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GoZero Group forms holy trinity to supply new wave of electric buses

After welcoming a Sydney bus operator into its consortium last year, Nexport is finding plenty of avenues to showcase its latest electric school coach to the local market

The rule of three suggests that plenty of good things come in trios. The three musketeers. Three piece suits. Three goals making a hattrick. In the Australian bus industry, GoZero Group Ltd, owners of the likes of Nexport, GoZero Consulting and North Sydney Bus Charters (NSBC), is already enjoying plenty of success off the back of this rule.

“The model we’re currently operating is relatively unique, particularly in the Australian market,” GoZero Group Managing Director Stephen Cartwright told ABC.

“Under the GoZero Group umbrella, we have Nexport as the OEM, a zero-emissions infrastructure consultancy in GoZero Consulting and an operator in North Sydney Bus Charters.”

The niche transport group format first came to fruition in the middle of 2023 when GoZero Group acquired NSBC. It all fitted together when Nexport’s new electric coach then arrived in September, allowing NSBC to take the vehicle out to show schools in a bid to win new charter contracts.

As part of the tender process for these school runs, NSBC brought the new coach as the ideal show and tell, promising schools that it would shift from diesel buses to electric coaches throughout 2024.

As a result of this, NSBC won around 50 new school bus contracts that will lead to roughly 200 more runs, allowing the operator to expand rapidly. With a new depot now established in the south west Sydney suburb of Leppington to cater for this growth, NSBC is also having to quickly expand its fleet to cope with the influx of runs as the 2024 school year commences. To do so, it turned to Nexport.

“We will most likely end this year with NSBC having a bus fleet of more than 400 buses after having 220 when we acquired them six months ago,” Cartwright says.

“It’s all on the promise of converting from diesel to electric, with NSBC having an unfair advantage in the charter market because it’s part of the same consortium as GoZero Consulting and Nexport.

“Nexport can continue providing electric buses and supporting them, while GoZero Consulting deals with the challenges of depot electrification for NSBC and our other clients.”

This consortium isn’t just having a positive effect on NSBC – the model also allows the OEM side, courtesy of Nexport, to thrive courtesy of a consistent order bank. If Nexport ever has a quiet period where government bodies aren’t ordering new vehicles, the proliferation of school runs that NSBC is picking up means it continually requires new buses and Nexport is kept busy producing vehicles.

The main model that Nexport will begin producing for the likes of NSBC is its new electric coach. The fully seatbelted zero-emissions vehicle comes with all the standard safety technology while also containing all of its batteries under the floor. It also features a fireproof floor to make the journey to and from school comfortable, sustainable and safe.

“It’s the only coach in the market with all of its batteries positioned under the floor,” Cartwright says.

“The centre of the gravity of this coach is also important – when transporting school children, it’s important to have that extra safety feature.

“Schools are continually coming under pressure from parents and the community to reduce their carbon footprint, so this electric coach is a great way of doing so.”

To keep this novel electric battery technology safe, Nexport’s fireproof flooring system protects passengers and drivers against the unlikely nature of a thermal runaway event. On top of 360-degree camera systems for drivers, seatbelt monitoring systems currently being integrated onto the model and new braking systems and suspensions, Nexport has ensured its latest electric coach is an improvement on previous models in its product line.

It’s quickly formed a key part of NSBC’s school tendering strategy. As a result, Cartwright says numerous Sydney schools have been “very enthusiastic” about migrating from diesel coaches to the Nexport electric model during 2024.

This school run acceleration means Nexport has plenty of electric coach orders to fulfil. Cartwright says the OEM is currently in the process of building 50 vehicles, varying between 12.5m and 10.5m versions of the electric coach model. With its low centre of gravity and high quality components, Cartwright says drivers have described the model as like driving a go kart.

“It’s a very comfortable coach to drive and provides a better ride for passengers,” he says.

“It’s quiet, emits no fumes while doing school runs in the suburbs and is a great look for schools to have in their fleets.”

This new Nexport coach, alongside the acquisition and growth of NSBC and the development of GoZero Consulting, has made for a rapid start for Cartwright at the helm of the GoZero Group. Since starting last year, he’s also recruited a new senior executive team to oversee customer service, aftersales, depot development and maintenance.

With the team now settled, Cartwright is looking to expand its Nexport local manufacturing capabilities in Australia’s eastern states so it can support the major zero-emissions transition initiatives in place in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

“We intend to expand our local manufacturing capabilities to step in and support that transition in all three states,” he says.

“These state governments are collectively looking to transition 22,000 buses over the next 10 years to zero-emissions, and all with a high level of local content. Looking at existing manufacturing capabilities, there’s not enough out there to produce 2,000 buses per year, so we see an opportunity to expand our capabilities to meet that demand from governments.”

This process received a major boost when NSBC secured a $100 million facility with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) to finance its new zero-emissions Nexport bus fleet. Through this facility, Nexport will continue electrifying the NSBC fleet throughout 2024 while also building its capability to supply government operators, along with other charter companies across Australia, with zero-emissions vehicles.

“We’ll also continue providing electric buses to our corporate clients, as well as supplying electric trucks and vans from our Foton division in the GoZero Group,” Cartwright says.

“The whole world is starting to transition to zero-emissions at the same time, so we’re looking to fully support this.”

It makes for a consortium that is covering all bases in the Australian bus and coach market. In just six months, Cartwright and his new-look team have built a trio of brands that are working together to provide a unique offering to local operators. While NSBC continues to grow as a school bus operator, Cartwright is now intrigued to see how far Nexport can expand in 2024 with its new electric coach and low floor city bus models.

“We think this trio model makes absolute sense because we have our own customer to keep the OEM factory busy when there’s a quiet patch of orders from our other clients,” Cartwright says.

“It’s also an enabler for the charter company to win more work because they know they will be swiftly supported by their OEM partner, Nexport.

“Through Nexport, we are focused on increasing our supply of electric buses and depot support to some of the big government operators, but our niche is charter work and we’re keen to do more of that as well.

“After seeing the success of NSBC in Greater Sydney through this model, we are keen to replicate this for Nexport in other major metropolitan and regional centres across Australia.”

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