In Australia, the Western Sydney-based company Custom Denning has been awarded a contract to design, manufacture and assembly 79 new electric buses to operate in Sydney. This is just part of a larger plan to fully decarbonise bus services in Australia’s largest city.
The 79 electric buses will be manufactured in Custom Denning’s factory in St Mary’s in Sydney after which they are to be put into operation in Sydney’s inner west.
The NSW Government is investing $70 million in the endeavour with the twofold purpose of both transitioning the state’s bus fleet to zero-emissions technology, as well as creating local manufacturing jobs in Western Sydney. In 2019 the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) announced that it would decarbonise its 8,000-strong bus fleet. The state’s fleet is both privately and publically operated under 13 contracts servicing the Sydney metropolitan area.
Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said the $70 million investment should help drive a post-pandemic jobs recovery and boost local manufacturing. In 2020 NSW’s Deputy Secretary of Greater Sydney Elizabeth Mildwater revealed that local manufacturers such as Bustech and Custom Buses would be considered for further orders. The Deputy Secretary also noted that both of those manufacturers buses are still in testing and that Nexport is considering opening a local plant. Until now, Australia’s electric buses have been made by companies from outside the country, mostly from China, with electric bus orders already in the books from a range of manufacturers, including BCI, Yutong, BYD-ADL, Nexport BYD Gemilang and Nexport BYD Volgren.
In February last year, the NSW government made the Australian bus manufacturer BusTech Group an official supplier in their efforts to decarbonise the bus fleet. BusTech reacted promptly and said it would set up a factory in NSW with production to commence this year. The company also builds electric buses at factories in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
BusTech spokesperson Maria Fedele said only the battery was made overseas by US firm Proterra and had 420kwh of useable energy. Almost everything else is sourced locally, she said. While BusTech also builds hybrid and conventionally powered buses, the NSW facility will focus solely on electric buses.
The Australian electric vehicle manufacturing industry emerges
Australia has significant lithium, nickel, cobalt, while natural graphite production, essential to cathode production is undertaken by Australian company Syrah Resources. Mining is big business in Australia, from fossil fuels and steel now booming in electric vehicle resources plus renewable energy and hydrogen production potential. Interestingly there is also a mix of these established and emerging economies, with mining companies using electric vehicles for their mining activities. Expertise is definitely also in the country with companies like Hyzon building capacities in the country while Australian companies Avass and Tritium are also setting up production capacities overseas.
Australian mining company Fortescue Metals Group is currently in the process of acquiring Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), the engineering and battery company founded by Formula One team Williams, for £164 million. Fortescue wants to use Williams’ battery technology in goods trains and trucks, among other things.
Australia as a continent is characterised by large and very sparsely located cities, huge raw material resources and virtually limitless renewable energy potential. No wonder then, that the country’s manufacturing capacities are so far focussed on long-distance and heavy-duty vehicles.
NSW Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott “I’m committed to exploring opportunities to secure more local manufacturing, component supply and workforce skills development to boost our economy.”
In October last year, Custom Denning selected Siemens to supply its charging stations and management solution Sicharge UC. Once each of the 79 buses is built, they will operate services in Sydney’s inner west. In collaboration with its contracted bus operators, Transport for NSW have ordered a total of 101 electric buses from Custom Denning.
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