31 May 2023

Government seals deal for 90 new electric buses for Canberra

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra’s first Yutong electric bus in January. There are 90 more on the way. Photo: ACT Government.

The electrification of Canberra’s public transport network will gather pace over the next three years, with the ACT Government announcing the successful procurement of new zero-emissions buses.

The government has signed a $83.5 million contract with Vehicle Dealers International (VDI) to buy 90 Yutong ‘E12’ battery electric buses and is in talks with Custom Denning to procure four ‘Element’ battery electric buses and charging infrastructure.

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Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said this would increase the ACT fleet to 106 zero-emission buses over the next three years, counting the 12 that are already in service on a five-year lease.

“These new buses will deliver the biggest change in technology for Canberra’s bus fleet in decades as part of our Zero-Emission Transition Plan for Transport Canberra,” Mr Steel said.

“The ACT is a leader in zero-emissions transport with the largest fleet of electric buses delivered per capita in our nation. This will transition more than 20 per cent of our bus fleet to zero-emission technology, with the rest of the fleet transitioning by 2040 or earlier.”

Transport Canberra expects to receive the first of the 94 electric buses from late 2023. These will be progressively delivered through to 2026.

“The new electric buses will initially replace ageing diesel and CNG [compressed natural gas] buses, but will also grow the fleet overall to service our growing city,” Mr Steel.

VDI and Custom Bus Group were chosen as the preferred providers because they demonstrated they could meet the full requirements of the tender process, including value for money, delivery schedule and bus specifications, such as passengers loads and operating times.

“Our first 12 electric buses have been successfully delivering services every day right across the Transport Canberra network. We are confident that the new zero-emission buses will deliver the same reliable, clean, quiet and comfortable services,” Mr Steel said.

The buses are powered by lithium-ion phosphate batteries. They can operate for a maximum of 16 hours on a single charge, and they can fit 65 people with 45 seated, including the driver, and 20 standing.

Today’s announcement follows work to upgrade grid infrastructure to supply the new Woden and existing Tuggeranong bus depots with the electrical capacity to charge up to 300 electric buses and investments in skills to support the transition.

“We’ve always said that purchasing zero-emission buses is only part of the story,” Mr Steel said.

“The ACT Government is supporting workers to get the skills to work on electric buses and building the grid and charging infrastructure necessary to make the transition successful.

“This is another step in realising a better public transport system for Canberra with the expansion of our light rail system under construction, new electric buses servicing the suburbs and the new MyWay+ ticketing system in design ahead of its rollout.”

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Transport Canberra says the existing Yutong E12 battery electric buses average 300 kilometres a weekday across an average 11-hour day, with the longest day reaching 14.8 hours.

The average battery charge remaining at the end of a shift is about 25-30 per cent.

They have travelled over 129,000 kilometres across Canberra in their first five months of operation.

All diesel buses will be phased out by 2040; hydrogen fuel cell buses remain in the mix as replacements.

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Where are they charging these busses? They have got the infrastructure yet.. probably being charged from a diesel generator…

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Capital Retro1:47 pm 02 Jun 23

I once supplied certain services to a firm who were lobbyists for getting the wind power generation industry established in Australia.

These people had no boundaries as to what they said or did to “build receptivity” among politicians and key decision makers in certain institutions to make it happen.

The focus was on the people who had strong family values and young children. They would then be convinced that their children would die because of global warming and the only solution was to replace fossil fuel generation with “clean and green” wind power. They were also convinced that governments had to subsidize the venture with taxpayers’ money because it was for the benefit of mankind.

The salesmen made huge commissions for no risk. I think they then moved on to the tram industry.

William Newby7:55 pm 01 Jun 23

If they really wanted to reduce the carbon foot print they would immediately stop driving all those empty busses around my neighbourhood.
Out side of peak times you’d be lucky to find a single passenger on any of these buses.
The ACT City Services have no idea how under-utilised these services are.
And now the fire service have a $2million electric fire truck that is shadowed by a diesel tanker fire truck with a generator on it, where’s that news story?
Who pays for all of this rubbish?
Rates in 2024 are going to be $4grand. at an absolute minimum!!

