Wellington Scoop

Infratil signs $43m deal for electric bus technology from California

News from Infratil
Infratil today announced a US$30m deal with Wrightspeed Inc. to supply its first-in-kind, award-winning electric powertrain technology – the Route™ 500, which it intends to deploy on its public transport business through NZ Bus.

California-based Wrightspeed, founded by New Zealand-born Ian Wright who was a co-founder of Tesla, manufactures range-extended electric vehicle powertrains, which are already in use successfully in the U.S.A. in waste management and delivery vehicles. This deal with Infratil and NZ Bus marks Wrightspeed’s entry into passenger transport.

Kevin Baker, Infratil executive and NZ Bus chairman, said Infratil and NZ Bus were delighted to team up with Wrightspeed to bring innovation through electric powertrain technology to New Zealand. An electric public transport fleet would enable New Zealand to transition to a clean energy public transport system and play a significant role in decarbonisation and reducing noise pollution in New Zealand cities.

Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus, said with nearly 82% of New Zealand’s electricity from renewable energy sources, transition to electric-powered public transport alongside private vehicles will deliver a step change in reducing the country’s carbon footprint. As owners and operators of fleet, bus companies have a key role to play.

“We have explored all the options on the market for future-proofing our fleet. Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to achieve that.

“In the near term, the technology will enable us to repower our trolley buses, to enable them to be used anywhere in New Zealand. Upon successful repowering of the trolleys, the next stage of the journey to commence would be the retrofitting of the Wrightspeed powertrains to other selected vehicle types in the fleet,” said Mr Fulljames.

Wrightspeed’s Route 500 range-extended powertrain is capable of powering vehicles weighing up to 36,000 pounds, in grades as steep as 40%, and maintains an efficient drive, with an estimated 11.1 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.

The 80kW, fuel agnostic Fulcrum™ Turbine Generator charges on-board batteries, which provide power to turn the wheels and give the buses unlimited range with refuelling. The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive (GTD) ™ digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, providing the slip control needed to manage New Zealand streets.

“New Zealand’s commercial fleets have been challenged by some of the most rigorous road conditions,” said Ian Wright, CEO and Founder of Wrightspeed. “Our technology offers an ideal and economically attractive match for these conditions and is a proven solution to support New Zealand’s transition to clean transportation.”

NZ Bus will receive its first Wrightspeed powertrains by mid-2016, and begin the process of fitting and testing immediately, with a view to having a first electric-powered bus on the road by the last quarter of this year.

“As a major transport operator, we have the scale for investment of the kind this deal with Wrightspeed represents. We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation,” said Mr Fulljames.

Wellington.Scoop: Unscrapping the trolley buses?

BusinessDesk report
Infratil’s bus division generated earnings of $22.7 million in the six months ended Sept. 30 on revenue of almost $119 million, up slightly from a year earlier. It has a national fleet of 1,070 buses.

News from NZ Government
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the announcement by Infratil today to begin transitioning the NZ Bus fleet to electric, is a strong step forward for the public transport sector.

“Electric vehicles are the future for New Zealand and not only in our light vehicle fleet. They will also have to play an important role in our heavy vehicle and public transport fleets. It’s great that major players like Infratil and NZ Bus are working with international partners and getting ahead of the curve,” Mr Bridges says.

Mr Bridges visited Wrightspeed founder, New Zealander Ian Wright, in Silicon Valley last year.

“I’ve driven Wrightspeed’s heavy vehicles and was impressed with what he’s achieving. His work is world leading and this collaboration should be the beginning of a great home grown story for all concerned.

“As we transition to a lower carbon economy, we need to broaden our renewable energy use beyond electricity and increase its use in the transport and industrial heat sectors. It’s great that Kiwi companies are increasingly seeing the value in this and are getting on board with going electric,” Mr Bridges says.


  1. Andrew, 21. April 2016, 12:23

    So are these plugins, or hybrid only?

    I love the line ‘unlimited range with refuelling’ wow, just like every car/bus/truck on the planet. Surely a typo?

  2. Liviu Sas, 21. April 2016, 13:09

    Looks like it’s pretty much a hybrid: http://www.wrightspeed.com/the-route-powertrain

    It has a battery with a range of 27 miles plus a petrol based generator.

  3. s_nz, 21. April 2016, 14:29

    The spin is strong in this one…The release makes it unclear if buses are to be Plug in Hybrids, or Just Hybrids.
    All we know is that they are not going to be pure electric like the current trolley buses.

  4. Generation Zero, 21. April 2016, 16:16

    Yay! Wellington’s trolley buses ‘saved’ by $43m deal to fit them with electric motors. [via Twitter]

  5. Andrew, 21. April 2016, 16:38

    43.5 km daily from remote generation, the rest from the on board turbine.

  6. City Lad, 21. April 2016, 16:49

    But wasn’t councillor Paul Swain scrapping the trolleys? Or has he resigned?

  7. Curtis Nixon, 21. April 2016, 17:30

    The Island Bay number one bus route is roughly 11km from end to end. This hybrid drive system does 27km from a charge (how long to charge?)
    So you get a round trip and a bit more from the battery, and then you’re back to burning fossil fuels, that could be diesel, petrol or CNG.

    On the plus side they do seem to be a lot more fuel efficient than regular diesel buses. Still not as low emission as pure electric trolleys.

  8. Andrew, 21. April 2016, 18:24

    And Generation Zero, the trolleys already have electric motors. They are fitting fossil-fuel burning turbines to previously fully electric buses. Yay! I guess it is better than a straight diesel bus.

  9. IanS, 21. April 2016, 21:46

    Pity Fran is not there to eat her share of the humble pie.
    At least she will have the pleasure, in her new job, of signing the agreement for NZTA to fund half of the costs. Watch the PR machine spin this one.

  10. Cr Paul Bruce, 22. April 2016, 11:48

    It means the destruction of the overhead wire network.

    There will be an increase in greenhouse emissions with the burning of gas to charge the batteries rather than electricity from overhead lines. Will the batteries have to be replaced every 2 or 3 years?

    Yes, it would be a step in the right direction to convert existing diesel buses to hybrids, but not the 100% zero emission trolleys.

    Councillors were misinformed as to the value of the low flow chassis. We were told they were rubbish and had no usable life left, but they will now be reconfigured as a hybrid.

    Seattle has worked out that trolley buses are worth investing in.  This is taking a step backward, not as bad as going back to diesel, but definitely the destruction of a long term cost effective technology