Volgren, Australia’s largest bus body builder, has put its first ever electric bus into production, beginning the company’s move into zero-emission vehicle technology.

The prototype, which will be completed by the middle of June, will be built on a BYD chassis, and include 324 kWh of batteries, enabling a range of more than 250 kilometres on a single charge.

The depleted batteries will take between four and five hours to fully replenish with the use of a charger, a system commonly known as overnight or depot charging.

Business Development Manager at Volgren, Jon Tozer, says that the company has been investigating electric vehicles for more than five years and that the prototype itself has been a full 12 months in the making.

“We’ve known for some time that the bus industry was about to go through its biggest transformation in three or four decades. And we wanted to approach this shift with the best information at our disposal. We wanted to understand the products, the technologies and the solutions available in the market before beginning our work in earnest.

“In the case of this first electric bus, we wanted to ensure that we built on a known quantity. We didn’t want to conduct a science experiment or work with a conglomerate of part suppliers attempting to provide a solution. We wanted something that will work from the start.”

Tozer says that while the initial capital cost of the bus will be higher than a standard diesel, that’s not the full story.

“When you take into account the significant operation saving in maintenance and energy costs per kilometre, as well as the significant fall in the cost and increase in energy density of batteries over the last few years, we’re nearing the point where total cost of ownership will soon be the same as it is for a diesel, if it isn’t already.

And although the news of the prototype is just off the presses, the industry response has been positive.

“More operators and agencies are looking to zero emissions buses for the first time and, since announcing this build, we’ve been encouraged by the interest we’ve received from government and private operators.”

“Volgren has always specialised in the design, development and application of new technologies. We’ve introduced many revolutionary bus solutions to the market – starting with aluminium bodies. We pride ourselves on providing engineering solutions that meet the developing needs of our customers, and we’re more than ready to take on the challenge of developing the best possible bus body for electric buses.”

Tozer says that thanks to their long-standing partnership with Swiss manufacturer Hess, and other OEMs, Volgren has access to a range of electric bus technologies and types, including electric rigid, articulated and bi-articulated (rubber tyred tram) buses. They also have access to a multitude of proven charge and battery technologies already in operation around the world.

“To further assist operators, Volgren has partnered with businesses that can provide infrastructure installation, grid connections and upgrades and funding and leasing models on the bus, batteries or infrastructure. We’re helping them close the loop as they shift from a diesel bus to an electric.”

Tozer says the first bus will become available to the market in August after a month of testing, which will be undertaken by Volgren’s engineering department.

“We’re looking forward to the new chapter in the history of the Australian bus industry and being able to offer our customers the latest technology. Volgren is open to discussing in detail our project and future solutions available to market with operators.”