Major  NSW based bus operator, Busways has wrapped up a three-month test of a European model Zero Emissions Bus (ZEB) in Coffs Harbour recently with promising results for regional deployments according to the company.

The Volvo BZL Electric model fitted with a bus body made  just down the road from Coffs in Macksville by Express Coach Builders, carried close to 5000 passengers in the Coffs region since starting the trial in January on its first public operation in NSW.

Busways ZEB and Innovations Manager, Joe Kotevich, said the Volvo delighted drivers and public with its quiet and smooth ride and strong performance in regional conditions. 

“What was most surprising was how well the vehicle performed in a regional environment,” he said. 

 “We had initial concerns the high summer temperatures and varied quality of roads might be problematic for the electric bus, however the Volvo took everything in its stride, and we were able to use it like any other bus during the trial.”

Busways Chief Operating Officer, Chris Wolf, said the test generated valuable data and gave vital teachings to Busways’ operational, driver and maintenance staff to help the company finetune its blueprint for future electric bus deployments.

“The data will be shared with Transport for NSW as part of collaborative effort to develop the road map for rural and regional ZEB deployments — infrastructure to support ZEB deployment will be key,” he said.

Busways ran the Volvo ZEB on a variety of routes and school services and provided more than 20 Busways drivers with important electric bus education.

The bus travelled more than 7500 kilometres on different terrain, often in very hot conditions. Even when charged from the existing grid, this represents a saving of four and a half tonnes of carbon emissions, with green power options likely to increase this saving. 

Close to 60 per cent of riders surveyed said they had never ridden an electric bus before. One rider told Busways her five-year-old son loved riding in the electric bus and “informing everyone how they work and are better for the environment”.

The testing of the Volvo ZEB in Coffs Harbour ran in parallel with testing of a BYD electric bus in Penrith, Sydney, and follows Busways’ procurement of the Australian made Custom Denning Element vehicles for Western Sydney in 2021 and 2022, and an earlier Busways trial of a Yutong E12 model in Coffs Harbour in 2021. 

Testing looks at components such as suspension, doors, driveline, air conditioning, manufacturer support and additional training needed for drivers or maintenance teams.

General Manager Volvo Bus Australia, Mitch Peden said Volvo was pleased to be able to showcase to Busways and the Coffs Harbour community how exceptional the Volvo BZL Electric is.

“It’s wonderful for long term business partners like Busways to experience first-hand the drivability, serviceability and genuine reliability of the Volvo BZL Electric and we’re pleased to contribute to the local economy by working with Macksville based Express Coach Builders on this model,” he said.\

The Volvo BZL Chassis featured the latest in Battery Electric Bus (BEB) technology with a 376kW lithium-ion battery, regenerative braking and boasts a range of 300km between charges 

Some of the data collected during the three month test included, electricity consumption, the time taken to charge, demand from air conditioning, and power regenerated through braking, and more

Busways pointed out that  in NSW transport greenhouse gas emissions comprised 21 per cent of total emissions in 2016/17 studies found, making it the second largest source of emissions in the state. Road transport accounts for 85 per cent of transport emissions  while electric buses do not produce tailpipe emissions. 

Busways is the largest wholly Australian-owned bus operator, delivering school and route bus services for 80 years. It has 2800 employees and operates a fleet of 1350 buses across 20 depots in NSW and South Australia, including 277 buses on the NSW mid north coast.