Australian bus body manufacturer Volgren has commenced production of its first ever electric bus, as part of what the company hopes is a larger transition to zero-emissions transport.

The milestone is the culmination of a five-year development period for Volgren, which has sought to be pro-active in shifting to all electric buses, while wanting to ensure passengers enjoy a reliable service.

Volgren says it is Australia’s largest producer of bus bodies and has previously partnered with major chassis manufacturers including MAN, Volvo and Scania.

“We’ve known for some time that the bus industry was about to go through its biggest transformation in three or four decades. And we wanted to approach this shift with the best information at our disposal.” Volgren business development manager Jon Tozer said in a statement.

“We wanted to understand the products, the technologies and the solutions available in the market before beginning our work in earnest,”

Volgren will complete its first prototype electric bus in June, with an operating range of 250km. The prototype will be produced at Volgren’s Australian headquarters in Dandenong in Victoria.

The bus will be equipped with 324kWh of battery storage, that can be charged in four to five hours between routes upon returning to its depot.

The first bus will be ready for its first passengers in August, following a period of testing by Volgren engineers.

Due to the falling cost of battery technologies, Volgren believes the bus market is on the cusp of being cost competitive with existing diesel fuelled options.

While all electric buses still have higher up-front purchase costs, significantly lower operating costs, including reduced fuel costs, mean that electric buses will soon be cheaper over the full life of the vehicle, if not already.

“When you take into account the significant operation saving in maintenance and energy costs per kilometre, as well as the significant fall in the cost and increase in energy density of batteries over the last few years, we’re nearing the point where total cost of ownership will soon be the same as it is for a diesel, if it isn’t already.” Tozer said.

Volgren has been buoyed by interest from public and private bus operators and hopes the new electric bus will become a feature of public transport systems.

The all-electric prototype follows Volgren securing a deal to supply 50 hybrid-electric buses to Melbourne public transport operator CDC Victoria.

“We’re looking forward to the new chapter in the history of the Australian bus industry and being able to offer our customers the latest technology. Volgren is open to discussing in detail our project and future solutions available to market with operators,” Tozer added.

“More operators and agencies are looking to zero emissions buses for the first time and, since announcing this build, we’ve been encouraged by the interest we’ve received from government and private operators.”

Australian public transport operators have shown increased interest in the integration of electric buses into their fleets, as governments seek . The ACT Government launched a trial of two all-electric buses in 2017.

Brisbane City Council also recently announced that as part of its tender for its new Brisbane Metro bus fleet, will consider the inclusion of all-electric buses. The provision of charging services at a new bus depot in Rochedale also formed part of the tender.

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