A new dawn heralds for Volvo Bus Australia in February 2013, when the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia (PTA) bring into operation a Volvo B5RH hybrid bus to run in its Perth inner city CAT operations in a year-long trial.
The new Volvo B5RH (low-entry hybrid) will be supplied with a Volgren body to be designed and built in Australia following the same chassis and body approach of Volvo’s industry leading B7RLE.
The fully integrated parallel hybrid system used in the Volvo B5RH allows the vehicle to operate on either electric only, diesel only or a combination of both depending on conditions and energy requirements. The Volvo hybrid chassis is powered by an environmentally friendly EEV 5 lire diesel engine which generates 215hp. This is complimented by an electric motor capable of producing 120kW (160hp).
The electric motor serves both as a motor and a generator that recharges when driving and braking; at higher speeds the diesel engine takes over and the batteries are charged, while at lower speeds power can be electric only. Zero emissions are reached, when the diesel engine shuts off during idling at a red light or bus stop.
“The CAT service in Perth is an ideal place for this technology. Low average speeds, high idle time, a single depot location and congested city streets are where we have seen our technology shine overseas,” said Peter Duncan, General Manager of Volvo Buses Australia.
Due to its long term focus on environmental care, Volvo is not new to hybrid technology and has been operating it successfully for almost 5 years with high levels of reliability and operation experienced throughout Northern Europe.
In Europe, hybrid technology has proven to save as much as 37% in fuel consumption, reducing CO2 emissions by the same amount. And when it comes to nitrogen oxides and particles the reduction is even greater; up to 50% compared to the average Euro 5 diesel bus.
Since demands for heating and cooling on-board vary markedly in the Australian climate, this poses different challenges compared to Nordic countries, which is why Volvo and PTA are closely monitoring the new hybrid bus trial.
“We need to understand how our existing, proven technology will perform in Australian conditions and we have a strong focus on issues such as layout, cooling, air-conditioning performance and battery life. We don’t have all the answers which is why we are pleased to be in partnership with PTA with a long term view. A trial of new technology is a logical next step based on the long term partnership between our organisations. We are prepared to learn together”, says Duncan.
Volvo remains cautious about the widespread use of hybrid technology.
“It doesn’t suit every route for every operator and the economics of running a hybrid fleet don’t stack up just yet. But with the introduction of the carbon tax and the focus on environmental solutions, we have to be ready should the industry head that way. PTA share that view and see the CAT service as a unique offering in the city of Perth”, says Duncan.