BUSTECH CUMMINS-BACKED E-BUS FLEET SOLUTION ANNOUNCED

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Bustech + Cummins


EXCLUSIVE: Touted as a next-gen bus fleet technology solution, Australian manufacturer Bustech and US commercial vehicle global giant Cummins will partner to offer a unique ‘one bus, three powertrain options’ bus to futureproof operator fleets.

BUSTECH CUMMINS-BACKED E-BUS FLEET SOLUTION ANNOUNCED
The electric and fuel-cell powertrain components will be manufactured in the United States, with final assembly and integration into the buses taking place in Australia, Bustech and Cummins confirm.

In essence, the landmark-concept agreement would mean a bus operator could use the same Bustech body and frame for its 25-year-plus life cycle – a traditional Australian bus community expectation in some parts still – but have it use either a Cummins diesel, Cummins "zero-emissions" fully battery electric, or Cummins hydrogen fuel-cell power option - at any time desired, for whatever route reason required – effectively decapitating the need to keep buying entirely new buses each time, it seems.

With a ‘change’ essentially deemed a mere ‘maintenance service’, an operator simply chooses whether they want to have a Cummins Euro 6 emissions-standard bus (hybrid will not be available), or a fuel cell or electric option, thereby arguably offering the Australasian market unparalleled, at present, flexibility to futureproof a bus fleet.

The radical idea would mean Cummins continues to power Bustech via new battery electric and fuel cell electric powertrains into the future.

The electric and fuel-cell powertrain components will be manufactured in the United States, with final assembly and integration into the buses taking place in Australia. No offical pricepoint has been announced as of yet, ABC magazine can confirm, though it is being described as "market competitive in terms of pricing."

"We are excited to continue working with Bustech to provide the next evolution in clean, dependable solutions from Cummins," said Amy Davis, president of New Power at Cummins.

"Our ability to offer a full portfolio of solutions, allows our customers to seamlessly transition to one of several decarbonised solutions depending on their needs and specific use case.

"With a global support and service network already established, we’re equipped to support customers as they integrate zero-emission vehicles into their fleets," she said. 

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LONG LIFECYCLE

The agreement provides for initial units to be developed for both battery electric and fuel cell electric, with plans to ramp up production late 2021 and early 2022, respectively, according to Bustech and Cummins.

Of the idea - based on using an updated XDi low-floor transit/city bus body and frame - Bustech group managing director Christian Reynolds said: "We have leveraged Cummins diesel technology for many years to produce over 500 integrated chassis, and now we are excited to work together to deliver the next evolution of the platform."

"With technology evolving rapidly and a long vehicle lifecycle, we know customers need a vehicle architecture that provides commonality, but allows them to adapt. We are focused on value for money and total cost of ownership," he explained.

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AT THE FOREFRONT

The Battery Electric System from Cummins debuted in 2019 after extensive development, testing and validation, the company states.

Cummins battery packs - which form an integral part of the battery electric powertrain - are designed and built by Cummins, it confirms. The batteries feature a lightweight enclosure and flexible energy-dense modules, all controlled by a proprietary battery management system (BMS) to keep the packs operating at maximum performance, says Cummins.

Within the system, the packs can be scaled from 444kWh to 518kWh. The battery electric powertrain for Bustech will have a range up to 350km between recharging, Cummins states.   

The Cummins fuel-cell electric powertrain will maintain a large amount of commonality with the battery electric system and will be built on the same chassis from Bustech, it confirms.

Cummins, which acquired Hydrogenics Corp. in 2019, will combine Cummins proprietary batteries with its 90kW proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell to provide a 450-600km range based on various on-board hydrogen storage options, it states. 

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Bustech chief technology officer Gregg Dinning said: "Cummins shares our philosophy of building a vehicle platform to ease the transition to zero emission vehicles."

"An operator can select the best energy solution for a route, taking advantage of the unique properties of the battery and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

"The updated XDi architecture simplifies mixed fleet vehicle maintenance through the quantity of shared components," Dinning explained.

"Leveraging Cummins’ knowledge of zero-emissions technology and powertrain operation in Australia enables Bustech to deliver a vehicle that is optimised for Australian conditions from conception."

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EXTENSIVE NETWORK

To support Bustech’s XDi zero-emission products, Cummins will provide local service to customers through its company-owned distributor network, one of the largest in Australia supporting the bus market, it explains.

Cummins has more than 35 branch locations in Australia and New Zealand, and in excess of 6,000 dealer and distributor locations globally, it confirms.

"We’re excited to strengthen our already strong relationship with Bustech, allowing our mutual customers to experience the journey to zero emissions with partners they know and trust," said Chris Bowerman, bus and coach business manager for Cummins South Pacific.

"Being able to offer customers everything from Euro 6 clean diesel to battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell electric within one bus, should create confidence that we can provide the best-fit solution for each customer’s unique needs," Bowerman explained. 

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ABOUT BUSTECH 

Bustech is Australia's largest privately owned bus manufacturer and is fully Australian owned and operated, it states.

Based at Burleigh Heads on Queensland's famous Gold Coast, Bustech designs, engineers and manufactures chassis and bodies for mass passenger vehicles.

The company has established facilities in Queensland and South Australia, with a production capacity of 400 buses per annum and also has a joint venture arrangement in Tasmania, supplementing the overall capacity for the group by 100 per annum, respectively (NB: Australian Bus Corporation – Bustech, Precision Buses and Elphinstone).

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ABOUT CUMMINS INC.

Cummins Inc., a global power leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions, it states.

The company’s products range from diesel, natural gas, electric and hybrid powertrains and powertrain-related components including: filtration, ‘after-treatment’, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, batteries, electrified power systems, hydrogen generation and fuel cell products, it explains.

Headquartered since its founding in 1919 in Columbus, Indiana, USA, Cummins employs approximately 61,600 people committed to, "…powering a more prosperous world through three global corporate responsibility priorities critical to healthy communities: education, environment and equality of opportunity," it states.

Cummins serves its customers online through a network of company-owned and independent distributor locations, and through thousands of dealer locations worldwide, it says.

In 2019, it earned about USD$2.3 billion on sales of USD$23.6 billion, it confirms.

 

JUST TO CONFIRM...

When Australasian Bus and Coach magazine (www.busnews.com.au) asked Bustech to explain and confirm a few things further, it stated:

- "The universal body concept has been developed to support all operators in scale who manage city / school bus fleets who want a product which gives them flexibility to transition to zero emission strategies without having to purchase a new vehicle."

- "Having worked with Cummins to deliver this strategy we have a strong partnership to deliver on the upgrades in energy and driveline technology. This is further supported by the tech support framework Cummins has across Australia."

-  "Euro 6 Hybrid is not a focus for this project; feedback we have received has been very specific to the functional of diesel and electric."

- "The XDi diesel vehicle is market competitive in terms of pricing and is being supplied to operators today. However the real benefit is when you upgrade to electric or hydrogen; you do so without having to pay for a complete new vehicle, just the upgrade in respect of new zero emission powertrain. This is modelled around the traditional repower cycle of an engine."

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