What good is an electric bus for all those Canberrans who lost their local bus service?

Surely Chris Steel must go down as the killer of the local bus stop and the worst Transport Minister since self government. He continually promises better services, but then keeps delivering reduced services, especially on weekends and after hours.

One day I hope for Riotact reporters to finally give him some tough questions and not let him wriggle out with cherry picked data or false reasonings. Bus commuters deserve better.

John Koundouzis4:20 pm 01 Jun 23

One day I am hoping to see the back of this ridiculous government. Chris Steel is the expert on deflection when it comes to answering questions.
In what other position of employment can you be so incompetent and still be gainfully employed

John Koundouzis4:23 pm 01 Jun 23

Chis Steel is incompetent.

thoughtsonthesubject3:01 pm 01 Jun 23

The advantage of electric buses over the tram are endless. With every purchase the best offer can be chosen. With the tram we have to stick to the sole supplier in Spain, regardless of the cost of purchase and shipping, and how outdated the vehicles have become. Perhaps the next batch of e-buses could be ordered from an Australian supplier. With driverless EVs making great progress in the US, we might soon be able to do without bus drivers.
A net of trams is still touted by the government as eventually covering the whole of Canberra, but the planners seem to forget that there are plenty of hills to climb in this city. How on earth is a tram going to go up Barry Drive to get to Belconnen? And as you can’t have express trams, long distance routes, like that of the R4 bus at present, would take far too long. Strange how the ACT government, constantly priding itself on being ahead of all other jurisdictions, doesn’t see how outdated they are with regard to the tram.

Well, here they are… electric buses! So, why build a tram system? I might add, the buses have super torque power. Meaning they can tackle the incline up onto any of the bridge ramps. So why wreck and destroy London Circuit with grotesque tram extensions wasting possibly over 100 million when it is done and dusted. Not to mention the next expensive step of crossing Commonwealth Avenue bridge… and beyond. Throw out the Government.

Poor decision minister Steele. Why not try to support Australian made bus manufacturing and a circular economy by helping to kick start local EV production as in NSW?Exporting $83 million to China is another balance of payment that cannot be justified and is just an easy procured to rush to lead the politics of being green. Assisting with a group buy of locally made EV buses would have helped the economy and the environment much more. The ACT is all about politics and optics with little substance. What was the outcome of the CIT bable gate $8 million contracts?

Tom Worthington4:43 pm 31 May 23

The ACT Government might consider ordering some double articulated battery electric buses. These could be used on the inter-town routes, while waiting for light rail.

Capital Retro7:51 pm 31 May 23

They would be too heavy for most of the roads.

GrumpyGrandpa3:59 pm 31 May 23

There are plenty of arguments for against, when it comes to the best ways to decarbon and I accept that some will disagree with me.

My understanding is that hauling weight, is one of the biggest inefficiencies when it comes to battery powered vehicles, which, in itself makes me question why are we electrifying buses?

I’m not anti-EV, but the carbon cost has already been incurred in the mining, manufacturing and international shipping of our existing bus fleet. Obviously, the carbon cost to run the new electric buses will be significantly less than the diesels (assuming we can generate enough solar). That said, the upfront carbon footprint to mine and manufacture the new buses is larger than that of a diesel, and we are sort of wasting the carbon we have already spent.

The only saving grace is that the gas buses are due for replacement, because of the age of the gas cylinders and the inability to convert those buses, to diesel. Of course, when purchased, gas was considered “green”, but as it turns out the decision to go with gas has meant that these buses have had a shorter life cycle, than had they been diesel.

We will be spending $83,500,000 to buys 90 electric buses. For the same money, the government could have provided a $4,175 subsidy, to 20,000 households to assist them purchase an EV or simply, to put panels on their roofs and reduce the draw on the grid. To my way of thinking, that would have had a better outcome.

If my maths is right, that’s about $930,000 per bus.

Would have made far more sense & a lot cheaper to go down this path instead of the Tram which is unaffordable. Is this an admission of error on the ACT Government’s part?

Canberra has no heavy industry, why is this government so hell bent on spending tax payer money on their own pet projects. It’s disgusting.

