boost everytime they slow down.

Peter Paz Peter Paz 5:58 am 01 Oct 19

Blind adherence to a failed ideology.

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 10:12 pm 30 Sep 19

Early days London has electric buses and they are great

Gerard Dwyer Gerard Dwyer 10:12 pm 30 Sep 19

Interesting read.

Janet Hutchison Janet Hutchison 9:47 pm 30 Sep 19

I spent some time in the UK in the late 60s. The milk was delivered in an electric truck. It's time to roll-out the electric buses, unless another kind of renewable powered bus is ready to order.

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 9:09 pm 30 Sep 19

I think we should go back to Whale Blubber to light our lamps.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 9:39 pm 30 Sep 19

    Gabriel Spacca because whales are carbon neutral. Makes sense.

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 7:40 am 01 Oct 19

    Gabriel Spacca we orca do something.

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 2:46 pm 01 Oct 19

    Martin Budden unfortunately not...they produce a lot of methane.

    https://www.whalefacts.org/do-whales-fart/

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 5:35 pm 01 Oct 19

    Jim Hosie so we'd be removing methane-producers from the system! Perfect!

    Anthony Colin Edmunds Anthony Colin Edmunds 7:00 pm 03 Oct 19

    Gabriel Spacca you will be able to import from Japan !

Chris Williams Chris Williams 8:44 pm 30 Sep 19

The ABC ran almost the exact story with an additional section headed......

"Industry figures criticise 'incomplete' trial"

Toby Roxburgh, who runs electric bus infrastructure provider Electromotiv, said the results were a misrepresentation of the technology's capability and that electric buses were reliable.

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

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-30/electric-buses-struggle-in-canberra-act-government-trial/11560042

Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 8:39 pm 30 Sep 19

They would be much less noisy and, just maybe, not subject us all to so much aggressive driving and whiplash that no amount of complaints has had any effect.

Fuel cells are the way to go!!

    Peter Major Peter Major 11:38 am 01 Oct 19

    Ian McLeod you don't murder 3rd world children mining rare earths, getting cobalt poisoning to make your clean green batteries

    Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 11:44 am 01 Oct 19

    Peter Major you forgot the Thorium rich mine tailings that radiation hysterics also lose it over, but what's your point, sorry I missed it.

    Rare earths aren't rare and Australia has large deposits too. China just holds the bulk of supply.

    Peter Major Peter Major 5:56 pm 01 Oct 19

    Ian McLeod batteries are very dirty sources of power. Cobalt and Thorium are found in the materials

    Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 7:28 pm 01 Oct 19

    Peter Major Then burn the Thorium for crying out loud. If we didn't have such a religious like aversion to nuclear we could recover the Thorium from rare earth tailings (that renewables need in large supply), bang it in a vat with U235 or Plutonium feedstock and bam, zero emission energy to power all the electric busses we could ever need.

    My organic vegetable garden contains a enough Thorium to power my house for several years.

    I'm rather tempted to go harvest it myself and kick this wonderful industry off.

    Renewables + Nuclear = Win for everyone

    Let's make it happen.. Nuclear for Belconnen 🙏👍 ⚛ 😊 🌏 ✌️ 👍

    Peter Major Peter Major 8:12 pm 01 Oct 19

    I love nuclear, it's the only viable clean power source. I have no dramas with the radioactive sources but I am averse to profiteering and calling it green on the backs of child slave labour.

    Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 8:36 pm 01 Oct 19

    Then mine the stuff in Australia. Canada and Australia provide a lot of Uranium although sadly thanks to the lefty religious hysteria you described, Kazakhstan is now a major producer. I am unaware of their human rights and child labour standards. I would argue Australia is a leader in this field and for this reason alone mining supply is better suited here. 100% agree with you.

    Radioactivity hysteria is overrated. The Earth is pumping out 20 terrawatts of nuclear power beneath our feet right now. So what.

    It's carbon free. Bury the waste. All good..

    Thorium and uranium is literally everywhere. The four billion tonnes of uranium floating around the oceans right now can be harvested for around $280 / tonne (before commercial innovation). If uranium demand picked up, ocean harvesting would actually be commercially viable. Until then Australia is best placed to supply demand.

    Thorium is four times as abundant.

    If nuclear fusion works we just need a few decades to get emissions down until fusion (hopefully) works.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 7:56 pm 30 Sep 19

No, according to the news tonight.

Darron Marks Darron Marks 7:19 pm 30 Sep 19

I think they should buy a few buses and run an extended trial over a few years. Reliability issues might be due to not having the correct infastructure in place to maintain them. A longer trial would help to mitigate these types of issues.

As long as the cost is kept to a minimum and the bus manufacturer contributes to financing a portion of the trial. I have always thought that given the stop start nature of buses given they have regenerative breaking they would be the more efficient form of engine technology.

I also think flywheel technology should also be considered for testing on light rail and traditional diesel engine buses. To improve their efficiency

Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 6:57 pm 30 Sep 19

Can't see this improving an already embattled bus service. But don't let providing a decent service stand in the way of ideology.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:24 am 01 Oct 19

    Rob Chalmers Australia is one of the few (developed) counties in the world where diesel buses are still the norm rather than the exception.

    Most of Europe has used Hybrid buses for the best part of 15 years and its been the bog standard for almost 10 years now.

    And electric has been around for many years too and with improved battery technology is now becoming the norm rather than the exception for new orders.

    Now what did you say about ideology? Maybe the ideology or maybe it is the mentality of many Australians that is wrong rather than the government.

    Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 11:43 am 01 Oct 19

    Ashley Wright A move to electric or hybrid buses is the environmentally responsible thing to do granted. But delivering an effective service to Canberrans should be the prime objective of Action and local government. You are aware of the recent hash that has been made of the buses with spoke and hub changes, loss of routes, 8-900 metre walks to bus stops,buses not turning up at all and now 2 hour waits between buses on weekends. A move to a less reliable bus (according to an ACT Government trial) would be more acceptable if the service was already satisfactory. Europe produces a higher percentage of fossil free electricity primarily nuclear generated. Until Australia produces more renewable power it is an exercise in virtue signalling for the ACT Government to pay more for green energy.....That's what I say.

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