Volgren, Australia’s largest bus body manufacturer will use the backdrop of BusVic’s 2019 Bus Expo and Maintenance Conference (October 1 – 2) to launch its first pure electric bus.

The 12.2-metre vehicle is built on a BYD K9 chassis and features 324-kilowatt hours of battery capacity. It’s capable of travelling up to 300 kilometres on a single charge and will carry a total of 61 passengers; 39 seats and 22 standees.

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Volgren has been investigating electric technology for more than five years and the prototype alone has involved 12 months of planning, research, engineering problem-solving, as well as partnership-building and discussion with BYD – not to mention the build itself.

But Michael Kearney, Volgren’s Product Engineering Manager, says the wait has been worth it.

“All tests conducted on the vehicle were extremely successful. [It] has been extremely popular with all who have driven it,” Kearney says.

“The instantaneous provision of torque ensures outstanding performance, while the absence of a transmission ensures a smooth, continuous ride through all speeds.”

The new bus will provide an enjoyable experience for passengers, as well as drivers. And even those who aren’t using the bus will benefit from one benefit in particular, its comparatively silent running.

“The extremely quiet interior is also obviously evident. Interior and exterior noise testing demonstrated the vehicle to be substantially advantaged when compared with a diesel bus,” Kearney told us.

Jim Jones, Volgren’s Commercial Manager says the prototype has garnered a great deal of curiosity, but to date it has been limited to “expressions of interest and trial applications”. He feels that may change as operators and governments start to delve more deeply into exactly what the very latest technology and products in the pure electric field can offer.

“Getting the knowledge accurate and up to date on what is available is critical. Then it’s a matter of sorting out the claims from the reality.

“Operators need to find the right application for not only the vehicles, but the infrastructure, to ensure any adoption is successful and viable.  We need to do the research and make fact-based decisions.”

Michael Kearney is optimistic, as well.

“The industry as a whole is now clearly cognisant of the availability of electric buses worldwide and recognises that this is the long-term future for Australian public transport. A number of trials are being planned or conducted throughout Australia and Volgren is ensuring that we are in a position to support bus operators throughout Australia in such trials.

“The challenge in moving forward will be the rationalisation and introduction of large-scale EV fleets and the management of charging infrastructure to accommodate large volumes of vehicles.

For now, in Australia at least, that large-scale procurement seems a little way off, but Volgren has taken an important first step for the Australian bus market.