Zero Emission Buses – a framework for a successful transition

There is about to be a huge amount of money spent on transitioning the nation’s bus fleet to zero emissions. The looming question is how to spend this money most productively, and in a way that does not create stranded assets or waste.

There is a large amount of dynamism in the zero emission bus technology space, not to mention the supply chain for either electricity or hydrogen. The capabilities of vehicles are changing, along with supporting infrastructure all the while fleet owners are being asked to put in a submission that may lock them into long term decisions prematurely.

These decisions include:

  • When and how fast should I transition to zero emission buses?  
  • Should I go hydrogen or electric?
  • Should I go for a pantograph or plug-in?
  • Should I build an electrolyzer or do I truck in hydrogen supply? 
  • How do I most effectively apply for grants?
  • Can I collaborate with other fleets in the area to share infrastructure?
  • Should I do one depot all at once or upgrade depots incrementally over time?
  • How will my operations be impacted if I transition to zero emission?
  • What standards should I impose for vehicles, chargers, energy management and telematics?
  • How much training will my staff require and what sort of training?

The question is: how to make all these decisions in the most sustainable way, during a time of great pressure to make a move quickly in many organizations? 

For the past several years, transit agencies have approached this in a combination of four ways:

  1. Vendor driven engagements to pilots (for example with zero emission bus suppliers)
  2. Creating transition plans either in-house or with outside consultants
  3. Looking at the experiences of industry peers to make decisions
  4. Delaying decisions until things are clearer in terms of technology maturity 

All of these pathways are valid,  but as we move into the scale-up phase, the zero emission transportation experts at Evenergi have found that that the most important elements that contribute to success are:

  1. Creating a framework for managing long term changes rather than just point in time plans
  2. Establishing organizational alignment with an understanding that it will be an agile journey
  3. Avoiding ‘lock-in’ decisions as much as possible early in the journey to enable this agility
  4. Capturing valuable data at each step to be used at every other step in the transition

We are constantly talking about the need to create a framework rather than a series of point-in-time plans. This relates to a data driven and iterative process where there is an acknowledgement that with the rate of technology change in the battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric space, a plan is likely outdated the day after it is written. 

The framework has many parts, but these can be summarized as financial, operational, infrastructure changes on depots and then regional influences. We then look at how these areas are impacted through the lifecycle of planning, implementation and management of the transition. 

Planning phaseImplementation (pilot)Implementation (scale-up)Management
Financial frameworkGap analysis – Total cost of ownership and capital vs operationalAnalysis of RFQs against dataFinal long term decisions Monitoring data to feed back into planning and to optimize operations
Operational – transit operations frameworkBuses meeting their service assignments 

Depot locations

Interlining linkages

Collective bargaining agreement implications 

On-time performance vs on-route charging 

Depot emulation – can buses fit within dispatch given different depot designs?

Can ‘fueling’ be sufficiently completed considering pull-out/pull-in schedules and service profile? 
Managing multiple propulsion types until fleet is fully transitioned
Optimized dispatch

Optimal driver use
Operations – energy infrastructure frameworkWhat is the right charging design

Early information from utilities around capacity 

Optimization to minimize capacity requirements

Balance of distributed energy resources on-site
Refueling/charging specification  and selection and installation

Energy management alternatives
Refueling/charging specification  and selection and installation

Potentially larger upgrades
Proactive energy management vs operational limitations

Microgrid management on-site

Potential integration with dispatch systems
Regional frameworkRegional energy infrastructure collaborations

Regional fleet collaborations
Agreement on supply chains

Agreement on access to shared refueling infrastructure
Potential to share energy infrastructure with third-party usersPotential to coordinate infrastructure access

At the bedrock of each step in this journey there needs to be a decision making framework based on robust data and strong analytics.

The next generation of planning framework requires a new types of data and analytics platform that should have a number of key components including:

Enable detailed route analysisDetailed data increases accuracy and reduces costly mistakes 
Looks at all fuel types (including mix fleets) and all, charging types (if it is electric)Reduce total cost ownership
Integrated into scheduling systemsIncrease accuracy reduces mistakes and lowers ongoing consulting fees
Model depot impact Ensures that unforeseen depot infrastructure costs are minimized
Model dispatch – particular once sub-fleeting is no longer an optionEnsure that costly operational errors are minimized
Interlining between depots and even between different fleet ownersMaximize opportunities for cost sharing and new revenue streams
Rapid iterations of scenarios and sensitivitiesMinimize on-going consulting costs
Single set of data across entire journeyMaximize leverage of data and iterate learnings
Tools independent of any one consulting firm Minimize rework as you go through different partners on the journey
Ensure that outputs from planning (such as charging profiles) can be operationalisedEnsure that plans can be executed to maximize savings
Make sure that data captured from telematics can feed back into planningReduce total cost of ownership through learning

This is an exciting and challenging time for many fleet owners, but many of the questions stated at the start of this article can be answered with tools that exist today, with the power being placed in the hands of the long term operators of the buses and infrastructure.

Are Zero-Emission Buses the ‘Netflix Moment’ for the Transit Industry?

