Custom Denning (whom many know by their previous name, Custom Bus) are driving public transport with their Element electric buses with a mission to build innovative high-quality buses made by Australians and using advanced manufacturing techniques to continually improve their processes.
The Custom Denning Element Battery Electric Bus (BEB) has been recently fully approved on the Transport for (TfNSW) procurement panel in the Zero Emission Bus category, as the NSW Government executes plans to transition the state’s fleet of 8,000 buses to zero emission technology.
Four prototypes of the Element BEB have been in service since November 2020, and initial orders have been placed with operators to enter service in the coming months.
“The Element BEB has been designed to replace standard diesel buses across Australia with as little as possible need for change to their operations,” says Grant Mascord, National Contracts Manager for Custom Denning.
“Electrical infrastructure may be required to be upgraded at the depots to enable the chargers to be installed.”
There are a number of features that make the Element BEB stand out from the rest:
BATTERIES BUILT TO SAVE ENERGY IN HARSH CONDITIONS
Solid-State Lithium Metal Polymer (LMP) batteries were fitted on the Element buses. This was done after extensive overseas trials were conducted on this type of battery.
The batteries feature a higher energy density per kilogram compared with standard lithium Ion batteries in use on other BEB’s. This allows for reduced weight of the overall bus.
This weight saving is transferred into better efficiency in operation of the bus and also allows for a potential higher load of passengers due to the overall weight of the bus being lighter.
The LMP batteries operate without the need for cooling systems, saving more weight. They also operate in a higher temperature window and this allows them to perform well in the harsher climates that are evident in Australia. This equates to a range on average in excess of 400km (~20 hours) on a full charge dependent on operation / application.
AUSTRALIAN MADE FROM START TO END
With Custom Denning building the bus from start to end, they were able to integrate the chassis and body into one complete structure and combine it with a stainless-steel frame to retain the strength required to accommodate the added weight of the roof mounted batteries.
The complete bus is built at the St Marys plant in NSW, creating local jobs.
“Because we build the complete bus in NSW whilst complying with Australian made accreditation, Custom Denning may have the highest Australian content of any Electric bus currently in the country, making this truly Australia’s Electric Bus,” acknowledges Grant.
“What we have is a bus that gives the lowest weight while maintaining the capability of enduring a 25-year life that is expected of a city bus, and meeting all ADR requirements,” says Grant.
By specifying Alcoa forged aluminium wheels instead of steel wheels, the weight of the batteries is further offset to enable the Element BEB to have a ~70 passenger capacity in addition to its lightweight integral design.
Calculations show up to 79kg weight saving with Alcoa Wheels compared to heavier steel wheel weights with the same dimensions and load rates.
The lighter Alcoa wheels not only offset the added weight of the battery, but they help extend battery life and improve range. According to US bus manufacturer, Proterra, it has been shown that for every ~150lbs (68kg) reduced, one extra passenger can be added, for example.
Alternatively, with battery energy density of 160 kwh, ~3 miles (4.8km) of range could be added.
1. Cleaner Air
With the Custom Denning Element battery electric buses being zero emissions vehicles, they will be helping NSW transport sector by reducing harmful air pollution that diesel exhaust emissions are known for.
Because zero emission vehicles don’t produce any tailpipe exhaust, smog and acid rain caused by the toxins in gasoline and diesel-fuelled ones is significantly reduced.
Cleaner air means better health for the community as a whole, as asthma and other health issues aggravated by poor quality air can be reduced, which in turn lowers the demand on government health resources.
It’s not only air pollution that’s considered in sustainable practice and important to community health; noise is a serious factor, too.
2. Less Noise
According to the World Health Organization, sound levels less than 70 dB are not damaging to people, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure is, however if we are exposed for more than 8 hours to constant noise beyond 85 dB we could be putting our health at risk.
Zero emissions vehicles like the Custom Dunning Element play an important role in reducing environmental noise in inner cities, where there can be a cacophony of sounds at any given time – from building works, traffic, emergency response vehicles, for example.
The environmentally friendly solid-state batteries on the Elemental contain no solvents, cobalt or rare minerals and capable of being recycled.
Alcoa Wheels are 100% recyclable. Recycling an Alcoa® Wheel at the end of its useful life will generate a piece of metal with exactly the same properties as the metal used to manufacture the recycled wheel. In the recycling process, almost all of the quantity of the material is preserved – and this process can be repeated almost infinitely.
4. Water Saving and Less Harsh Chemicals Put into The Environment
“What ties in really well with the sustainability of Custom Denning’s zero-emissions buses is not only the recyclability of Alcoa Wheels, but the choice to specify Alcoa Dura-Bright® wheels,” says Michael Nichols, National Sales Manager for Howmet Wheel Systems, distributor of Alcoa Wheels in Australia.
“Dura-Bright® wheels clean with a simple soap and water wash, and not only do they take less time to clean than standard brushed aluminium wheels, they don’t need to be polished, so there are less chemicals going into the environment and less water used.”
The patented technology offered by the Dura-Bright® surface treatment allows the wheels to stand strong against dirt and road grime, while keeping their shine.
Alcoa Dura-Bright® is available across most of the Alcoa wheel range, the premium Alcoa wheel benefits stay the same:
- their light weight (increased payload, better fuel efficiency),
- their unmatched strength (proprietary MagnaForce® alloy is exclusive to Alcoa wheels and is 17% stronger than any other alloy in the industry),
- their improved heat dissipation results in extended tyre and brake life.
“Through local testing via the four prototype buses on the road since November 2020, we have been able to design and build a bus that meets the specifications required for operations in Australia, that suits the Australian conditions and that will benefit the transport sector for many years to come,” says Grant.
Take 20 minutes to listen to the Alcoa Wheels experts talk about how they broke into the bus (transit) market when it was all steel wheels, and how through listening to what their customers’ concerns were they were able to come up with the best solutions on the Behind the Wheels Podcast below.