PIONEERING NZ OPERATOR EXPANDS E-BUS CHARGING NETWORK

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Tranzit Group


NEW ZEALAND family bus and transport entity Tranzit Group now has the largest privately owned electric-bus charger network in NZ - to power its growing fleet of e-buses - the company reports recently.

PIONEERING NZ OPERATOR EXPANDS E-BUS CHARGING NETWORK
(L-R): Keven Snelgrove, Tranzit Group’s director of Transport and Operations and Daryn Murphy, Tranzit Group’s National Fleet manager, stand on the base of the company’s future 1MW substation at its Grenada Depot, which will add to its growing EV charger infrastructure network across the North Island. In time, Tranzit’s Grenada depot will be able to charge up to 40 electric buses. Credit: Tranzit Group.

Having long held a reputation of being Kiwi national bus industry pioneers, Tranzit’s director of Operations and Transport, Keven Snelgrove, says this week’s installation of a 1080kW new charger at its Grenada Depot, north of Wellington city, brings the company’s total charging network to 2820kW – enough to power 3,400 homes, or approximately the town of Foxton (population was 3,330 as of June, 2021).

"Since we began exploring electric bus technology in 2014 and then made a commitment to electrifying public transport - to help New Zealand meet its decarbonisation goals and provide a really smooth and quiet ride for our passengers - we’ve worked hard to ensure we have the necessary infrastructure to charge our growing fleet of electric buses," said Snelgrove.

"From January, 2022, we will have capacity up to 2820kW, which means we can charge the 20 electric buses we currently have running in Auckland, Palmerston North and Wellington, as well as futureproof our business for the next tranche of double-deck electric buses we are incrementally adding into Wellington, to run as part of the Metlink network."

Andrew, Gareth Daryn and Repower at Henley Lake by Katie Farman Sept 2021x.jpg

Above: Tranzit’s Andrew Gray, Gareth Price and Daryn Murphy with the Repower Bus, during trials held around Masterton. In a Southern Hemisphere first, the trio successfully converted this urban diesel double deck bus to 100% electric and it is now transporting passengers in Wellington city.

 

BROAD NETWORK SPREAD

To enable electrification in Wellington, Tranzit has built a network of chargers around the wider region, it states. This includes the country’s two fastest chargers - a 450kW charger located in Reef Street in

Island Bay and the soon-to-be completed 450kW charger at the Wellington Interchange in Thorndon, it confirms.

At these locations, Tranzit’s electric double-deck buses can be charged from 20 per cent to fully charged in 12 minutes, it says.

In addition, a total of 1080kW is currently being installed at Tranzit’s Grenada Depot, north of Wellington. Tranzit also has a 1-MegaWatt substation installed at its south-east located Rongotai depot, with a 300kW upgrade planned for early 2022.

Also, there is a 120kW charger operational at its Palmerston North depot and a portable 25kW charger at its new Taupo depot, Tranzit states.

In Auckland, a unique charging system is used, offering greater e-bus scope and flexibility.

"In Auckland we can charge our single-deck electric bus, which was the first one we introduced into New Zealand thanks to EECA’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund and our partnership with AUT, on a special charger. This can charge buses with two different plug types removing the need for two chargers as most chargers can only accommodate one plug type," Snelgrove explained.

Tranzit's Keven Snelgrove and Daryn Murphy at Grenada Depot 17 Dec by Katie Farmanx.jpg

CHARGING CHOICE

In order for Tranzit to accommodate its growing fleet of electric buses, it has worked closely with Regional Councils and regional electricity providers to secure power for its charging network. Concurrently, the company has invested in upskilling many of its workshop team who have gone from working on diesel buses to electric buses, Tranzit says.

To date, four of Tranzit’s diesel mechanics have completed their MITO New Zealand Certificate in Electric Vehicle Automotive Engineering (Level 5) and there are plans to upskill more of the team in 2022, the company confirms.

Tranzit utilises charging infrastructure by Heliox, based in the Netherlands, which offers a slow or fast charger. Slow chargers take between 3-4 hours to charge a double-deck electric bus to capacity.

These can be done overnight with the advantage being it uses a cheaper night cost and lower impact to the power network, the company says.

Conversely, Tranzit’s fast chargers take between eight- to 12 minutes to charge a double-deck electric bus to capacity. Once charged, Tranzit’s double-deck electric buses can run between 4-6 hours, or clock up to 130km per charge, costing as little as NZD$35 per charge (excluding charger cost), Tranzit claims.

Karl Gates and Charger in Palmy.jpg

Above: Tranzit Coachlines Manawatu electric bus driver Karl Gates with the charger at the company’s Palmerston North depot.

 

FORWARD THINKING

Snelgrove says the family company is proud of its pioneering history and has no intention of stopping.

"My brother Paul and I are third generation guardians of our family business and decided that, in order for the fourth and fifth generation to take the lead, we needed to look at sustainable technology and renewable energy options," he said.

"But looking back, we’ve always been pioneers," he added.

"In 1970 we started to re-power our older flat-V8 petrol fleet with more efficient diesels then, in 1980, Tranzit continued this program using the more modern and fuel-efficient Isuzu 6BD1 diesel engine.

"In 1990 we then started to re-power our older pre-Euro standard engines with Euro 3 and 4 engines before placing an order for 20 Euro 4 Touring Coaches in 2010 - the ‘top of the line’ at the time – which were used for Rugby World Cup 2011 and brought a lot of pride to our company and our team.

"After beginning to explore electric-bus technology in 2014 things have continued to ramp up and we’ve gone from introducing the first electric bus into New Zealand in 2015 to, this year, having 20 electric buses on the road.

"Also, in a Southern Hemisphere first, we successfully converted a diesel double-deck bus to 100 per cent electric," he explained.

Reef St Charger in use.jpg

Above: One of Tranzit’s double-deck electric buses is charged by the Reef St fast charger. NB - Tranzit’s engineers moved the pantograph to the rear of the bus, after the original design had it on top.

 

LOCAL MANUFACTURING

Tranzit also sets itself apart, it states, by helping to build New Zealand’s electric bus capability, working with Tauranga’s Kiwi Bus Builders to assemble the buses using NZ-made parts, as well as global parts imported from China and Europe.

"The quality of the product is outstanding and we are committed to supporting the upskilling and retention of New Zealand’s manufacturing workforce by using local builders." Snelgrove confirmed.

15th Annual Car Show (22).png

ABOUT TRANZIT

Tranzit Group is an award-winning, family owned transport and tourism company operating throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. With its head office still in Wairarapa, in the south-east of the North island, Tranzit will celebrate its centenary in 2024.

Employing around 2000 team members and operating 2000 vehicles nationwide, Tranzit is a significant contributor to the economy, it states.

In many parts of New Zealand, Tranzit delivers Ministry of Education school bus contracted services, as well as contracted school runs for individual schools, it confirms.

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