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Two E-buses are to join Auckland Transport’s fleet in a bid to combat climate change. Image: Auckland City Harbour News

The viability of large electric vehicles (EVs) as replacements for current diesel buses is to be tested with a project that will see New Zealand’s first 100 percent electric bus on the country’s roads.

Through the jointly funded project with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Tranzit Group, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) will add the 38 seat, plus standing, passenger bus to its fleet of shuttles operating between AUT’s three Auckland campuses.

An existing AUT bus for commuting between the inner city campus in Auckland and AUT North (Akoranga) and AUT South (Manukau). Image: AUT

AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack told AUT News that 2016 being the hottest year on record brought into focus the need to find more ways to address the human contribution to climate change.

“Putting a single electric bus on the road might be a humble step, but it signals AUT’s willingness to embrace technology, and work in partnership to help find solutions to the challenges faced by our city and beyond,” he said.

Discussions about building the bus are underway and it is hoped to have it in service in the first half of this year. It is likely that the chassis and EV components will be built in China and the body will be built in New Zealand.

The project was announced recently by Minister of Energy and Resources Judith Collins as part of EECA’s Low Emissions Vehicle Contestable Fund which aims to help accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, helping to transform our fleet and reduce carbon emissions from road transport.

The trial will make it possible for AUT and Tranzit to study the battery technology and determine what infrastructure and expertise is required to run a large EV urban bus fleet in New Zealand.

“With significant investment in NZ urban bus fleets occurring, AUT and Tranzit findings will be shared with the transport industry in the hope that the uptake of large EVs in New Zealand is seen as a viable replacement to current diesel buses,” said Tranzit Group’s managing director Paul Snelgrove.

Building and operating the electric-powered bus is in line with several of AUT’s sustainability goals including those that cover demonstrating leadership, research and partnership, and operations.

Auckland City Harbour News reported that two electric buses were set to hit Auckland’s roads in a trial part-funded by the government.

Auckland Transport has been awarded up to $500,000 for the trial and about $300,000 for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Funding has also been provided to install 60 electric vehicle charging stations at parking facilities around Auckland.