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HomeNewsR89-million worth of electric buses coming to Tshwane and Durban – Details

R89-million worth of electric buses coming to Tshwane and Durban – Details

The South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) is embarking on a pilot project to bring 39 fully-electric commuter buses to the streets of the Tshwane and eThekwini municipalities by the end of 2025.

The institute has announced that it has begun the process of purchasing and rolling out the buses and their associated charging infrastructure with the US$4.7 million (R89.4 million) in funding that the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) was able to secure for the initiative from the Global Environmental Facility.

In terms of the project scope, the City of Tshwane will be allocated 20 emission-free buses and eThekwini 19, and in both regions, the electricity infrastructure will be upgraded to support the requirements of the charging facilities.

“The project will be implemented over the period of five years, with half the buses being commissioned in the first two years and the rest later on,” said Tebogo Snyer, project manager for Sanedi’s cleaner mobility programme.

“During this time, we will demonstrate the technical, operational, legal, economic, and other feasibility factors, and bed down the specifications of the ecosystem needed to support electric buses in South Africa.”

Better late than never

The electric bus project was initiated by the DBSA in consultation with several interested municipalities in 2018, however, the process ground to a halt during the Covid-19 pandemic and was only resumed in 2022, with the necessary funding secured in late 2023.

Consequently, the first buses are only expected to be on the road in the next 18 to 24 months.

“The project preparation phase leading up to that includes infrastructure development and consultation with stakeholders to ensure that all entities in the municipalities are ready to support the project,” said Snyer.

“Drivers will also be trained on how to safely operate an electric bus and manage charging cycles.”

One reason for the wait is that the buses must be imported as South Africa currently does not have the manufacturing capacity to produce these types of vehicles.

However, Snyer said the intention is to procure locally as much as possible, and that “some electric charging equipment” will be sourced from suppliers within the country’s borders.

Apart from emitting fewer emissions than their diesel-powered counterparts, electric buses are also cheaper to run and maintain.

Sanedi’s calculations show that the total cost of ownership is anywhere from 5-10% lower than that of internal-combustion buses, but that the much higher barrier to entry currently limits wider adoption.

“The main selling points, however, are the absence of emissions and giving South Africa an alternative to imported diesel,” said Snyer.

To reduce the impact that these buses will have on the country’s delicate electricity grid, Sanedi will endeavour to only charge them during off-peak periods.

“It is also expected that technology will develop to where electric vehicles can actively support and stabilise the grid,” said Snyer.

“We want to prepare South Africa for the future. When costs start to come down, local municipalities should be ready to implement the technology that will improve public transport while reducing its environmental impact.”

The organisation has yet to announce any particulars about the new buses, such as from where they will be imported and from which manufacturer.

Headline image: FarisFitrianto / Shutterstock.com

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