TRANSIT Australia Group has taken a giant step in its planned entry to the Malaysian market with the launch today of the first electric bus to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia.
The Gold Coast company, which operates the city's Surfside bus services, says the zero-carbon bus is part of the next generation of mass transit vehicles and it will be the cornerstone of the company's planned international expansion.
The launch today in Melbourne, at the Australasian Bus and Coach Expo, was aimed to generate international exposure for the electric bus prototype which is said to cost 80 per cent less to maintain than a standard diesel bus.
Transit Australia Group CEO Michael McGee describes it as "game changer" for public transport with the new bus utilising advanced battery and regenerative braking technology.
Work started on the electric bus project three years ago, with the support of the Automotive Cooperative Research Centre, CSIRO, Malaysia Automotive Institute and Swinburne University of Technology.
"It's been a long process but I think it's a big leap for Australian manufacturing and the supply chain," he McGee.
Transit Australia Group has sought government approval to start trialling the electric bus in south-east Queensland later this year."We'll be trialling the bus to gather data, and we'll also be trialling it for three to six months in Malaysia,"
McGee. "We'll then make tweaks to maximise battery life and also to improve such things as acceleration."
Late last year, Transit Australia Group, through its Bustech manufacturing arm, announced it was leading a $170 million program to develop an electric bus for the Malaysian market in a deal that could see the company become a key player in a multibillion-dollar global industry.
Bustech is already one of Australia's largest bus manufacturers, with major government contracts in NSW and Queensland. Transit Australia Group, controlled by the Calabro family, is the largest privately owned public transport operator in Queensland, with its 600-strong fleet including the Surfside bus line.
McGee says he expects production of the new electric buses to begin in 2016, boosting jobs on Bustech's Burleigh Heads production line.
"At this point the buses will be manufactured in Australia, but as we look at the Asian market they may also be assembled overseas in the future," he says.
"It's not only manufacturing jobs that will benefit but engineering jobs also will be created, which is phenomenal. A lot of the intellectual property development in Australia will possibly be exported to supply partners overseas."
McGee says the challenge now is to encourage government investment in infrastructure for electric bus fleets, including charging stations.
"Governments across the globe have already invested in electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support private and public transport. Our electric bus places Bustech at the forefront of a fast-growing and emerging industry.
"The bus can be charged at the depot and while in service, and with zero carbon emissions it is ideal for Australia's major centres and regional cities."
The bus, which has a range of at least 300km and capacity for 50 passengers, is controlled by touch screen and utilises new technology to maximise range without affecting capacity.
McGee says innovations have been included in the design to include bench seats that can be reversed to allow passengers to face each other and socialise, as well as USB connections to allow passengers to charge mobile phones.
"Our environmentally friendly electric bus is the future of public transport," says McGee. "Australia has an opportunity to be a world leader and cut environmental pollution at the same time."
Meanwhile, Transit Australia Group is progressing plans to tender for a public transport project in Dubai. The company was shortlisted for the project earlier this year and the tender expected to be lodged in September.
Transit Australia Group is also eyeing part of a $69 billion public transport project in Saudi Arabia's second largest city, Jeddah. The company is pursuing its push into the Middle East in partnership with Saudi Arabian construction and services giant El Seif Contracting and Turkish logistics company Gursel.
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