Transit Dispatches  • March 16, 2022 • by Sasha Pejcic and Daniel Hilson •

Anyone who is honest from the zero-emissions vehicle industry will tell you that we are still at the DVD moment in this industry and that the ultimate “streaming service” is yet to come.

Netflix emerged in 1997 as a mail-order DVD business. Shipping DVDs by mail came with some growing pains, but ultimately did get traction by 2001, when DVDs became more popular than VHS. Just as they were gaining traction with this model, along came streaming videos — they disrupted their own model to become the world’s leader in this service, and ultimately, reached a new level of success.

Reed Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, is famed for saying a start-up is like “throwing yourself off a cliff and building the plane on the way down.” For many in the transit industry, this is likely the way they are feeling about the urgent transition to zero emission bus technology.

Undoubtedly, this is a fast-evolving area of technology and part of a complex overall system that is constantly evolving based on new technologies and greater data availability. What’s more, the industry is simultaneously grappling with disruptions due to COVID.

So, the question to ask is: Are we at the DVD moment or the streaming moment? Will the solutions implemented today inhibit or enhance the potential changes coming our way in the future?

In an environment of uncertainty, what matters more than a technology decision is the framework and philosophy that transit agencies adopt when going on this journey.

In an environment of uncertainty, what matters more than a technology decision is the framework and philosophy that transit agencies adopt when going on this journey. Some key principles to observe along the way are:

  1. Develop a long-term framework for iterative, agile, and incremental build/learn/test cycles.
  2. Develop a related framework that can create stakeholder alignment, and where failures are viewed as a necessary part of the journey.
  3. Track technology developments carefully, and don’t believe those with vested interests in selling you a product.
  4. Learn from your peers. One of the most positive aspects of the transit industry is that we all share information for our mutual betterment. Consider where your transit agency is in the evolution of its zero-emission transition journey and whether it is the right time to make permanent decisions now which are difficult to reverse, or whether it is more advantageous to leave your options open for an eventual inflection point.
  5. Track standards developments and push for standardization across industry.
  6. Keep your options open. Where possible, buy technology that enables flexibility. A good example is having buses outfitted for both pantograph and plug-in charging. In some jurisdictions, we are also seeing crossovers of technology such as outfitting hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses with plug-in charger ports that enable transit agencies to top-up battery packs on those vehicles differently.
  7. Don’t lose sight of the underlying core function of transit — providing vital mobility that connects people with jobs, food, healthcare, and social functions. The choice of zero emission bus propulsion technologies is important but continues to quickly evolve. Our industry needs to remain agile to be able to pivot as developments continue.

Anyone who is honest from the zero-emissions vehicle industry will tell you that we are still at the DVD moment in this industry and that the ultimate “streaming service” is yet to come. It is, however, an exciting thought that should motivate — not prevent people from adopting the technology — but just ensure that they do so in a way that does not leave them as the Blockbuster of the industry.

Daniel Hilson is the Global CEO and Founder of Evenergi and Sasha Pejcic is its Managing Partner for North America.

State Government – EV Grants and incentives

With some exciting announcements around funding from the Australian Government, we’re seeing a significant increase in grant funding for electric infrastructure and vehicles. Australia is getting serious about a cleaner transport future and it’s more important now than ever to start thinking about your future fleets.

The Australian government has presented its Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, which provides for $250 million of investment in electric transport to include the expansion of electric car charging infrastructure and the establishment of hydrogen filling stations.

Below is a detailed overview of the specific measures being taken, or having been announced by each state around charging infrastructure network funding.

State: New South Wales

Activities for infrastructure

The NSW Government has announced a $490 million commitment to incentivise the EV uptake.

  • The NSW Government has committed $171 million investment to help co-fund private operators for installation of EV charging infrastructure throughout the major highways of the state at the interval of 100 km, over the next four years. This includes $131 million for new ultra-fast vehicle chargers, and $20 million in grants to small tourism businesses over the next three years to boost EV infrastructure at regional tourism destinations. According to the EVC, until 2020, the overall investment in charging infrastructure by the NSW Government was around $5 million.
  • They are developing guidelines for installation of charging points in roadside service centres 
  • They’re supporting EV charging through strategic land use planning and guides (NSW is creating a state-wide master-plan with Evenergi)
  • The NRMA is investing $10 million in more than 40 fast chargers across NSW and the ACT:
  • NSW Government and the NRMA will deliver at least 20 additional electric vehicle fast chargers to the existing regional network along NSW’s major highways. Previous to this announcement through its Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Plan the government plans to:
    • co-invest in fast chargers in regional NSW
    • co-invest in charging points in commuter car parks 
    • adopt preferred charging standards 

NSW is also launching its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Model Availability Program:

  • It will run competitive funding processes that will co-fund the deployment of fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 
  • It will also incentivise vehicle fleet owners, such as car rental companies, car share companies, and local councils to procure electric vehicles.

State: Queensland

Activities for infrastructure

Queensland launched EV Strategy in 2017

  • They have previously delivered the Electric Vehicle Super Highway (QESH), totalling 31 stations with the investment of $5.3 million.
  • Queensland are rolling out an EV destination charging network from 2017 onwards
  • They’re developing a workplace EV charging trial
  • Queensland has committed to invest $2.75 million for expansion of charging infrastructure by installing 18 new charging sites. The expansion will lead to the extension of the highway by 1800km into the regional outback.

