After a year-long trial, the results are in: The ACT’s electric buses are fizzers. But that’s not stopping the territory government from buying a fleet of them.

The alternative fuel bus trial was launched last year in a bid to make public transport emission-free by 2040. It’s part of an ambitious plan by the territory to reach zero net emissions by 2045. As part of the test, two electric buses and one hybrid bus were placed into rotation, with data collected on their fuel energy efficiency, range, emissions and whole of life costs. 

The results were lackluster. While diesel engine buses only missed 0.8% of their peak-period services, the hybrid missed 14.2%, and the battery electric a whopping 35.7%. The electric buses also have 13 fewer seats than the diesel buses, and half the range at 450km compared to the diesel’s 810km.

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel told Crikey the delays were due to not having parts readily available. “As with many emerging technologies, supply chain issues were a significant factor contributing to the limited success for service delivery in peak periods,” he said, adding that buses also missed services while waiting for a diagnosis of technical failures, and waiting for repair.

Breakdowns, Steel said, affected all buses during the trial and breakdowns of electric and hybrid buses were not statistically significant. 

Despite more than one in three peak services being missed, the government has stuck to its guns with plans to include electric buses in a new fleet of 84 in the coming years (hybrid buses aren’t likely to be included). Steel says the buses made up for poor performance with low environmental emissions, energy efficiency and whole of life economic costs. He stressed technological developments will mean more reliable buses can be bought in the future. 

Still, until the more reliable model hits the streets, Canberrans might want to consider cycling to work instead.

Peter Fray

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