WRIGHTSPEED TURBINE-BASED PHEV POWERTRAIN IN NEW ZEALAND BUS
Wrightspeed Inc. announced a US$30M deal with Infratil-owned NZ Bus, New Zealand’s largest operator of urban bus services. Under the terms of the deal, Wrightspeed will provide its Route 500 heavy-duty range-extended electric powertrain technology to NZ Bus. The move marks Wrightspeed’s first expansion beyond refuse and delivery applications into mass transit, signaling multinational and multimodal demand for the company’s powertrain technology.
Ian Wright was a co-founder of Tesla, but he soon left to start his own company, partly because he felt that large commercial vehicles represented a better target for electrification than passenger cars. Since then, Wrightspeed’s turbine-based powertrain has powered delivery trucks for FedEx and garbage trucks for the city of Santa Rosa, California.
Now the company has announced a $30-million deal with NZ Bus, a New Zealand transit operator with a fleet of over 1,000 buses. This is Wrightspeed’s first venture into the public transit market, and its first major international sale. It also appears to be the first pilot of plug-in buses in New Zealand.
Wrightspeed will be providing its Route 500 powertrains to NZ Bus, and plans to set up a New Zealand facility to install them. The first application will be to retrofit some trolleybuses, which are currently powered from overhead wires.
Wrightspeed’s Route 500 powertrain features two electric motors and the company’s 80 kW, fuel-agnostic Fulcrum Turbine Generator, which charges a 40 kWh onboard battery pack. The buses can be charged at 19 kW, using a standard J1772 charging plug – a strong selling point versus all-electric buses, which require larger battery packs and/or expensive charging stations capable of much higher charging levels. The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive, which digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, can handle grades of up to 40%.
New Zealand seems like a perfect fit for electrified buses – fossil fuel prices are among the highest in the world, and nearly 75 percent of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources.