What is understood to be the first electric bus built in Victoria has been given the expert review treatment by bus expert Paul Aldridge, and he is giving it the thumbs up.
Bought by public transport provider Transdev to use in a 12-month trial in Melbourne that will end in January 2021, the bus in question has been built by leading Australian bus maker Volgren, the culmination of a five-year project to create an electric bus for the Australian market.
The result is a “route bus” Volgren Optimus body on a Chinese BYD DR9A 860 (K9) chassis, with 16 battery packs adding up to 324kWh capacity, giving it around 300km and using a little under 1kW of power per kilometre driven.
Aldridge, who reviewed the Volgren-BYD bus on behalf of Australasian Bus and Coach (ABC), says he believes Volgren has done a really good job, and the upshot of the silent electric drivetrain will be a better experience for the driver (no doubt as well as the passengers).
“It’s so quiet,” he says in the review video which you can view on the ABC company’s website. “As a driver, if you’re spending a week in here doing your route service, you’d have to be less fatigued at the end of the week.”
“Just not having all those extra sounds that a diesel motor has, that must have some impact on the driver,” he says.
But the real kudos he says goes to Transdev for taking the bus on for trial on one of Melbourne’s busiest thoroughfares.
“Transdev have really put this on the line, trialling it for 12 month on Punt Road, it’s a busy route, probably one of the busiest routes in Melbourne,” he says.
Speaking with Aldridge about the Volgren-BYD bus, Transdev Australasia’s head of engineering Marc Cleave says when he saw the bus being produced he was keen to get his hands on it.
“This Optimus Electric is the first one actually produced. I saw this in manufacture in June of last year and I just had to get my hands on it,” Cleave was quoted as saying by Aldridge.
“We were ready after all the testing was completed and its service started on 28 November, so this is the very first Victorian built e-bus.”
In addition to the silent drive, Cleave notes that the electric bus will likely cost much less than its diesel counterparts, although he says its important to wait until the results fo the trial are out.
“The theory behind electric servicing is that there is fewer moving parts; therefore, your maintenance is obviously less and so far it’s been really encouraging. It’s only been in service just over ten thousand kays and fifty-two days out,” he was quoted as saying by Aldridge.
“Like the diesel product sitting next to us that’s about the same age, it too will have low maintenance on it as well at this stage, but we have to look at the average over a period of time. So, you can’t get too excited too quickly, but it’s encouraging so far.”
Transdev’s Mebourne bus trial ends in January 2021 and at that time will be reviewed to assess the potential roll out of fully electric buses in Victoria, Aldridge says the Victorian state govnerment has confirmed.
Victoria Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne MP was quoted as saying by Aldridge that,”if successful during our trial, these state-of-the-art buses could play a major role in Victoria’s future public transport network.”
“These cleaner and greener buses not only reduce emissions, but also run much quieter for locals living on the bus route,” she said.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.