Capital Retro9:54 am 31 May 23

How much of the battery capacity is allocated to heating and cooling and are there extra emergency exists in case the catch fire?

How much of the existing ICE powered bus fleet’s fuel storage is allocated to heating and cooling and do they have extra emergency exits in case they catch fire, which statistically happens more frequently than EVs?

Capital Retro clearly needs these important questions answered because he’s just interested in transport comfort and safety and is in no way biased against any form of new technology.

Capital Retro12:10 pm 31 May 23

It’s so easy to ridicule the enquirer than answer the question.

But that’s what you lefties do, isn’t it?

Well it is funny how you’ve never asked the exact same question every time a new bus order has been announced in the past.

What a sad little campaign lol.

Haha, last week I was being called a right wing conservative on this website, now I’m a “leftie”?

And the reason I mock your question is already highlighted in my original response.

You don’t actually care about the issues you’re inquiring on and have never raised it in the past around the ICE powered buses that we’ve had for decades. Buses that have equal or higher risks relating to the same issues.

Actually, the article states that the buses use lithium-ion phosphate batteries. This chemistry is less likely to result in thermal runaway (leading to fire) under extreme impact than the original NCA battery chemistry, so the risk is even lesser.
And, yes, I’m sure many readers here are tired of the repeating negative and ill-informed commentary on this subject.

Capital Retro4:41 pm 31 May 23

We haven’t bought electric buses before – as I said to chewy14, you lefties are all the same. Actually, you are beyond sad.

“We haven’t bought electric buses before”

So you’re really saying that you are actually fearful of change along with things you don’t understand.

Sounds about right.

Bob the impala7:28 pm 31 May 23

Capital Retro, your specific questions were answered clearly by chewy14 in his first paragraph. The fact you will neither acknowledge nor admit that, nor raise any argument against, speaks of a lack of good faith. Some people may select alternative terms but that makes no difference to the obvious reality.

You have previously allowed without reply the facts that over 80% of the population and nigh on 100% of client scientists disagree with you on the key issues underlying this discussion: climate change and responses to it. if being with the 80%/100% classes anyone with “lefties” then I for one am willing to suffer your disapprobation for it because I know the extent to which that matters; or does not.

My recollection is that near 50% preferentially vote for some form of conservative, leaving you out on the fringe by your own definition of those “left” of you.

Capital Retro7:50 pm 31 May 23

I didn’t raise the risk of fire , but everyone seems to be defending it. The point is that IF an electric bus catches fire the spread is very fast and allowances have to be made for this.

And by the way, nobody has come forward with the information I requested. It’s all “look over there, is that a Unicorn?”

Capital Retro,
You asked if there were “extra” emergency exits due to fire. You cleary raised the risk of fire.

And hilariously once again you’ve provided incorrect information, EV fires have a slower spread than ICE fires, you defeat your own predetermined position.

And by the way, no one needs to answer your ridiculous questions, the risks of the current buses are higher than the yet to be delivered EV buses.

If you were actually worried about passenger safety and comfort, you’d be arguing against the the current buses in service.

But you aren’t.

Because you don’t actually care about facts, you just like whinging about things you don’t like.

Your position is most definitely sad.

Capital Retro9:08 am 01 Jun 23

I have looked for records of bus fires in Canberra and there only appears to have been two, ever.

Just saying.

Capital Retro9:45 am 01 Jun 23

“It takes five to ten minutes for a combustion engine car fire to develop to its full extent.”

“With an electric car, the fire spreads more rapidly and it takes seconds for a fully developed fire which releases carbon monoxide, other toxic gas emissions, and in some cases can produce large explosions⁴. “

Source: https://projects2014-2020.interregeurope.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/tx_tevprojects/library/file_1649674339.pdf

You are wrong again, chewy.

Did you seriously just link to an article that quotes one person’s opinion from another article about a specific fire as evidence? Hahahaha.

The single quoted opinion you’ve referenced was also talking about after thermal runaway has occurred and the fire started. Problem being that people would be exiting these vehicles well before this has occurred for EV vehicles.

Here, I can play the same game:

“EV fires are slow to start, enabling occupants to escape more safely – unlike potentially explosive petrol fires.”


