Enel X launches offer to power Australia’s electric bus revolution
Energy technology company Enel X is bringing its electric bus charging infrastructure and services to Australia, with the aim of riding the wave of electrification to come in the country’s public transport sector this decade.
The NSW government announced last year that it wanted its entire 8,000-person bus fleet to be electric by 2030. Earlier this month, Victoria said that all new buses are expected to be electric by 2025, while ACT plans to replace 90 diesel buses with electric vehicles. buses over the next four years. Other states are also moving in the same direction.
This will require major infrastructure upgrades, both at depots – which are not currently heavy consumers of electricity, but will be very soon – and along bus lines. It will also require investments in smart technologies and a new approach to purchasing energy.
Enel X thinks he has the holistic answer to this. The company specializes in a wide range of smart energy services, from demand and supply management and charging of electric vehicles, to micro-grids and virtual power plants, and currently provides charging services to approximately 1,400 electric buses, mainly in Chile and Colombia.
Jeff Renaud, the company’s Asia and Oceania manager, says the state government’s ambitious policy means that “the time is right” to start marketing Enel X’s services in Australia. He says the company has both the technological solutions and the experience in the energy markets to provide a “holistic” service to bus operators.
The service “can include the necessary upgrades to the depots, the charging stations themselves… the software platform that orchestrates the charging and energy supply – the real electrons – that power the depot,” he says. .
He says the company would also consider funding the electrification of bus fleets – which it has done in Latin America – although he adds that this is only the early days and the funding model (s) do not. have not emerged. At the moment, he says Enel X has not signed any deal with Australian bus operators.
Whether funding is needed or not, radical improvements in infrastructure and technology are inevitable. Enel X envisions a mix of overnight bus depot charging and fast charging along the way. Renaud says the company wants as much of the electricity as possible to be produced in a renewable manner, adding that when electrification really takes off, it may be necessary to store stationary batteries on deposit.
Further down the line, he says buses or stationary batteries could also provide network services, although it’s a bit remote.
“It will be a natural evolution. Today we are talking about electrifying a minority of the entire bus fleet. The solution to dealing with the grid problem is to look at the routes you electrify and stagger the schedule of those buses so that you have a minimum number of buses at the depot at all times, ”he says.
“As you increase the number, it becomes more difficult. You will likely see stationary energy storage required in depots as the penetration rate of electric buses increases. But storage doesn’t come cheap, so it’s something that we believe should only be used when needed. “
He says technology, which chooses the most profitable times to charge, and puts minimal strain on the local network, is key.
“The first principle is do no harm. This means trying to coordinate the load of bus fleets at times when it is actually smart for the wholesale energy market, and manage the load within the constraints of the local grid.
“There could be opportunities for depots or buses to provide network services – but I don’t think that’s something that’s a big part of the equation today,” he says.
James Fernyhough is a reporter for RenewEconomy and The Driven. He worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in everything related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.