NZ Bus invests in electric

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Trolleybuses in Wellington are expected to be the first to given the electric drives so they can be used anywhere in the country. ANDY IZATT
Trolleybuses in Wellington are expected to be the first to given the electric drives so they can be used anywhere in the country. ANDY IZATT

American supplier to help NZ Bus give its Wellington trolleybuses a second life

NEW ZEALAND Infrastructure investment company Infratil has announced a US$30m deal with Wrightspeed to supply Route 500 electric powertrain technology to Infratil’s public transport business, NZ Bus.

California-based Wrightspeed, founded by New Zealand-born Ian Wright who was a co-founder of Tesla, manufactures range-extended electric vehicle powertrains that are already being used successfully in the US in waste management and delivery vehicles. The deal with Infratil and NZ Bus marks Wrightspeed’s entry into passenger transport.

Kevin Baker, Infratil executive and NZ Bus Chairman, said Infratil and NZ Bus were delighted to team up with Wrightspeed to bring innovation through electric powertrain technology to New Zealand. An electric public transport fleet would combine well with Infratil’s investments in renewable energy and enable New Zealand to transition to a clean energy public transport system and play a significant role in decarbonisation and reducing noise pollution in New Zealand cities.

Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus, said with nearly 82% of New Zealand’s electricity from renewable energy sources, transition to electric-powered public transport alongside private vehicles will deliver a step change in reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

“We have explored all the options on the market for future-proofing our fleet,” he said. “Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to achieve that. In the near term, the technology will enable us to repower our trolleybuses, to enable them to be used anywhere in New Zealand. Upon successful repowering of the trolleys, the next stage of the journey to commence would be the retrofitting of the Wrightspeed powertrains to other selected vehicle types in the fleet.”

Wrightspeed’s Route 500 range-extended powertrain is capable of powering vehicles weighing up to 16,329kg, on grades as steep as 40%, and maintains an efficient drive, with an estimated 11.1 miles per gallon diesel equivalent. An 80kW Fulcrum turbine generator charges on-board batteries that will give the buses unlimited range with refueling. The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, providing the slip control needed to manage New Zealand streets.

“New Zealand’s commercial fleets have been challenged by some of the most rigorous road conditions,” said Ian. “Our technology offers an ideal and economically attractive match for these conditions and is a proven solution to support New Zealand’s transition to clean transportation.”

“As a major transport operator, we have the scale for investment of the kind this deal with Wrightspeed represents,” said Zane. “We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation.”

NZ Bus will receive its first Wrightspeed powertrains by mid-2016, and begin the process of fitting and testing immediately, with a view to having a first electric-powered bus on the road by the last quarter of this year.