Tshwane and eThekwini metros are set to receive electric commuter buses as part of the R89 million project initiated by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to shift to electric mobility in future.
At least 20 buses will be destined for Tshwane while eThekwini will be allocated 19 in terms of the project’s scope.
It is envisaged that the electric buses (e-buses) could hit the roads in both metros by the end of 2025.
The project’s implementing agent, the South African National Energy Development Institute, recently announced that 39 buses and the associated charging infrastructure will be purchased and rolled out at the cost of $4.7 m (R89m).
The funding for the pilot project was secured by the DBSA from the Global Environmental Facility.
Project manager for the South African National Energy Development Institute, Tebogo Snyer, said: “Our objective with this project is to pave the way for the country to shift to electric mobility in the near future.”
The project conceptualisation, according to the South African National Energy Development Institute, was started in 2018. It was, however, halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Work was restarted in 2022 and by late last year DBSA was able to secure the necessary funding for the project.
Part of the project will see electricity infrastructure being upgraded in Tshwane and eThekwini and charging facilities installed.
The project, Snyer, will be rolled out over a period of five years with half the buses being commissioned in the first two years and the rest at a later stage.
“During this time, we will demonstrate the technical, operational, legal, economic and other feasibility factors, and bed down the specifications of the ecosystem needed to support electric buses in South Africa,” he said.
According to the South African National Energy Development Institute, bus drivers will be trained on how to safely operate an electric bus and manage charging cycles.
Commuters can expect the first fleet of buses to be on the road in the next 18 to 24 months, the South African National Energy Development Institute has said.
Snyer said: “We do manufacture some electric charging equipment in South Africa, but what we need to procure will depend on the buses we decide to test.”
Switching from internal combustion to electric vehicles in significant quantities, he said, will add extra load to the grid.
While it is expected that technology will develop to where electric vehicles can actively support and stabilise the grid, Snyer explained that the pilot project’s scope will for now includes technical grid-impact analyses.
“We want to prepare South Africa for the future. When costs start to come down, local municipalities should be ready to implement the technology that will improve public transport while reducing its environmental impact,” he said.
When the project was started, DBSA consulted with some municipalities that showed interest in forming part of it.