Electric buses that produce no zero tailpipe emissions were, not very long ago, widely considered a far flung reality. Today, they are not only available, they are reliable, enjoyable to drive and travel on, and unquestionably provide better whole-of-life value than diesel and even hybrid alternatives.
In fact, demand for electric buses is growing rapidly across the globe and there's no signs of it slowing down. Today, there are around 425,000 electric buses worldwide. And 26 cities across the world have committed to only buying electric buses by 2025, totalling around 80,000 new buses.
Closer to home, state and territory governments are trialling electric buses and last year, New South Wales announced the most ambitious public transport policy of any state in Australia - replacing all 8,000 diesel buses to electric by 2050.
Of course, someone has to make them all. And Australia has every opportunity to be a major player. We already make arguably the best route buses in Australia through companies like Volgren in Melbourne and Custom Bus Group in Sydney, why not the next generation of zero-emission buses for local roads and the option of exporting globally. That’s why, as part of a renewable-led COVID-19 recovery, WWF-Australia is calling on the Australian government to support a $240 million economic stimulus to fast-track electric bus manufacturing. This would build a strong national manufacturing sector and double Australia’s bus manufacturing workforce of 10,000 to 20,000 by 2030.
We could put 500 new electric buses on the road in Australia’s major cities in just three years. And along with that, we’ll also build the renewable-powered charging infrastructure at bus depots, creating much-needed jobs in construction.
As a nation, we’re ready to put the pedal to the metal. Not only will it set up a strong manufacturing sector for years to come, we’ll also see the long-lasting benefits of cleaner air and a healthier environment for everyone.
We have the world’s best sunshine and renewable resources. Let’s use our Aussie ingenuity to step out of this crisis as a renewable energy powerhouse.
65 years go, Custom Denning started making toy pedal cars. They then moved into manufacturing diesel buses and this year, electric buses.
Custom Denning is currently building four electric buses in St Mary's in NSW. Over the coming years they plan to deliver one bus a day.
"We currently employ 150 staff here at St Mary's. And we've worked out that the electric buses will generate 1.1 full time equivalents for every bus ordered. So that's up to another 400 jobs," says National Contracts Manager, Grant Mascord.
Through the transition to electric, businesses like Custom Denning are reinvigorating Aussie manufacturing and creating new opportunities for employees.
"A lot of our workers are used to working on diesel engines, so this is a time for them to upskill. It could mean new trade qualifications and generally a place for the young guys to come through. It's something for them to carry through as they work on," says Production Supervisor, Matthew White.
Electromotiv is one of the companies at the cutting edge of the electric bus revolution. This Aussie-owned company partners with bus operators to help them transition to renewable transport and manage their electric bus network.
Toby Roxburgh, Managing Director at Electromotiv, says the global demand for electric buses is booming. “The demand for electric buses is exponential,” he says. “To give you an example, last year we did one electric bus. Then, in the first quarter of this year, we did nine buses for Auckland. We’re now working on our next 50, our next 100 and the next 200 vehicles.”
“It's exploding. Everyone realises they need to have 100% electric buses by 2025 at the latest. And the earlier you start, the easier and cheaper that transition is.”
Clean sophisticated technology
Electromotiv works with its partners to make sure the electric buses work seamlessly with the grid. “The infrastructure may have been a risky proposition five years ago, but not anymore. Highly sophisticated charging stations, which might be installed along a street, at the end of a route or at a depot, are now ready to go in Australia,” says Toby.
“The bus ‘refuels’ with renewable energy overnight which charges the batteries, and then you turn it on and silently drive away. Essentially, you run it all day just as you would a normal diesel bus, and then you come back and charge it at night,” says Toby.
Electric buses have much lower operating costs than conventional diesel buses. Even the most expensive 350 kWh electric bus can save around $50,000 over a 15-year lifetime.
But it’s not just about running costs. The shift away from diesel will also reduce harmful pollutants in the air. In fact, New York City, which is currently transitioning its fleet of 5,700 buses to electric, has estimated that each electric bus will save $150,000 per year in reduced health care costs.
“There should be no more diesel buses bought in Australia or around the world,” says Toby. “It's crazy that we're not buying just electric buses. The technology is there and we can make them in Australia.”
Jobs for the future
When it comes to job creation, Toby says the potential for this industry is huge. “We're looking at 10,000 jobs plus for manufacturing vehicles in Australia,” he says.
“Australia has a really good manufacturing history and we’re already building world-leading buses. We have an automotive industry that was shut down, and brilliant minds now manufacturing electric buses. Australia has a fantastic renewable energy resource. We have the perfect location for electric and zero-emission buses.”
Find out more
WWF-Australia is calling on the Australian Government, and the states to support a $2 billion renewable-led stimulus package. Together with business and industry leaders, we’re asking for five targeted stimulus measures:
- Battery nation: Let’s unlock Australia’s potential to become a leader in global battery manufacture.
- Local solar: Let’s deliver at least one new solar project in every community across the country.
- Electric bus revolution: Let’s convert Australia’s buses to electric; we can make the world’s best buses right here, and sell them across the globe.
- Modernising manufacturing: Let’s convert our manufacturing industries to renewable power sources, so they can be resilient and competitive in a global market.
- Accelerating renewable hydrogen: Let’s accelerate renewable hydrogen and become a global supplier of the ‘fuel of the future’.
Here’s what you can do to support a #RenewableRecovery.
To learn more visit wwf.org.au/renewable-recovery