Cape Town’s fleet of eleven electric buses are scheduled for arrival by the end of 2017, “operating by the beginning of 2018, or sooner”, says Cape Town Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) commissioner Melissa Whitehead.
The buses will be supplied by Chinese green energy firm BYD, in a R126-million, three-year deal financed by the City of Cape Town.
BYD has already supplied a number of electric buses worldwide, including 51 buses to the City of London.
Apart from the buses, BYD is also required to provide the City of Cape Town with charging stations for the buses, data management systems, spare parts, technical support, training for the bus drivers and mechanical staff, fleet maintenance services, and replacement of the batteries when required.
The purpose of the electric MyCiTi buses is to evaluate the benefits of electric buses as an environment friendly, alternative fuel option for the MyCiTi bus fleet. In addition, the city will also test the overall lifecycle cost – including procurement, operation and maintenance – of electric buses, which are said to be half of that of diesel buses, notes Whitehead.
Ten electric buses will be used on the N2 MyCiTi Express in Cape Town. Their competitiveness will be judged relative to ten diesel buses.
The electric buses are required to travel at least 250 km in traffic before the batteries need recharging.
The eleventh BYD bus will, more than likely, be loaned to the City of Windhoek, notes Whitehead. This bus will go on loan to the Namibian city in an exchange programme that will test the electric bus’s viability in the neighbouring country’s capital city.
Mauritius is also mulling the acquisition of an electric bus fleet.
“I am also talking to a number of other Southern African countries to determine their need for electric buses,” says Whitehead.
The aim of these discussions is to stimulate demand for Africa’s first electric bus factory, most likely to be established at the Atlantis Green Technology Industrial Park, in Cape Town, says Whitehead.
BYD chairperson Chuanfu Wang told Cape Town executive mayor Patricia de Lille at the C40 Mayors Summit, held in Mexico in November last year, that the BYD group will establish an electric bus plant in Cape Town.
“BYD is really glad to collaborate with a leading city like Cape Town in your climate action efforts. In the near future we are planning to establish a local production plant for our electric buses in Cape Town. This is not only to help protect the environment, but will also provide jobs to people in Cape Town,” stated Wang.
It is expected that the plant could open at the end of 2018, says Whitehead.
Various BYD products, including electric buses and renewable-energy products, such as solar panels, will also be manufactured at this plant.
BYD already produces solar panels in Durban, but has indicated that the group would close this plant and relocate it to Cape Town.
The Cape Town plant could potentially expand to include forklifts and cars, but only at a later stage, says Whitehead.
BYD is currently working with South Africa’s Busmark to produce the bus bodies for the Cape Town electric bus fleet, at 70% local content.
In order to offset the electricity consumed by the electric buses, which is largely coal-generated, the City of Cape Town also aims to install solar power at some of its bus and maintenance depots, as well as bus stations.