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ARCC builds momentum with zero-emissions releases

Complete with hydrogen bus trials, emerging partnerships and a new electric model, ARCC’s 2023 has laid the foundation towards a greener future in the local and likely international bus industry

It’s been a landmark year for Aluminium Revolutionary Chassis Company (ARCC) in its evolving history as an Australian zero-emissions bus brand. Having trialled its flagship hydrogen fuel-cell design on Australian roads in multiple states, it has also released its accompanying aluminium battery electric bus model to complete the set.

Following the successful hydrogen fuel-cell bus trial with NSW operator Red Bus Services, ARCC has continued the momentum, with another hydrogen trial launched later in the year with Transit Systems Australia in Melbourne’s west.

“The fact that these buses are now on the road is certainly something the team is proud of,” ARCC founder and managing director Peter Murley told ABC.

“There are only a handful of commercial hydrogen vehicles on the road in Australia and being designed and manufactured 100 per cent locally is testament to the talent and determination of the team over the past eight years.

“With another trial also set to launch in NSW with Premier Coachlines in Wollongong, there are numerous ARCC models now working on Australian roads.”

These moments might seem like hallmarks for the growing Australian brand, but ARCC has been up to plenty in 2023. ARCC has integrated OEM running gear into its novel chassis architecture, creating the ARCC Viking model through the adoption of Scania technology while allowing the integration of Scania axles in ARCC’s own design.

“It’s been invaluable as operators already have great awareness of the Scania system, so we’re not reinventing the wheel,” Murley says.

“This has enabled vehicles to be serviced easier when these parts do wear out, as service agents are aware of that technology and have spare parts available.”

A major win from this move has been ARCC’s ability to maintain the low weight of its models despite the change in running gear. Murley and ARCC’s motto has always been to do more with less, meaning its weight has been a huge point of difference in the local zero-emissions bus market.

With the hydrogen model coming in both a 16 tonne and 18 tonne version depending on the running gear used, Murley is proud to be changing the game when it comes to lightweight balanced vehicles.

“The weight of this vehicle is significantly less than anything else on the market currently, giving it a greater carrying capacity and hence greater returns for the operator,” Murley says.

“Our system is up to 2.5 tonnes lighter than other models and is completely Australian technology from the ground to the roof. We can now give operators a choice in an ultra-light 16 tonne model that can carry up to 75 passengers, or a 18 tonne GVM model that includes Scania running gear.”

A primary point for Murley and his ARCC team has been on building a zero-emissions bus design that is able to be converted between battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell power sources. In 2023, it finally realised this dream when it introduced its battery electric model to the local market.

Image: ARCC

Murley says the plug-and-play nature of ARCC’s two models means ARCC can look at scaling up in the coming years, as it can provide an assembly kit for companies to use to assemble and spread the unique design.

“We’re working on a solution that allows for greater chances for hydrogen fuel-cell buses or battery electric vehicles to be rolled out at scale in Australia,” Murley says.

The battery electric model was created with Webasto as the battery suppliers. The model has 280kWh worth of batteries installed, providing between 0.75 and 0.85kWh per kilometre.

The flexible approach to zero-emissions bus production has resulted in an electric vehicle that can easily be changed to a hydrogen fuel-cell model if needed. Both the battery model and the hydrogen model sit on the roof of the vehicle, making them interchangeable.

“From the roof down, the buses are essentially the same,” Murley says.

Murley says the initial concern regarding zero-emissions buses was with range. ARCC has moved to solve this issue through its hydrogen bus trial with Red Bus Services, which proved the bus is capable of running for more than 550km on a single refill.

However, Murley says few daily routes require this capability.

“Given the demonstrated range of battery electric models, perhaps a tailoring of range to route requirements will become more prevalent in lowering capital costs for the buses and their infrastructure,” he says.

“Our ability to customise a design to a route is a major focus for us – we do this by adding or subtracting batteries to our model, creating a bespoke Australian vehicle that tailors solutions to customer needs.

“We have developed software that uses route data to calculate energy requirements. We’re now comparing the calculations of that software against actual bus telemetrics to further refine the software.

“The ability to offer operators an accurate way of determining their route requirements will assist in planning and procurement, as vehicles can be designed and built based on operators’ bespoke requirements.”

Behind all of this is a motivation to continue promoting local industry development and the localisation of zero-emissions bus production. Whether it be partnering with battery, cooling, charging infrastructure or hydrogen tank suppliers, Murley will maintain an Australian focus to keep costs down and provide unique solutions for local operators.

What to look forward to in 2024

After a whirlwind 2023, ARCC’s 2024 will focus on consolidating the technology it has and promoting it to the Australian market.

With his eyes always on doing more with less, Murley will also find new ways to make vehicle builds as efficient as possible so that they are commercially scalable for ARCC’s wide range of partners within the industry.

“We see 2024 as a year of consolidation with what we’ve created and introduced to Australian roads,” Murley says.

Murley has no massive goals for 2024 where hundreds of ARCC vehicles are built and sold to operators. Instead, he’s building towards 2025, when state governments have mandates in place to phase out diesel bus purchases and instead focus on zero-emissions models.

With a new purpose-built facility also on the horizon in the coming year, Murley will continue working hard to create a rosy future for the emerging ARCC.

“We’ve been slowly improving our research and design process and we now look towards building,” Murley says.

“We’ll aim to build around 20 to 30 vehicles in 2024 as we work with the industry towards a larger 2025 for the zero-emissions bus sector.”

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