BusTech Group’s ZDi electric bus

Market Pulse: Insiders have been saying forever: one door closes and another door opens. In this case it’s car doors. Replaced with electric bus doors.

News on Tuesday showed that while Adelaide lost the Holden factory at Elizabeth in 2017 the city was now gaining a significant electric bus manufacturing facility that would employ at least some of the staff from the closed factory and was looking for more staff. In particular, returning expats with high automotive manufacturing skills, fleeing Covid affected areas.

The bus manufacturing operation was being run by BusTech Group, a company associated with Brabham Automotive, started by Australian investor group Fusion Capital and Australian professional racing driver David Brabham (son of Sir Jack).

The company has already sold 60 buses to NSW, with delivery expected next year, and has a contract pending with Queensland for more.

Eventually it wants to open manufacturing facilities in other parts of Australia to meet local demand, which it says could reach 500 buses a year.

The 12.5-metre ZDi electric bus will be Australian designed and engineered and built, it says.

BusTech Group executive chairman Christian Reynolds said, “We anticipate an acceleration of the market for vehicle replacement and what we’re looking to do is have installed capacity within the market to be able to service that.

“With the transition to zero emissions there is an opportunity for the market to scale and if that happens it’s feasible our volume could potentially scale up to around 500 vehicles a year, which is where the additional plants come in.

“I think we’ll end up scaling technical staff here in South Australia and we’ll scale up manufacturing and support staff in the territories where we are selling product to.”

According to InDaily, the group rebranded as BusTech Group in December after buying the Queensland based Bustech and wants to become the major producer of electric buses for the entire country. It will use a Proterra battery pack and drivetrain following a partnership with the US company.

“Fusion Capital saw the opportunity from the closure of Holden to bring together Tier 1 supply capability to basically look at how we could create a business from the stalled capacity within the vehicle space and that’s what has allowed us to move quite quickly,” Mr Reynolds told the publication.

“We went from four vehicles built in 2016 to a run rate now where we are building between 250 and 300 a year.”

“The company has almost 300 staff with about 170 at a manufacturing plant on the Gold Coast, 110 in Adelaide and the remainder supporting national fleet operations and business development activities interstate.

“It also has a manufacturing partner, Elphinstone, in Tasmania, which builds BusTech’s designed and engineered bus the XDi for the Tasmanian market.”

It expects the NSW government’s bus fleet of 8000 will all become electric by 2030.

Mr Reynolds told the publication: “We’ve brought engineers in from Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren and Aston Martin so we’ve been able to look at Australians who went overseas and who have looked to come back home but couldn’t quite find the same positions with their skill sets.

“The more that we’ve scaled, we’ve become a more attractive proposition for those Australians returning home and they bring new perspectives of niche vehicle manufacture and technology and that’s really helping the team as well.”

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