The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) is busy with a feasibility study to investigate the possible future use of alternative drivetrains in the Gautrain bus fleet, says GMA COO Tshepo Kgobe.
As part of this programme, the GMA expects to complete a pilot project, employing an electric bus, at the end of 2021.
“As part of the feasibility studies, we have also studied the capability and capacity of the local market to manufacture electric buses and to support the operations of these buses over the life cycle of the vehicle,” says Kgobe.
The estimated range of the buses the GMA is looking at is roughly 270 km, as Gautrain buses currently run on average about 200 km a day, he notes.
“There is a big push to go electric to reduce breakages and save on costs.”
The GMA’s sustainable urban mobility programme has identified electric buses as one of the low-hanging fruit, given the capacity and readiness of the Gautrain’s infrastructure to accommodate these vehicles, explains Kgobe.
“As part of this mobility programme, the alternative power and drivetrain project is looking at evolving from the current diesel- powered buses to fully electrical – including the current midibuses being rolled out at selected stations – then looking at a hybrid power model, with the ultimate intent of ending up with hydrogen fuel-cell-powered mobility options.”
The Gautrain bus fleet will be completely renewed in the next few months. This fleet will not include electric, or other alternative drivetrain buses, but an additional bus fleet may do so, adds Kgobe.
The new bus fleet will, however, be manufactured on an integrated platform that will allow for possible changes in power and drivetrain to enable future evolution, he notes.
“This is part of the additional asset plan for the Gautrain; thus, the Gauteng province would be acquiring these buses with the intent for them to be incorporated into the operations of the Gautrain.
“It is important that the province has control of the data that will be acquired from the pilot project, and not the current Gautrain concessionaire, so that lessons learned from the project can enable the roll-out of any extensions of the Gautrain system and any new concession.”