A consortium of three companies including an energy company, a bus company and a software and advisory company  are claiming a world first  for a project  that they say will better integrate bus depots with the energy market and  will potentially support faster rollout of electric buses in NSW.

The project is being trialed in Western Sydney and the consortium says it will help in creating local jobs.

Funded under Transport for NSW’s Zero Emissions Bus program, the VEMO project is the innovation of a cross-industry consortium including Busways, Australian software and advisory company Evenergi and Western Sydney electricity distributor Endeavour Energy.

The consortium is trialling the software at Busways’ Penrith depot with an initial 12 electric buses from NSW bus manufacturer Custom Denning – the first to enter permanent service in NSW – to future proof the power supply to be capable of powering an entirely electric bus fleet.

The solution enables direct integration between Endeavour Energy’s distribution network and Busways’ depot to optimise electric bus charging in tune with grid use.

“We’re focused on supporting Transport for NSW’s 2030 goal of a Zero Emissions Bus fleet,” Busways chief operating officer, Chris Wolf said.

“To completely transition from diesel to electric, we need to work with the energy sector to create a sustainable framework for full depot electrification,” he added.

“Instead of having a multi-million dollar ‘big battery’ onsite, this revolutionary software solution creates a bridge between our bus depot charging infrastructure and the energy retail and distribution markets, to smartly draw down power when grid use is lower, whilst ensuring our buses are always charged for service delivery,” explained Wolf.

The system uses sophisticated software tools and real-time energy monitoring to connect the depot to the wider distribution network, communicating directly with the energy provider’s assets.

“We work with bus operators, distribution networks, and transit authorities globally and have seen some common themes emerging with opportunities to unlock value from the energy market while reducing the impact on the grid,” Evenergi CEO, Daniel Hilson said.

“We have been commissioned to build this world first software for this visionary consortium and we are proud to unveil the VEMO trial today. We already have five Sydney tech jobs created for this project and at full capacity the project will enable us to grow a much larger team right here in NSW and then export the technology to the world, “ he added.

Endeavour Energy’s chief customer and strategy officer Leanne Pickering said the Busways electric bus depot will have real time visibility of the load on the network so the new buses can be charged outside periods of peak demand and smooth out the load on the network.

“This leads to greater utilisation of the electricity network and avoids the need for costly upgrades, keepings downward pressure on the price of electricity for all customers both now and into the future”.

Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council in Australia said the electrification of NSW buses is potentially the most important project nationally in the electric vehicle space.

“It is key for parties such as bus operators, software companies and energy companies to collaborate to make these complex projects successful both at a depot and grid level,” Jafari said.

Australia’s largest privately-owned bus operator, Busways, operates 346 buses from depots at Penrith, Blacktown and Mulgrave in Western Sydney and has a total fleet of over 1350 buses.

Busways says it is undertaking significant upgrades to progress electrification of Penrith depot to support an initial 12 Australian-made electric buses supported by six ABB Terra charging stations.

The electric buses will be used as a testbed for the software with Evenergi, Busways and Endeavour Energy saying they will be leveraging knowledge and lessons learnt to optimise the platform for future implementations.

Minister for Transport David Elliott said the transition to electric buses is powering jobs in industries across NSW.

“These modern electric buses require innovative solutions for managing charging and that is being developed right here in NSW,” Elliott said.

“This smart charging technology will improve the management of our zero emission buses, reduce pressure on the power grid and is a tech solution that could shape up to be an exciting export from NSW to the world,” he said.

“The NSW Government’s commitment to transition the entire 8,000 plus bus fleet to zero emission buses is supporting local jobs in tech, manufacturing and construction, as well as delivering buses that are better for the environment, offer a smoother ride and are quieter on our roads,” the minister added.