Custom Denning launches its first Victorian electric bus


You may not be able to hear the new Custom Denning electric bus when it pulls up to your stop. But it’s making soundwaves in the state’s public transport industry.

Custom Denning launches its first Victorian electric bus
The new Custom Denning and Siemen bus is running routes through Sunbury

Custom Denning’s new electric bus sneaks through the terminal unnoticed at Donric & Sunbury Bus Service. The freshly manufactured vehicle looms as a hulking giant, but travels as silently as a mouse. It’s so quiet that it requires an MP3 electronic tram bell noise to ring every few seconds when it travels under 30 kilometres an hour. The locals of Sunbury may not be used to trams rattling through their town, but they now get to experience a new slice of public transport technology.

From the start of August, three new electric buses will be rolling out into the public service from Donric & Sunbury Bus Service. A demonstration model is already operating in Sunbury, while the other three will be rolled out as part of a three-year zero emissions bus trial from the Victorian government.

The first bus in Sunbury comes courtesy of Custom Denning, who manufactured the first zero emission bus to be built entirely in Australia. The Element BEV will be operated by Donric & Sunbury Bus Service and powered by charging infrastructure partner Siemens.

Custom Denning’s first Australian-made electric bus was launched and inspected on May 2 when politicians and representatives took a ride on the quiet, fume free vehicle.

"Today is so exciting for us as a business," Custom Denning managing director Scott Dunn told ABC. "This is the only electric vehicle that’s fully Australian made. Everyone else is building vehicles with an imported chassis but we’re not, this is our chassis and it’s very important to us."

The Custom Denning bus will be the first of three vehicles to take to seven Sunbury public transport routes, becoming an important part of the suburb’s bus schedule. With three new Custom Denning Element’s expected to land at Donric & Sunbury Bus Service depot in July, Sunbury locals will be hearing the tram bell noise more often around town commencing August 2022.

It’s a historic announcement for Custom Denning, who have partnered with Donric & Sunbury Bus Service to introduce the fresh wave of electric buses to Victoria. Dunn says the fully fitted zero emission vehicle brings up a milestone for his company.

"It’s important to us for two reasons," Dunn says. "This is the first electric vehicle we’re putting into operation in Victoria, but it’s also the first vehicle we’ve put into Victoria as a business for more than 12 years."

"We’ve been working in New South Wales and Queensland for a while now, so we are now looking at Victoria because we see a potential growth for us here."

But the electric bus isn’t just a big deal for Custom Denning. Sunbury locals will now get to play host to one of the zero emission trial buses. The state government says 41 electric buses will be added to the public network, with Sunbury getting the first chance to enjoy the smooth additions.

Victorian transport minister Ben Carroll says the Custom Denning bus is a major step forward in terms of both public transport accessibility and sustainability.

"It’s wonderful to be launching the new bus in Sunbury because tackling transport emissions is really important alongside improving transport accessibility," Carroll told ABC. "This is an important three-way partnership between Custom Denning, Donric & Sunbury Bus Service, where we’ll see three electric buses rolled out across seven Sunbury routes to bring the future of buses to this important growing community."

The transport minister is adamant this initiative is "only the start" of the state focusing on zero emission public transport vehicles in the coming years. The state government wants its 4000-strong diesel bus fleet to transition to zero emission buses. From 2025, every new government purchase of a bus has been mandated that it must be a zero emission vehicle. If these buses continue to be like Custom Denning’s, Carrol says the roll-out will be a wonderful change.


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"What we see here from Custom Denning is a world class product in terms of its capability of battery storage both in the back and on the roof, as well as low floor accessibility," Carroll says. "These will benefit the whole community. They’re a win-win wherever you go."

Joining the plaudits for Custom Denning is Sunbury local member Josh Bull, who echoes Carroll’s sentiments about the positive impact these electric buses will have on the community.

Bull says he has discussed the introduction of zero emission vehicles to the state’s public transport fleet for quite some time. He’s now optimistic this new bus will be the first of many to grace public service.

"This is something the local community has talked about to me for some time and it’s amazing to see this as part of a trial," Bull told ABC. "It’s just the start. We need to make sure we are investing in jobs in Australia, so to have Custom Denning involved is really important."

 

To get this trial off the ground, electric vehicle charging infrastructure needed to be ready. This is where Siemens comes in. The technology company joined forces with Custom Denning and Donric Group and began discussing the potential for electric public transport buses in 2020.

Siemens’ business development manager Olivia Laskowski says Siemens will continue supporting Custom Denning to provide a holistic package to bus operators by pairing charging hardware, software and service with the Element Bus.

"This is the inaugural Custom Denning and Siemens project, so it’s exciting to see that come to fruition," Laskowski told ABC. "We look forward to working with Custom Denning more to help them expand their buses into the emerging electric bus industry."

Siemens’ charging infrastructure has the ability to connect up to five buses to a single charger. With electric fleets expanding quickly in the lead-up to 2025, Laskowski says the company can offer a total package of technology infrastructure and service to make the transition as smooth as possible.

"Custom Denning provides the Siemens Sicharge UC 125kw chargers," Laskowski says. "Bus operators are also offered access to Siemens Depotfinity, the charging management software.

"This provides real time monitoring of the bus, charging progress and load management capability."

From Siemens’ charging infrastructure to Custom Denning’s Australian-built chassis, the new electric bus in Sunbury is an industry-first in many ways. But in Scott Dunn’s eyes, it’s only the start of something special for Custom Denning.  

Dunn says his business is looking to "take small steps" and build locally. With another 114 buses ordered currently, Custom Denning expects to have around 150 of its electric buses in service within the next 10 months.

But he’s most excited about the current bus, which is now ringing its bell around the Sunbury community and providing a more sustainable and accessible ride for public transport users.

"The bus has been down here for a few weeks, so we’re excited for it to finally start operations," Dunn says. "Then we have the other buses in build for Sunbury coming down in five weeks’ time."

"We’re so excited, it’s great to get out here, to see and hear the bell. Now we just want to take advantage of the opportunity."

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