Infratil inks $30m electric bus technology agreement

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New Zealand-based Infratil has inked a US$30 million deal with California-based Wrightspeed Inc. for the supply of its unique, award-winning electric powertrain technology – the Route 500 – which the infrastructure investment company intends to deploy on its public transport business through NZ Bus.

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Wrightspeed, which was founded by Tesla’s co-founder Ian Wright, manufactures range-extended electric vehicle powertrains, which are already in use successfully in the USA in waste management and delivery vehicles.

Mr Wright said the company’s Route 500 range-extended powertrain is capable of powering vehicles weighing up to 36,000 pounds, in grades as steep as 40%, and maintains an efficient drive, with an estimated 11.1 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.

“New Zealand’s commercial fleets have been challenged by some of the most rigorous road conditions,” he said.

“Our technology offers an ideal and economically attractive match for those conditions and a proven solution to support New Zealand’s transition to clean transportation.”

Infratil executive and NZ Bus Chairman Kevin Baker said both companies were delighted to join forces with Wrightspeed to bring innovation through electric powertrain technology in New Zealand.

“An electric public transport fleet would enable New Zealand to transition to a clean energy public transport system and play a significant role in decarbonisation and reducing noise pollution in New Zealand cities,” he said.

NZ Bus CEO Zane Fulljames said with nearly 82% of New Zealand’s electricity from renewable energy sources, transition to electric-powered public transport alongside private vehicles will result in a substantial reduction of the country’s carbon footprint.

“We have explored all the options on the market for future-proofing our fleet. Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to achieve that,” Mr Fulljames said.

“In the near term, the technology will enable us to repower our trolley buses, to enable them to be used anywhere in New Zealand. Upon successful repowering of the trolley, the next stage of the journey to commence would be the retrofitting of the Wrightspeed powertrains to other vehicle types in the fleet.”

Under the agreement, NZ Bus will receive its first powertrains by mid-2016, and begin the process of fitting and testing immediately, with a view to having a first electric-powered bus on the road by the last quarter of this year.

“As a major transported operator, we have the scale for investment of the kind this deal with Wrightspeed represents.” Mr Fulljames added.

“We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation.”