International deal for Bustech

By: Amie Hickland

An Australian manufacturer will help design and build electric buses as part of a $170 million project

International deal for Bustech
Bustech Chief Executive Officer Michael McGee and Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Scott Emerson

Gold Coast manufacturer Bustech been chosen as the lead design and manufacturing partner for a $170 million electric bus project being led by a consortium of Malaysian and Australian organisation.

Bustech has partnered with the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI), Swinburne University of Technology and AutoCRC and a private Malaysian company to develop and test the E-Bus project.

The E-Bus project is an international research and development project co-funded by the Malaysian and Australian players and governments, which aims to develop an electric bus for trial operations in Malaysia.

Bustech is part of Transit Australia Group (TAG) and Chief Executive Officer Michael McGee says the company was approached to be part of the project.

"We were looking at doing it ourselves anyway – but not at this level," he says.

McGee says the project is a ground-breaking partnership that will position Bustech as an innovative regional leader in the use of renewable energy for buses.

 "Bustech has been selected due to its reputation as the leading bus design, engineering and manufacturing business in Australia," he says.

The trial will see two prototype buses built and tested as part of the design process.

Prototype 1 will be a "stock-standard" electric bus model while Protoype2 will be "completely revolutionary," according to McGee.

"We don’t want to jump straight from zero to where we want to go," he says.

The bus will be built on a Bustech chassis, while other pieces have been sourced from around the world such as the battery from Japan.

McGee says there will also be as much ‘weight’ stripped from the bus as possible.

"We’re going to make it as light as possible."

The process will also include a complete cost-analysis to assess the full benefits of electric buses.

"It’s not just the bus, it’s the supply chain around it which is very important," he says.

"The electric vehicle in theory should be cheaper to operate than the diesel engines.

"It’s the first domestic electric bus being made in Australia so we’re very excited."

Swinburne University is providing electric bus technology to the project and will work closely with Bustech throughout the trials of the prototype vehicle.

Automotive Institute CEO Madani Sahari says if successful, the electric bus could be exported to other countries.

"This partnership is a win-win for both Australia and Malaysia because it develops opportunities that have benefits for both countries," he says.

Sahari says the Malaysian industry is spending 500 million ringgit ($AUD170 million) on establishing an electric bus public transport system, including infrastructure such as charging stations.

"This project will position Malaysia and Australia as regional leaders.

"We don’t believe in having everything centric to one country. We can’t. In this era of globalisation we need to work with a partner and this is a smart partnership."

The project is also a direct outcome from the Malaysia Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA).

"Without the Malaysia Australia Free Trade Agreement this wouldn’t have happened," Sahari says.

 "It’s a win-win for both countries and we have the world as our market place."

TAG is working closely with a Malaysian manufacturer in exploring opportunities to commercialise the technology.

"Transit Australia Group has long recognised the unique opportunities available under free trade agreements in the region and sees the strategic importance of Asia as an emerging market," says McGee.

AutoCRC, whose role it is to identify and develop opportunities for the Australian automotive industry, helped broker the deal by bringing the MAI and Bustech together.

AutoCRC research director Gary White says Bustech is well-suited to the project, with high-end capabilities in the manufacturing process.

"Our long-term vision at AutoCRC is to re-build manufacturing in Australia and this project is a perfect illustration, with Bustech’s manufacturing facility capable of delivering high-quality, innovative products," he says.

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Scott Emerson MP has thrown his support behind the project.

 "It’s great to see a Queensland-based manufacturer succeeding on a regional scale and for Bustech and Transit Australia Group to be recognised as experts in public transport solutions," he says.

The first bus is planned to roll off the production line in July 2015 with trials to begin in September.

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