State: Western Australia

Activities for infrastructure

The recent WA strategy includes:

  • Up to $20 million has been allocated to support the creation of an electric vehicle charging infrastructure network
  • Investment of $800,000 to install electric vehicle charging stations in government buildings to support the State Government electric vehicle fleet target
  • Investment of $3 million to install two hydrogen refuelling stations – the two stations will generate renewable hydrogen, one station will be in Jandakot and provide hydrogen for fleet vehicles and another at Christmas Creek Mine, in the Pilbara, will power hydrogen buses
  • Implementation of actions outlined in the State Government’s Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap that will assist the integration of electric vehicles, including consideration of incentives to promote daytime charging to help make best use of the midday solar generation peak and assessment of vehicle‑to‑grid technology forecasts. Buyback payments will be extended to energy exported to the grid from electric vehicles in the same way as rooftop solar
  • Planning for the integration of electric vehicles in the electricity grid, including the deployment of charging points (household and fast charge) and trials to better understand the capabilities of vehicle‑to‑grid technology
  • Tax exemptions on sales/use and leasehold till year 2025

State: South Australia

Activities for infrastructure

The South Australian Government is investing $18.3 million to deliver its Electric Vehicle Action Plan. This includes:

  • An investment of up to $13.4 million towards developing a state-wide charging network
  • Planning of 110 rapid highway charging stations installed across South Australia
  • A network of more than 350 fast destination chargers installed across major metropolitan centres, including an expected 100 destination chargers installed across Adelaide
  • An initial investment in September 2020 of up to $3.6 million on EV smart charging trials
  • Seeks $25 million of private investment in public charging stations
  • The State Government invites businesses and communities to be a part of a statewide project for charging infrastructure development

State: Victoria

Activities for infrastructure

In its recently announced plan, the Victorian Government has committed $19 million for charging infrastructure.

  • This investment will establish a fast-charging network at key tourist places, community destinations, and high use locations.
  • As part of a $100 million plan to drive ZEVs uptake, the State Government is investing $5 million for 100 charging stations (80% of this investment will go to Regional Victoria)
  • The Government has also provided the funding of $644,000 to install chargers across 17 sites in the Loddon Mallee region and $3 million to install ultra-rapid chargers connecting Euroa, Moe, Torquay, Ballarat and Horsham.
  • VIC has published a charging map with all available and planned stations
  • It’s also published its draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy (2020)
  • The Victorian Government has provided $3 million funding to support Chargefox’s roll-out of seven ultra-rapid charging sites across the state
  • Victoria is the first state in Australia to introduce the latest generation ultra-rapid EV charging stations capable of fully charging an Electric Vehicle in under 15 minutes and sourced from 100% renewable energy.

State: Australian Capital Territory

Activities for infrastructure

ACT Government is working on a ZEV Public Charging Master Plan (to be launched later in 2021) for a charging infrastructure roll-out including 50 publicly accessible chargers.

  • They’ve introduced 29 public stations (2019)
  • ACT has launched its 2018-21 strategy
  • They’ve facilitated the installation of further charging points in the ACT and on major routes to Canberra
  • Streamlined the approvals process for installation of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points
  • The ACT Government seeks to amend the Parking and Vehicle Access General Code to require all new multi-unit and mixed use developments to install vehicle charging infrastructure
  • They’re working with local and state governments to facilitate the installation of charging stations on major routes to and from Canberra including routes to Sydney and coastal areas
  • Conducting a feasibility assessment for the installation of covered car parks with solar powered vehicle charging stations
  • To support the integration of EVs in the ACT, a $2.5 million grant for V2G technology trials was announced in 2020 through ARENA. This grant also supports the instalment of 51 bi-directional charging stations across the ACT and upgrades of ACT Government buildings to host charging infrastructure.

State: Tasmania

Activities for infrastructure

Tasmania’s state-wide electric charging network comprises of 14 fast chargers, from Geeveston to Scottsdale, and Queenstown to Burnie, as well as the Midlands in between. The network ensures that mid-range vehicles can travel nearly anywhere around the state.

  • The State Government invested $600,000 for 14 fast chargers and 23 workplace and destination chargers.
  • Tasmania’s ChargeSmart Grant Program is committed to $2.5 million investment in charging infrastructure throughout the state.
  • They’ve offered a number of grants for charging (2019):
    • ChargeSmart Fast Charging Program offered grants of up to $50,000 to support organisations to purchase and install Direct Current (DC) electric vehicle charging stations.
    • Destination: to $2,500 to support organisations to purchase and install Alternating Current (AC) electric vehicle charging stations for public use.
    • Workplace: up to $5,000 to support workplaces (e.g. councils, businesses and not-for-profits) to purchase and install electric vehicle charging stations
  • The Electric Vehicle Fast Charger Scheme, offers a refund of up to 50% cost rebate of the TasNetworks charges for power supply, only when considering installation of DC fast chargers for public use