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BCI delivers first private commercial electric coach in WA

In early February, Bus & Coach International (BCI) started delivering the first private commercial electric coaches in Western Australia. BCI is hoping that this milestone is only the start of an electric boom out west.

When it comes to transitioning Australia’s bus and coach fleet to electric models, one of the harder challenges lies in Western Australia. With its unforgiving territory and long distances, the nation’s western coast is a tough place to deliver an electric vehicle.

Bus & Coach International (BCI) made history in early February when it successfully delivered the state’s first private commercial electric coaches.

The process started a year ago when BCI brainstormed what model would best suit WA’s unique conditions.

“After previously focusing on city bus operations in the east of Australia, we thought it was time to diversify,” BCI CEO Desmond Armstrong told ABC. “We decided that we wanted to offer a product for Western Australian customers.”

BCI landed on its Fleetmaster electric vehicle as the ideal choice for the historical delivery. Armstrong and his team then began promoting the popular vehicle in the state with the hope that an operator would decide to order the zero-emissions model.

Armstrong was excited by the response he got, as several operators and clients put their hands up to buy the Fleetmaster E. To get deals over the line, BCI listened to client feedback and redesigned the model to create a luggage space that rivalled that of BCI’s current diesel models.

“The air conditioning unit choice was one of the major factors due to the extreme conditions of temperature registered in Western Australia,” Armstrong says. “Required weight and ample luggage space were key elements in building this model up to the similar features of the diesel version.

“Our engineers did a terrific job incorporating this feedback into the design.”

Although it was an arduous journey to redesign and deliver this electric coach, BCI knew the Fleetmaster was the right option. Armstrong says the Fleetmaster E is BCI’s lightest coach style vehicle in its fleet.


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When BCI engineers could then extend the range in its designs by installing a 422kWh battery, the brand was confident its product could provide the range that most WA mining and tourist companies would accept.

“Our engineers cleverly located the battery in areas where fuel tanks were in our diesel models,” Armstrong says. “This enhanced the vehicle’s centre of gravity while also using up the engine bay area.

“By also utilising space in the rear axle and in front of the luggage bins, we were able to install the battery packs with an impressive capacity.”

Throughout this process, BCI worked with partners to gather vital information. After using this feedback from both electric companies as well as BCI’s previous diesel models, the brand began to produce the Fleetmaster E suited to WA’s arid conditions.

Armstrong is the first to admit that the process wasn’t quick nor easy. During the production stage, BCI had to have constant testing done to comply with the latest Australian Design Rules (ADRs) relating to electric vehicles.

Once the model was ticked off, BCI had to deal with administration challenges to get the vehicle licensed. Although it was tough, Armstrong is relieved to have the model comply with the latest ADRs.

“When shipping was decided, we sent one of the two units that we built originally to Western Australia, while the other Fleetmaster E went to the east coast for last year’s Bus & Coach Expo,” Armstrong says. “Getting vehicles traversing Australia is a huge challenge, so we’ll keep this in mind as we aim to now build more models and send them to WA.”

The Fleetmaster E 53-seater was delivered to local operator Go West. The resources and tourism business says the coach will service South 32’s Worsley Alumina operations near Collie, providing electric transport for mining employees from Bunbury to Collie.

Go West general manager David Haoust says the operator mirrored BCI in wanting to expand its electric reach into WA after already running zero-emissions services on the eastern coast.

“With 55 electrified buses in NSW, it already made sense to spread the ideology to our other divisions of our business to ensure that the zero-emissions strategy continues to grow,” Haoust told ABC. “There’s a sense of pride to know we’re at the forefront of the latest technology to ensure the highest levels of safety in the cleanest possible way.”

Haoust says this delivery will serve as inspiration for the Go West team to continue coming up with new ideas to reduce waste while becoming a market leader in zero-emissions transport.

He says BCI was the ideal partner to deal with and praises the brand for its Fleetmaster model.

“With BCI, there weren’t many challenges and their professionalism was second to none,” Haoust says. “The only challenge we had to face was range anxiety and ensuring the model had more focus on its application than what you’d need for a diesel model that can go anywhere at any time.”

 

The 53-seat coach has become one of the two first private commercial electric coaches to operate in WA, following previous electric government transport buses in the state. The expected charge time of the Fleetmaster is between three and a half to four hours, while the coach contains a suite of industry leading safety features.

Armstrong says this delivery makes for an exciting moment in BCI’s history. Not one for celebrations, Armstrong is already looking ahead.

“It’s a wonderful achievement for BCI, but the work starts now,” Armstrong says. “We now have to stay close with these vehicles to gather information for future builds while supporting our clients – the journey has only just begun in WA.

“We have a good track record in delivering vehicles into WA, so we really hope we can continue that and fulfil more orders for the Fleetmaster electric coach.”

In the near future, BCI has already lined up deliveries for other clients in WA who have ordered the Fleetmaster E. While looking to increase WA’s electric coach footprint, BCI will also investigate other zero-emissions technology that it can develop to revolutionise transport in Australia.

“We’re all on this great journey to offer sustainable transport and we’re confident that we have a great product with the Fleetmaster E,” Armstrong says. “We’re also dealing with hydrogen projects too that we hope will materialise in the near future.

“BCI has always been an early adopter of technology and a willing participant in the field, so this historical delivery makes us very proud and excited about what’s to come.”

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