NEW ZEALAND ZEMTEC E-BUS FOR AUSTRALASIAN MARKET

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Zemtec


EXCLUSIVE: A new electric-bus player emanating from New Zealand has started initial testing of its recently completed Zemtec E-City e-bus, with intent for the solar-panel-roofed bus’s use in both the Australian and New Zealand markets, a company spokesman has announced.

NEW ZEALAND ZEMTEC E-BUS FOR AUSTRALASIAN MARKET
“An added benefit is that the E-City can be driven with a Class 2 NZ driving licence and it has been designed to ensure it is not just the best environmental option, but is also the logical choice for bus operators,” explained Zemtec CEO Frank Reardon.

Speaking exclusively to ABC magazine (www.busnews.com.au), Zemtec CEO Frank Reardon confirmed the new electric bus will soon be in the NZ and Australian markets, that initial testing should begin next month, and that ‘in service’ trials begin in June, 2021.

"We believe we have selected the best suppliers to partner with [for] quality, support, and safety," Reardon stated.

According to the company, the ZF e-mobility-based bus – featuring a range of European, American and top-quality ancillary components – is able to, "…deliver high-quality, sustainable manufacturing efficiency" and that, "…Zemtec is leading the change to logical, efficient and environmentally sensitive commercial EV operation."

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QUICK OVERVIEW

With Zemtec based in Albany, New Zealand, the E-City e-bus is locally designed and built to excel in Australasian conditions, the company explains.

"Most electric buses currently available are adaptations of manufacturers’ conventional diesel vehicles, basically existing designs re-powered with electric motors," Reardon said.

"That approach misses the opportunity for a radical rethink of bus design and also fails to maximise the benefit that modern EV technology is able to offer.

"Every element of the design has been analysed in detail to ensure that modern construction methods can be employed whilst real-world operating requirements can be fulfilled safely and efficiently.

"The E-City is considerably lighter than a conventional diesel bus of the same size and in fact, in New Zealand, can carry the same passenger load on two axles as opposed to the three axles required by a diesel.

"The E-City is around 30 per cent lighter in mass than other electric buses," Reardon stated.

"This weight reduction is a significant factor, allowing for reduced battery storage.

"An added benefit is that the E-City can be driven with a Class 2 NZ driving licence and it has been designed to ensure it is not just the best environmental option, but is also the logical choice for bus operators," he explained.

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WHO IS ZEMTEC?

The six core personnel at Zemtec have a combined experience of more than 150 years in the design, manufacture and, importantly, bus operation, Reardon states.

"We understand what is required and what works. There are no compromises on quality in the E-City. It is designed and built to meet the particular operational requirements of Australia and New Zealand," Reardon explained.

When ABC asked for further details about who is behind this new entity, Reardon replied: "Can’t name everyone for certain reasons, but can say [I have] 39 years’ experience in the designing and manufacture of buses. Previous roles range from apprentice toolmaker with Custom Coaches to co-founder and 33 per cent owner of Bustech."

"Also involved is the Bayes Family; The Bayes have operated buses and coaches in NZ for over 40 years. David, John and Richard bring a wealth of operational and mechanical knowledge to Zemtec.

"[And there are] are a number of other engineers outside of NZ (including Australia) working on the project who have in-depth knowledge of bus design and EV technology," he confirmed.

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CURRENT STATUS

Asked where this E-City trial will be held and via whom, Reardon answered: "Initial trials will be with Bayes Coachlines, which operate services for Auckland Transport. We are in discussions with Auckland Transport for trials to extend to other operators; this will happen but with who is the question at this stage."

In terms of great operator interest, Reardon stated: "Generally, this will be the first announcement, but we have had ongoing conversations with a few Australian operators keen to come and have a look at the vehicle, which hopefully will happen when the Trans-Tasman bubble is in place."

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ABOUT THE BUILD

The two major safety elements are in the areas of construction and operation, states Zemtec. The E-City frame is built from tier 1 stainless steel, for initial strength and to eliminate any concerns of possible corrosion and subsequent weakening after long term use, the company explains.

The interior is lined with bonded composite for added strength and fitted out with fire-retarding materials, it confirms.

Safety considerations in the field of operating have led to a completely flat, unobstructed non-slip floor from front to rear, it adds.