Also funny that the same article you’ve quoted says:

In principle, however, fire brigades say that e-vehicles do not pose a higher risk of fire than “combustion engines” . The self-ignition of a vehicle without external influence is extremely rare.”

You clearly didn’t even read it, hahaha.

The fire event the article is discussing was also caused by hybrid powered vehicles which have been shown to be a higher fire risk, with ICE only powered vehicles lower risk and EV only powered vehicles the lowest risk of all.

Getting funnier.

Oh and last of all, the types of batteries in the buses we’ve bought aren’t older lithium ion batteries, that were discussed in your article.

“The buses are powered by lithium-ion phosphate batteries”

Which has a much lower chance of fire/explosion due to reduced risk of thermal runaway.

Bahahahaha, it truly is hilarious to watch you flop around on this issue.

Capital Retro1:51 pm 01 Jun 23

We were talking about the need to exit a vehicle on fire, not the risk of it catching fire.

Clearly, an EV fire takes hold faster that one in a conventional vehicle thus the need to have enough exits on battery electric powered buses.

You are only an expert in changing the subject to suit your narrative, chewy.

“We were talking about the need to exit a vehicle on fire, not the risk of it catching fire.”

Exactly and it was answered in my last comment through multiple points. Points that you’ve just ignored.

Once again for the local situation you claim to be talking about:

“The buses are powered by lithium-ion phosphate batteries”

They are both far less likely to catch fire than an ICE vehicle and due to their chemistry, much slower to cause a fire.

Capital Retro8:47 pm 01 Jun 23

But chewy, you still can’t tell me if these eBuses have more exit doors?

I know it’s not a question that invites drawing on your superior knowledge which I am totally ignorant about and that makes you angry but even an scientific minnow like me has a right to an answer.

Capital Retro,
The answer to your inane question is no.

Because they don’t need them due to the fact that the risk from the existing fleet of buses is actually higher than for these new ones and they need to have been approved under the Australian design rules before being available for use here regardless.

Even for the slow, this should be simple enough to understand.

And now that you have your answer, I await your campaign to have the existing buses either retrofitted with extra exits or removed from service due to the clear excess danger they place on passengers.

Won’t hold my breath though, you’re known for a selective memory and repeating the same discredited points ad nauseum.

Capital Retro1:49 pm 02 Jun 23

Thanks for that, chewy. I can see I am getting through to you at last.

That doesn’t look like the start of your safety campaign on diesel buses.

Chop chop old fella, people are literally dying across Australia because of the safety risk you’ve identified and are passionate about addressing.

John Schwazer8:35 am 31 May 23

Oh goodie. We’re definitely on track then to doing that which will have no effect whatsoever on global pollution levels (owing to how Australia produces hardly anything, anyway) all while China, for instance, is allowed to build 2 new coal plants a day, along with whatever other measures it doesn’t take, all without scrutiny from hardly anyone.

There is nothing incorrect or difficult to understand in what I’ve said.

Its not all about global pollution levels. These will reduce diesel particulate pollution we experience in canberra. DpM is associated with a variety of long term health effects such as cancer. Buying less diesel also sends less money to morally questionable sheiks and oligarchs.

“There is nothing incorrect or difficult to understand in what I’ve said.”

“while China, for instance, is allowed to build 2 new coal plants a day”


Oh goodie, we should have just stayed at home during WW2 – because we are too small to impact anything.

That’d be the same China well on track to have 1/3 of its electricity supplied by renewables in the next year or two (given the size of its demand profile). They face the challenge of not only trying to transition the existing grid, but rapidly expand their overall supply to meet increasing demand. So a much tougher job then most advanced economies face.

Victor Bilow6:19 pm 31 May 23

China well on track to have 1/3 of its electricity supplied by renewables in the next year or two. Do you believe this?

Victor Bilow6:25 pm 31 May 23

The money is going to the Chinese dictator instead who continues down his own garden path. Yutong (officially Zhengzhou Yutong Group Co., Ltd.) is a Chinese manufacturer of commercial vehicles, especially electric buses, headquartered in Zhengzhou, Henan.

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