He says that to increase bus manufacturing capacity in Australia, the local supply chain must also be prepared to invest and increase capacity, which can only happen with clear information and planning. “Most of the key components of a chassis, such as batteries, electric motors and transmission, are sourced from abroad. This is no different from our current business model with diesel buses,” he says.
But he says that with supply chain issues due to the pandemic, much of that stock is (as with the wider auto industry) prioritized for other markets. While up to 100 Australian suppliers supply 90% locally prepared components for bus bodies, Tessari says if the chassis and driveline components were made here it would be easier to guarantee the numbers.
“The capacity is there, Australian companies have a highly skilled and experienced workforce, but what we need is assurance that the volume is coming in so that the local manufacturing industry buses can prepare, invest in factories, create more local jobs and accelerate to support this. continuity of volume,” explains Tessari.
It is important to note that Australian conditions are harsh and our buses are expected to last 20 years. The average daily operating distance in Sydney is 380 kilometers, which buses cover easily. Tessari believes what we need are bus components designed specifically for Australia.
The Shenzhen Moonshot Model
In 1961, US President John F. Kennedy said, “We’re going to the moon.” In eight years, they did it by using 2% of US GDP, generating new technologies and consolidating US industrial and technological leadership for the next quarter century.
We won’t be going to the Moon by bus anytime soon, but Shenzhen, a Chinese city of 12 million, has built the world’s first and largest fleet of all-electric buses in the same time frame as the American moonshot.
The electrification of the fleet of 17,000 locally built buses took place in three stages from 2009 to 2017.
They started with “normal” buses, equipped with a big battery and two electric motors instead of a big diesel engine; they were available in two sizes with a carrying capacity of 24 to 87 passengers and had a range of approximately 250 kilometres. Their average daily operating distance is 190 kilometers, which means that most buses only need to be recharged at night. If a bus needs recharging during the day, 30 minutes is usually sufficient. All in all, there is one charger for four buses.
The buses have an average lifespan of about 66,000 kilometres, or between five and eight years. The manufacturer’s warranty covers the entire lifetime of the bus and includes all maintenance and repair work. At the end of their life, the buses are returned to the manufacturer for recycling of batteries and scrap metal.
Part of what made the Shenzhen model work was a central long-term plan linking manufacturing, charging service providers, bus operators, land acquisition for bus charging and network redesign. electric, among others.
Of course, the plan included a government subsidy, which reduced the total cost to 64% of a diesel bus. But then what! It is clear that governments around the world are influencing behavior with subsidies, rebates and taxes.
Fossil fuels have been subsidized for years. Of all the revenue collected by all governments around the world, the big fossil fuels receive 8% in subsidies, according to the International Monetary Fund. They also get the ultimate subsidy – the right to dump their greenhouse gas waste into the environment, which costs us the citizens, but not them the polluters.
In Australia, the fuel tax credit program is about $8 billion a year. This is more than the cost of operating the army or the air force. About half of the grant goes to the mining industry. Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest of Fortescue Metals Group mines iron ore. Its operations generate 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, the diesel component of which earns it hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
But Twiggy says big miners (like him) should lose that tax break on diesel consumption. He estimates that it should be phased out by 2030. His plans are to quickly switch from energy to non-fossil fuels (electrification), and he intends to manufacture 15 million tons of hydrogen per year from by 2030, so its operations will be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Norway and Australia both use subsidies very successfully, but with very different results. In 2021, 86% of new cars sold in Norway were equipped with a charging socket. In Australia, it was a tiny 0.5%.
Ironically, two of the big sellers in Australia were fossil fuel vans (Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger) which accounted for 10% of new car sales.
Worldwide, there is an overwhelming trend towards the rapid electrification of ground transportation.
In the United States, President Joe Biden plans to spend A$6.8 billion on the electrification of the US government bus fleet. All major European and American automakers have stopped research and development on internal combustion engines and turned to electric vehicles. This is partly driven by the need to stop climate change. The good news is that we can fix 90% of our greenhouse gas emissions simply by leaving the carbon in the ground.
Using what we have
In the late 1960s, when I was a physicist at BHP steelworks in Port Kembla, blast furnace number 5 set a world record. During a brief window, it turned more iron ore into iron than any other blast furnace in the known universe. The steel industry accounts for approximately 8% of global CO2 emissions. Some countries have already started making steel without greenhouse gas emissions, but not Australia.
Today, the Port Kembla steelworks are insignificant on a global scale.
What if in New South Wales we used some of the vast potential of the former steel sites of Port Kembla and Newcastle? What if we started making things for our own needs with our own terms and conditions and quality control? Remember that buses on the Sydney Harbor Bridge used to be too wide for the lanes, after the number of lanes was increased for better traffic flow. We had to take leaner buses. We want something better than Sydney’s incompatible rail system. Some trains cannot enter some of the tunnels, some imported trains were too wide for some of the platforms, the two light rail systems do not connect, and one system’s light rails cannot be used on the other.
This highlights the need to build infrastructure for the future.
We could enter the 21st century by investing in electric buses. Shenzhen shows us that it is possible to do more than twice as many buses as expected in New South Wales, and keep it local.
We need a comprehensive plan that looks decades into the future, not 15 minutes.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor of The conduit and Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki is a Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics and produces the science shirts Podcast.