Whitsunday Transit Trial the 100% Electric Bus


We jumped on the bus with Darren Crossley, owner of Whitsunday Transit to find out a bit more about his trial of the 100% Electric Bus and how his team are embracing a significant product of clean transport innovation.

What inspired the electric bus trial?

As a family business in an area like the Whitsundays, we are very environmentally conscious and like to be proactive in the sustainability space. We’re always looking for ways to be leaders in our operations, so the Yutong electric bus trial was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

I reached out to the Yutong suppliers 6 months ago and they informed me there was an electric bus in the country. I put our name on the list and we were lucky enough to be accepted for the trial. Having the bus here in the Whitsundays is a huge step forward for our local region. It meant we were able to provide a greener transport service to one of our biggest local events, the Airlie Beach Festival of Music. It’s also a much-needed step forward for the transport industry to reduce the sector’s emissions output.

What’s the process in charging the bus?

The bus was delivered with a purpose-built charging unit that simply plugs into the vehicle, like you would plug in your iPhone! The charger is connected to 3-phrase power in the depot which runs from our solar panels. We have about 40kw of solar on the roof and the charger takes about 50kw, so we might have to stagger the charging times if we had more than one in the fleet.

The bus takes around 7-8 hours to fully charge, and we get about 450,000km of use from one charge. We plug the bus in every night but could get away with 2 days of driving on their standard run.

How much does an electric bus cost compared to a diesel bus?

Surprisingly, the price of a Chinese electric bus (approx. $650K) is very similar to a conventional diesel bus (approx. $600K). However, an Australian-made electric bus is around the $850 - $900K mark, which is a considerable price difference. We’ve also estimated about a 50% reduction in cost per km during the trial!

The other cost to consider in an electric bus is the 13-year battery life. We generally use our buses for around 20 years, so if we had a 100% electric fleet, we would need to replace the batteries in each bus at least once. Currently, the cost to replace these batteries is around half the cost of a new bus. However, we know battery technology is advancing quickly, so this is likely to come down over the next 13 years.

How many liters of fuel does Whitsunday Transit go through in a week? 

We currently use around 30,000 liters of diesel per week. According to the Hub’s calculations, the emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in 30,000 liters of diesel are estimated at 81.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. 

This means, switching to a fleet of electric buses charged with green power could save around 4,000 tonnes of emissions each year! To put this into perspective, that is around the electricity consumption of 2,600 homes in a year (Ref: climate neutral group).

Are the batteries recyclable?

Yutong are still working on whether these batteries can be recycled. We’ll be sure to follow up with them next year!

What are the maintenance requirements compared to a diesel bus?

It’s just one big electric motor – There is no engine or gear box, so the maintenance costs would be significantly reduced. There are 7 greasing points and that’s about all the maintenance you need to do, apart from the usual breaks, steering and body of the vehicle. I do believe the electric bus will work out to be more economical.

Is the engine completely quiet?

It sure is! It’s impressive how quiet the bus is, considering the amount of power it has. There is no difference in speed, power or aircon capacity in the electric bus and it’s great to drive. Our drivers love it and we’ve had so much interest from the local community. There’s also no diesel smell for our entering passengers.

Are there any other barriers to conversion that need to be considered?

Converting to a 100% electric fleet depends on the reliability of the infrastructure to run it effectively. We also need flexibility in the fleet, so we’d require the technology and infrastructure to consistently charge the vehicles to ensure we can get buses charged and back on the road when we need a quick turnaround. There is a lot of logistical components to consider before taking the leap, but we are lot closer than I thought we were. The future of the transport sector is here.