NZ goes electric

NZ Bus will have its fleet retrofitted with electric technology by the end of this year

A New Zealand bus fleet will be retrofitted with new technology this year to lead the industry in helping reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

The announcement comes as Infratil has secured US$30 million deal with Wrightspeed to supply its electric powertrain technology – the Route 500.

Infratil executive and NZ Bus Chairman Kevin Baker says Infratil and NZ Bus are delighted to team up with Wrightspeed to bring innovation through electric powertrain technology to New Zealand.

California-based Wrightspeed manufactures range-extended electric vehicle powertrains, which are already in use successfully in the US in waste management and delivery vehicles.

NZ Bus will receive its first Wrightspeed powertrains by mid-2016, and begin the process of fitting and testing immediately, with a view to having a first electric-powered bus on the road by the last quarter of this year.

NZ Bus chief executive officer Zane Fulljames says with nearly 82 per cent of the country’s electricity coming from renewable energy sources, transition to electric-powered public transport alongside private vehicles will deliver a step change in reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

"We have explored all the options on the market for future-proofing our fleet. Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to achieve that," he says.

"In the near term, the technology will enable us to repower our trolley buses, to enable them to be used anywhere in New Zealand.

"Upon successful repowering of the trolleys, the next stage of the journey to commence would be the retrofitting of the Wrightspeed powertrains to other selected vehicle types in the fleet."

Fulljames says as a major transport operator, NZ Bus has the scale for investment of the kind this deal with Wrightspeed represents.

"We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation," he says.

Wrightspeed’s Route 500 range-extended powertrain is capable of powering vehicles weighing up to 36,000 pounds, in grades as steep as 40 per cent and maintains an efficient drive, with an estimated 11.1 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.

The 80kW fuel agnostic Fulcrum Turbine Generator charges on-board batteries, which provide power to turn the wheels and give the buses unlimited range with refuelling.

The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, providing the slip control needed to manage New Zealand streets.

"New Zealand’s commercial fleets have been challenged by some of the most rigorous road conditions," says Wrightspeed founder and chief executive officer Ian Wright.

"Our technology offers an ideal and economically attractive match for these conditions and is a proven solution to support New Zealand’s transition to clean transportation."

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