BODIES: Varley electrics

By: Amie Hickland

There is room for growth in the electric vehicle market as Australian standards are set to formalise

BODIES: Varley electrics
The future for bus could be ‘electric’ with new standards

As the electric vehicle market continues to grow, standards are being created to ensure the buses are safe for all to use.

Nine Australian standards relating to electric vehicles were released for public comment recently.

Standards Australia General Manager Operations Adrian O’Connell says the standards cover matters relating to vocabulary, occupant safety, and recharging infrastructure.

"These standards are absolutely fundamental to the development of the electric vehicle industry in Australia."

Standards Australia initiated a significant consultation process with the electric vehicle industry in 2011.

As a result, the Standards Australia technical committee EM-001 prioritised standards development based on focus areas including vocabulary, occupant safety, and recharging infrastructure.

The draft standards are direct text adoptions of standards from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

"These standards are the product of a concerted effort by Standards Australia and its stakeholders to ensure that electric vehicles in Australia benefit from international best practice," O’Connell says.

"These new standards break new ground for an industry which is still, in this country at least, very much in its infancy."

Newcastle-based engineering company, Varley, has been researching electric buses for the past 18 months, in hope of introducing more to the market in a commercially viable sense by the end of the year.

Electric Vehicles Divisional Manager, Nik Tyson, says there is definitely scope in the Australian market for electric buses.

Although some electric vehicles are already running — such as Adelaide’s noted Tindo bus — he says the first vehicles used for trials have been quite expensive investments, but the company is working on commercially viable units with whole-of-life costing considerably less than a comparable Euro5 diesel bus.

"The growth is happening and predominately that’s because technology has come on board to a certain level," Tyson says.

He adds the standards will have the same type of authority as Australian Design Rules (ADRs) and welcomes the move to regulate the growing industry as nothing has previously been put in place.

"There was nothing that really addresses the specifics of electric vehicles," Tyson says.

"There’s lots of things there that were left open because there were no regulations."

Tyson says there is a stigma around electric vehicles in regards to them not being as safe as diesel vehicles, but this is due to a lack of understanding.

He says battery charge times are improving all the time predominantly due to emerging battery chemistries, allowing charge times to 80 per cent capacity in is little as 10 minutes with the right infrastructure, though in reality the initial market is likely to pick up more mainstream lithium technologies offering a range of up to 300km with full charge times in the six to eight hour region.

"I would say an electric vehicle would be safer than a diesel vehicle because you’re not carrying all those volatile liquids around," he says.

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