There’s also reliable, diffused LED lighting for maximum, and low-glare lighting activated by an automatic sensor plus trap free, out-sliding plug doors that have minimal internal intrusion.

The driver works in a spacious, ergonomically designed work area surrounded by significant frame structure, it states. Additional assistance consists of rear-view cameras, automatic interior/exterior lighting activation plus automatic wipers fitted with rain sensors, it adds.

An individually ventilated, cab environment supplies a comfortable working space and the uncluttered dashboard, with no high-level switch gear, removing the possibility of excessive distraction, allowing more concentration on safe driving, the company states.

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INSIDE FITOUT

According to Zemtec, the E-City provides a modern and fresh interior aimed at maximizing passenger comfort and experience. A key feature is the step-less aisle from the entry to the rear five-passenger seat. Minimum headroom in aisle is 2,100mm. The steps to access seats over wheel-arches are 250mm or less and the headroom from these is a minimum of 1,800mm.

Seat spacings are generous with a minimum of 300mm knee room measured from the front face of the bench type seats, Zemtec states. Seats facing each other in the rear saloon are separated by modesty panels. The saloon is uncluttered, it confirms. Air conditioning ducts are incorporated into the roof, meaning the saloon ceiling is streamlined.

"We believe the driver’s area of the E-City to be unparalleled regarding ergonomics, vision and safety," Reardon said.

"A simple, uncluttered dashboard means drivers can concentrate on the road. Blinds to windscreen and side window can be deployed without affecting rear vision. It’s a comfortable, spacious cab with dedicated personal locker. There’s no switch gear mounted above the driver’s head and there’s a top-quality multi-adjustable driver’s seat, plus optional cab A/C if required."

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BODY DESIGN

The E-City has been completely developed as a single 3D assembly, meaning its parts fit, says Zemtec. A unique feature of the design is that exterior panelling from the waist rail down can be removed and the vehicle remains weatherproof. This allows for true bolt off/on panels, it explains.

Evidence to the accuracy of the vehicle is that the E-City does not go into a paint booth during production. Parts are painted prior to being fitted to the vehicle; an obvious benefit of this is panel repairs are extraordinarily easy, it adds.

Spares for the ZF and Wabco systems are available through a number of suppliers and will not require any on-site programming, Zemtec confirms. The lower energy consumption in conjunction with solar charging will greatly reduce energy costs, it adds.

Australia’s Gold Coast-based ATL Composites supplies the E-City with its innovative composite ‘tub’. This tub is bonded inside the frame-work, providing the floor and interior side walls. The tub weatherproofs the saloon, provides insulation and adds considerable strength to the monocoque structure, says Zemtec. As tubs are internal of the frame-work they are protected in the event of any possible accident damage, it states.

The complete monocoque structure is manufactured in NZ’s Wakefield Metals 304 grade stainless steel, selected for its high corrosion resistance while maintaining low fatigue properties.

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WORLD PARTNERS

The E-City is mostly backed by ZF and ZF Wabco product. The package includes steering and drive axles, suspension, steering box and column, brakes, DC-AC inverters, drive axle controller and all brake and suspension control systems, Zemtec says.

The rear drive axle produces 250kW (270kW peak) and 21,000Nm; anything less will not meet the operating conditions in Australia or New Zealand on a fully laden 16,000kg vehicle, the company points out.

Xalt Energy provides the E-City with a total system solution including BDU (Battery Disconnect Unit), Xpand subpacks, SCU (String Control Unit) and the MCU (Master Control Unit). Engineered and manufactured in the USA the Xpand subpacks used by Zemtec have a cast-aluminium enclosure that protects the system from any external or internal occurrence, Zemtec says.

Xalt systems have been tested and comply to UN.DOT 38.3 and ECER100.02 standards. The Xpand subpacks are thermally controlled both while in operation and charging to ensure exceptional performance, charging time and life, Zemtec states. Xalt Energy supplies both Li-ion cells and complete battery systems to major bus, marine and mining customers globally.

ABB supplies the charging devices and infrastructure. ABB have approved contractors across Australia and New Zealand and can supply value added solutions such as on-site transformers.

With over 30 years’ experience, Coachair provides the E-City with an energy-efficient climate control, integrated battery thermal control and driver’s heater demister package, Zemtec states.

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