Is a free, electric double-decker bus running kids from Welcome Bay to schools across the Turret Road bridge the solution to that area’s traffic woes?
Local architect and runner-up in the recent Tauranga City Council by-election Mark Wassung thinks so.
After seeing the designs for new electric double-decker buses being constructed by Kiwi Bus Builders for Wellington, Mark says he thought a similar bus running the school route out of Welcome Bay would be a great idea.
“We could get 75 to 100 kids and their parents off the roads, thereby reducing congestion (making it similar traffic to school holidays) and taking pressure off the Turret Road Bridge,” says Mark.
“I’m proposing we get those 250 kids no longer using buses back on one.”
Kiwi Bus Builders managing director Richard Drummond says they’re currently building the first electric double-deckers in the country at their Tauriko premises, for use down in Wellington.
He says the biggest issue with large electric vehicles is the number of batteries required to run them.
“A car isn’t pushing a lot of mass, so it doesn’t need a large battery,” says Richard.
He says batteries are becoming cheaper and smaller as each year goes by – a little like microchips – and that in the next couple of years there could be almost no price difference between a diesel and electric bus.
“A single-decker bus like the one we built for the AUT campuses cost $28 to charge and does 200km. That cost $700,000, including the charging system.”
“The biggest cost is the batteries – they are roughly $1000 a kilowatt. The AUT bus had 200 kilowatts of battery, so that’s $200,000 already.”
He thinks there’s merit in Mark’s idea.
“A vehicle that can carry a lot of people and goes where people want to go has got to be a solution. It could probably carry up to 130 kids.”
Bay of Plenty Regional Council transport policy manager Garry Maloney says staff have received Mark’s suggestion.
“They have asked him for clarification as to how the purchase of such a vehicle could be funded and where else in the network he thought warranted the demand for the large seating capacity offered by the vehicle.”