Brisbane City Council has announced European vehicle manufacturer HESS, in partnership with local bus manufacturer Volgren, and electric infrastructure company ABB, as then preferred tenderer for the design and build of the Brisbane Metro pilot vehicle.

The appointment of HESS as preferred supplier was ratified at a Brisbane Council meeting on Tuesday, commencing the biggest all electric, zero tail emission, mass public transport project in Australia’s history.

Initially, HESS and its project partners will design and build one pilot Metro vehicle, which will be extensively performance tested in Brisbane. A further 59 Metro vehicles will follow, with fit-out and finishing to take place at Volgren’s Brisbane base at Eagle Farm.

HESS chief executive officer Alex Naef says his company is honoured to be bringing world-class electric vehicles to Australia on such a large scale.

“We’re so proud to be part of this climate friendly project. This is the largest investment any Australian council or government has ever made in electric mass transit road vehicles. These vehicles employ cutting-edge technology, have zero tailpipe emissions and they’re basically silent when they operate,” Mr Naef said.

Millions of European passengers travel on HESS high-capacity, zero-emission bi-articulated vehicles every day. This year, the company delivered 20 vehicles similar to the Brisbane Metro pilot, to Nantes, the sixth largest city in France.

“HESS is well over 100 years old and has been working with electric vehicles for 80 years. We have 50 years of experience in articulated vehicle manufacturing.

“The Brisbane Metro project is a great challenge, but one we have the capability and support to confidently meet.”

Each Metro vehicle will be 24.7 metres long and 2.55 metres wide and carry 150 people.  They will feature a three-carriage design, with four large double doors and a fully segregated driver’s cabin.

The vehicles include USB ports and free Wi-Fi for all passengers, a low floor from front to rear to improve accessibility and a panoramic rear window to showcase city views.

Mr Naef said his company will work as the prime contractor in a supply contract partnership. HESS will work closely with Australia’s largest bus body builder, Volgren, which has a manufacturing facility in Brisbane, as well as electrical infrastructure specialists, ABB.

“This is a world-class metro project that deserves the most cutting edge vehicles. To make sure we deliver them, we are partnering with the best in the world.

“We have long-standing relationships with Volgren and ABB, and we’re looking forward to working with them, as well as Brisbane City Council to provide a new generation of first-class vehicles for Brisbane’s traveling public,” Mr Naef said.

Volgren Commercial Manager Jim Jones said his team was delighted with the announcement.

“HESS and Volgren have been building vehicles for public transport together for more than four decades. For 20 of those years we’ve been delivering buses made in Brisbane, for Brisbane. This opportunity allows us to build on our close and productive relationship in an exciting new way.

“The announcement is great news for Brisbane commuters, who will be the first in Australia to travel on this class of fully-electric road vehicles, but also for workers, by creating local jobs. These Metro vehicle bodies will be fitted-out and finished in Brisbane by Queenslanders, and the project will bring with it new skills and new economic opportunities.”

ABB managing director Power Grids – Grid Integration Niklas Persson said: “We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with HESS, helping Brisbane to achieve its ambitious goal of shifting towards a cleaner and more efficient transportation system.”

“Our TOSA flash-charging technology allows the metro electric vehicles to be rapidly charged so that they can spend more time transporting passengers and less time charging,” Mr Persson said.