Tropic Wings secures ARENA funding for electric fleet in Queensland

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Image credit: ARENA

In an Australian first for the private tour and charter sector, Far North Queensland is set to embrace electric tourism with the introduction of electric buses, with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Tropic Wings, a Cairns-based tour and charters operator, has secured $4.75 million in funding from ARENA’s Driving the Nation Fund for its Sustainable Transport in Tourism Project.

The initiative, backed by the Australian Government, aims to transition nearly a third of Tropic Wings’ fleet to electric, with the acquisition of 12 electric buses.

ARENA’s funding will also contribute to the installation of 11 electric vehicle chargers, associated enabling infrastructure, and two battery energy storage systems (BESS).

These BESS units will optimise electrical infrastructure upgrades, offering short-term storage of renewable electricity and resilience during storms and emergencies.

Tropic Wings, a family-operated business, has been at the forefront of sustainable tourism, demonstrated by its purchase of a single battery-powered bus in 2019 – the first of its kind to be used in Australia outside of the public transport sector.

The new project marks a significant expansion of their commitment to environmentally friendly tourism, ARENA said in a news release.

Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA, expressed that the deployment of electric buses on such a scale within the tourism sector is a groundbreaking achievement for Australia.

“ARENA is glad to see companies like Tropic Wings taking the lead and showing how smaller players can play their part in transitioning the nation’s bus fleets,” Miller said.

He also acknowledged the enormity of the challenge, particularly with approximately 100,000 buses in Australia, and highlighted the additional barriers faced by smaller, family-owned businesses

“This is what the Driving the Nation fund is for, supporting companies that are finding solutions and paving the way for zero emissions vehicles on our roads,” Miller noted.

Tropic Wings Director Michael Woodward expressed the company’s dedication to regional sustainability, emphasising, “We’re committed to sustainability in tourism. Tropic Wings is at the forefront, shifting a substantial part of its fleet to BEVs, reducing carbon footprint, and inspiring others in the industry to embrace electric vehicles for sustainable tourism.”

The collaboration between Tropic Wings and the Electric Vehicle Council will translate the project’s lessons into a blueprint for transitioning to battery electric vehicle (BEV) fleets in the tourism sector.

Small and medium-sized operators often face barriers in transitioning to BEVs, including higher upfront vehicle costs, limited electrical infrastructure, and restricted access to capital.

ARENA’s Driving the Nation Fund, with $500 million dedicated to investing in cheaper and cleaner transport, aims to support innovative solutions for a greener future.

With a focus on Innovation in Charging, ARENA has $70 million in funding available to encourage advancements in both public charging and charging management.

For more information on the Driving the Nation Program, including eligibility and application details, visit ARENA’s official website.