BLK Auto has announced that it is continuing its embrace of sustainable manufacturing technology revealing it has now established two different zero-emissions chassis options with a new partnership, with Australian bus body builder Volgren.
It’s not a totally new experience for BLK Auto having partnered with Hyzon in 2021 to introduce Australia’s first hydrogen fuel-cell coach into service.
Now BLK Auto has announced it is expanding its product offering and investing in both hydrogen fuel-cell and electric bus technology.
The bus manufacturer has signed an MOU with local body builder, Volgren , which will see it veer away from its completely built up (CBU) bus that it has traditionally specialised in, instead, supplying a battery electric chassis with CATL batteries along with a Hydrogen fuel-cell chassis for the bus industry.
BLK Auto managing director Jason Pecotic, said it’s a step in a different direction for the local BLK distributor.
“The new BEV chassis we build will have the batteries built into the chassis only and not built into the roof,” Pecotic said.
“With the coach fuel cell chassis, we’re working with the Toyota fuel-cell in development with Refire Technology. We’re also, working alongside Cummins over the next 12 to 18 months on a city bus fuel-cell chassis with a Volgren body.”
“It’s a new move for us and we’re excited for the change,” Pecotic said.
Pecotic said the partnership with Cummins, Toyota and Refire Technology has been in development over the past six months and added that it will still provide diesel-fuelled options as the industry continues to transition to zero-emissions vehicles. However BLK’s recent partnership proves it is also focussed on new technology for renewable buses.
BLK Auto said it wanted to work with local body builders and technology companies when designing its new chassis.
Pecotic said BLK Auto was ready to split its resources into both electric and hydrogen fuel technology having consulted with Australian businesses including Volgren,
Pecotic added that BLK wanted to focus on local content for its new wave of zero emission chassis to match the sustainable shift seen in the Australian bus and coach industry.
“There’s been positive political movements towards local production that we want to embrace and support here in Australia,” said Pecotic.
“We saw the number of zero-emissions buses required over the next 10 years in states like New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia and thought it was a great opportunity to invest in that technology.”
“We see this change as a positive decision going forward and we want to move with it while also regarding customer sentiment towards how we produce our chassis.”
With the MOU now signed, BLK says it is getting on with the process and says Its first electric chassis is now under construction at its Nachang factory in China.
The Nachang BLK factory has been supplying bus chassis to Australia and New Zealand since 2008 and Pecotic said Nancang was the perfect place to produce these new chassis. He added that he expects the first chassis to arrive on Australian shores within the next six months.
Pecotic wants to have skilled workers ready for when the first BLK electric chassis lands in Australia and is currently undergoing a recruitment drive to appoint sales and after sales staff in Victoria, NSW and Queensland that can help with creating a zero-emissions future with buses in Australia.
“The investment into both electric and hydrogen chassis will help BLK Auto further learn about these changing technologies and directions,” Pecotic said.
“We’re here to support both options, whether it be battery electric or hydrogen fuel-cell,” he added.
“Moving forward we’ll support both options. While working on hydrogen technology we’re also currently building two and three axle electric coaches for Australian operators.”
“We’ve already successfully delivered 10 hydrogen coaches and we won’t stop supporting either electric or hydrogen fuel-cell anytime soon.”
“The latest move is proof that BLK Auto is keen to partner with various Australian bus and coach companies and while BLK will work with Volgren, Cummins and Refire Technology, BLK is also partnering with MAN Truck & Bus to supply its body to MAN’s Australian chassis products,” he said.
The company also says it has hired lead technical fuel cell engineer and ex-Optare Group CEO Graham Belgum For BLK Auto to help to map cutting-edge sustainable chassis technology in Australia, with Belgum becoming the lead designer of BLK Auto’s fuel-cell and BEV chassis over the past 12 months.
“With Graham Belgum, we’ve been building what the customer wants,” Pecotic said.
“Currently we have customers who say they want a hydrogen fuel-cell city bus as well as battery electric options, so we’re in the throes of building both.”
BLK will use these new agreements to launch into more Australian partnerships that aren’t just limited to body builders and manufacturers according to Pecotic. On the energy side of the hydrogen fuel-cell and battery electric move, BLK will work with Lion Energy and Pure Hydrogen to produce the refuelling solutions required for these sustainable chassis.
“It’s exciting to have formed these partnerships and we can now start producing these new chassis and bring them to market.,” Pecotic said.