Scania’s director of sales for bus, Julian Gurney says that there needs to be more intelligent planning and consideration as the rush to move to zero emission buses gathers pace and that removing  older, polluting buses from  our roads before the switch to electric would help the transition.

Gurney, spoke with T&B News at the Sydney Bus Show last week, saying that while the NSW Government’s bold statements on replacing its 8000 diesel buses with zero emission vehicles in a little over 10 years maybe ambitious but has proved a valuable ‘defibrillator moment’  and a catalyst for the industry.

“Yes the announcement was a little bit of a shock, but I think it was probably a sort of defibrillator shock to the industry needed to make it realise how serious the New South Wales State Government was and to get discussion going,” said Gurney

“I think that if I’d had have been a wishy, washy sort of announcement and with no real commitment from the government, then maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here at the 2022 bus show with a full suite of electric bus products, so quickly after that announcement,” he said.

“As a result we have every major OEM and a suite of imported product here, demonstrating the capabilities with battery electric vehicles, all vying for a piece of the pie and sales into the New South Wales market, because New South Wales has mandated zero emission buses for Metropolitan contracting,” he added.

“So yes it took us by surprise but like I said, it’s probably that defibrillator moments the industry needed to really kickstart the belief that the government is serious about doing something and  we have also seen the flow on effect with the other state governments,” Gurney said.

Gurney told T&B News that the introduction of timelines for Queensland, Victoria and South Australia is a great scenario, because as the industry is gearing up to meet New South Wales requirements it will benefit from the learnings that will flow from that and they’ll be able to roll those out with relative ease in the rest of the jurisdictions,.

Gurney emphasised that the 2032 Brisbane Olympics is going to require something like 2000 buses to meet the requirements for that mega event.

Having said that Gurney added that some serious consideration needs to be put into understanding what type of vehicles we can realistically roll out and also to increase the resources that local Australian bodybuilders need to get the job  done here, and so that public money is spent wisely and points out that, perhaps getting rid of the older ‘Euro Zero’ buses still on our roads, and replacing them with clean Euro 6 models as a bridge to zero emission might be a sensible idea.

“it’s going to need some intelligent consideration and planning so that the industry is not put under undue pressure to try and ramp up manufacturing, particularly when we have got a skill shortage and we need to do it in a gradual way because the cost of electric city buses, being what they are, is going to put a lot of pressure on state treasuries.

“If we’re able to accelerate the replacement of older diesel vehicles, and ramp that up so that the 20 plus year old diesel city buses are moved on more quickly than they would have been, would be a bonus for the industry because we would have more volume going through,” he said.

“It’d be a fantastic outcome from the environmental perspective, because we will be removing Euro zero vehicles earlier than what they would have been, and  will allow for that transition to zero emission technology to occur at a sensible pace rather than at a frenetic pace.

Gurney pointed out that in South Australia for instance, the government bus operator has received its last 100 per cent diesel bus, and Scania is now delivering the next generation hybrid buses that will be the bridge to pure battery electric vehicles down the track.

He added that in terms of supply of electric buses he doesn’t believe there’s going to be an issue in getting the supply but that charging infrastructure  will be a challenge.

“Our factory is obviously geared up, it’s invested millions and millions of dollars in developing its own battery plant but I don’t think it’s any secret that the global supply chain is under strain across the world, not only just the automotive industry, but the electronics industry as well, but buses will be available, it’s the infrastructure  that will be the biggest challenge,” said Gurney.

“I think that in terms of the transition of vehicles into fleets that will start within the Metropolitan contracted regions in New South Wales, we’ll be looking to other metropolitan areas, such as South east Queensland, Melbourne, Adelaide, and as I said, we’re already initiated battery electric vehicles for operation there, and in Perth, where the PTA has already got some electric vehicles running.

 “However I think there needs be a gradual uplift, as the operators come to understand that infrastructure is the main issue and to understand what the infrastructure requirements are going to be and how contracts are going to be able to cover the cost of installing the infrastructure, that wasn’t ever thought of when the various depots were built,” he added.

You know, we are looking at more than $100,000 per bus to put in the infrastructure on average if it’s a brownfield site in. So it’s, it’s going to be interesting how State Treasuries handle the cost of the transition to electric vehicles and to meet the public perception of the big ambition

Gurney said that  while supply chain is, is one of the restrictions, staff resources are also a challenge,  as shown by the  recent Federal Government Jobs and Skills summit with discussion around skills shortages.

“That’s not just for diesel technicians, we’re  going to need electrical vehicle technicians who can deal with  Class B 600 volt vehicles, so we need to have auto electricians that are qualified to be able to handle that, so that’ll mean upskilling, our diesel technicians and making sure that when, you know, we are working on these so that our employees are working in a safe environment, given how volatile and dangerous 600 plus volts DC can be,” he said.

“As OEMs, we have a responsibility to make sure that our employees are operating in safe conditions as are the  techs  in bus companies, so it’s across the board,   the need for these resources from body bodybuilding and air conditioning, and so on,” he added.