Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Waikato welcomes first electric bus

Waikato’s first electric bus will take to the streets of Taupō from Monday, replacing the current diesel vehicle, which has been a mainstay of the Waikato public bus system for many years.

Waikato Regional and Taupō District Councils say the new Taupō Connector will be cleaner, quieter and emission-free.

The councils officially launched the new bus at an event today. It carries up to 56 passengers at a time: 27 seated, 27 standing and two in wheelchairs. On request, the bus can also tilt towards the curb and extend a ramp to provide easier access for passengers.

Tranzit Coachlines operates the buses, which are designed for efficiency. The 120kW charger at Tranzit’s Taupō depot takes two hours to charge the battery and uses a smart charging system that takes advantage of off-peak power prices. Waka Kotahi reports that electric bus trials in Auckland reduced operating costs by 70 to 85% compared to diesel vehicles running the same route.

The councils say passengers can be confident that the cost efficiencies won’t compromise reliability. The 281kWh on-board battery powers the engine and in-built regeneration technology recharges it when the bus brakes, meaning the bus can travel for approximately 300km around town on a single charge, ideal for a service like the Taupō Connector.

The Connector travels for about 270km each weekday, making seven return loops (six on the weekend) between Wharewaka in the northwest of town and Nukuhau in the south. There’s even enough power for passengers to charge their phones through the USB ports on board, and drivers can top up at the depot in off-peak times if needed.

Waikato Regional Councillor for Taupō-Rotorua and chair of the Regional Transport Committee, Mich’eal Downard says these zero-emission buses are critical for achieving Waikato’s public transport objective to make services net carbon neutral from 2025 to 2050.

“EVs are a game changer for reducing emissions across our network, so this is a big deal and I’m very happy that it happens to be in Taupō,” said Mr Downard.

Waikato’s public transport network covers approximately 730km of roads outside of Hamilton City and daily passenger numbers this year are up 28.4% on 2022. The network carried an average of 7,948 passengers a day last year, but was carrying 10,208 at the end of October 2023.

The regional council’s public transport manager, Trudi Knight says continual improvements to services and options are making a difference.

“The great thing about the increasing passenger numbers is we’ve done it without increasing the average number of bus trips each day. We had 760 last year and 758 this year,” she said.

“On an average day, we’re taking the equivalent of 8876 car trips off the road. Obviously, this is great for reducing emissions but every EV bus we can add to our network makes it even cleaner and more efficient.”

People can see for themselves and ride Taupō’ new electric service for free during its first week, or any time in December by grabbing one of 250 complimentary tickets available at the Taupō Customer and Visitor Information Centre.

Latest Articles