The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $5 million in funding for a major electric bus trial consisting of 40 buses, with a bus depot in Sydney’s inner west to be retrofitted.

The $36 million project is to be delivered by a Transgrid and UK energy company Zenobe joint venture, receiving funding and in-kind support from project partners including Transit Systems and Transport for NSW.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is also providing financing of $24.5 million.

The three-year trial will drive the commercialisation of electric buses in Australia and continue the development of the Australian Government’s Future Fuel Strategy which aims to empower consumer choice, stimulate industry development and reduce emissions in the road transport sector.

As part of the project, the Leichhardt depot is being retrofitted to include the use of 40 electric buses with a combination of 368kWh and 422kWh onboard batteries, five 120kW electric bus chargers capable of charging two buses at a time, thirty one 80kW electric bus chargers, 2.5MW/4.9MWh of stationary batteries, and 387kW of rooftop solar PV. 

The electric bus fleet will service public bus routes in Sydney’s Inner West, the CBD, Mascot and Green Square.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said the project represents ARENA’s first heavy vehicle electric vehicle (EV) project and an important scaling up from previous trials.

Previous electric bus trials in Australia have involved fewer than four buses each, making this trial important to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of the electrification of large depot-scale bus fleets capable of travelling a complete route without needing to be re-charged.

“Heavy vehicle transport is an important area to target given that together buses and trucks account for 25 per cent of transport related carbon emissions and five per cent of Australia’s total carbon emissions,” Mr Miller said.

“This trial represents the next step in helping to reduce emissions in public transport and heavy transport. 

“We’re excited to be working alongside the consortium in showcasing this Australian-first initiative that we hope will kickstart the rollout of electric buses throughout the nation.

“ARENA is focused on projects that help prepare the electricity system for EVs. Appropriate coordination and management of EV charging can reduce risks and turn EV charging into a positive for the electricity network by improving capacity and renewable energy utilisation, benefiting all consumers.”

The first 12 of the 40 new electric buses will begin to enter service this month, with the rest of the fleet arriving over the next four months. 

Transgrid and Zenobe’s joint venture for the project will provide local electrical engineering, grid and bus electrification expertise, market leading software and advanced telematics as well as procurement and operation of large-scale battery, solar and EV chargers.

Transgrid Acting CEO, Brian Salter, said it’s a major step forward for Sydney in achieving an electrified public transport fleet.

“Our energy system is evolving rapidly and Transgrid and its commercial arm, Lumea, are playing an important role in leading the transition to a clean energy future.  

“Electrification of transport is an essential feature of the modern energy system and this initiative is a welcome addition to the grid-scale batteries and multipurpose energy hubs that Lumea is developing throughout Australia.  

“We are delighted to be bringing Zenobe’s global experience and capability to Australia through this project,” Mr Salter said.

 Zenobē Co-Founder and Director, Steven Meersman, said, “We’ve worked with Transgrid to deliver an advanced infrastructure implementation solution which combined with Zenobē’s end-to-end software will seamlessly manage the fleet charging process, as well as the resulting power requirements. 

“Together we’re proudly showcasing what is possible when it comes to the delivery of zero emission transport and we commend Transit Systems on their commitment to producing more sustainable transport solutions.”

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