Electric buses an eco-friendly Australian first

Tuesday, 07 August, 2012

The recent opening of the $20 million Mossman Gorge Centre, an Indigenous eco-tourism business north of Cairns, has also seen the unveiling of the first ground up built, electric safari-style bus in Australia.

The eco-friendly buses, emblazoned with distinctive designs from the local Kuku Yalanji culture, have been constructed to carry 26 passengers at a time up to the World Heritage listed Mossman Gorge section of the Daintree Tropical Rainforest. The seven electric shuttle buses are central to the successful operation of the Mossman Gorge Centre business.

The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) commissioned the construction of the buses to move upwards of 1500 visitors each day. The design offers an exciting and safe experience designed to take advantage of the beautiful Mossman surroundings, while protecting the sensitive environment.

Prior to the centre being constructed, up to 90,000 vehicles used to travel up the gorge each year along a winding, narrow dead-end road which only had parking spaces for 30 cars and was never designed to accommodate large tourist buses.

An average of 250 vehicles a day formerly visited the gorge; in the peak tourism season, this number reached more than 750. All of this traffic passed through the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community and presented safety and quality of life issues for residents.

With support from the Cairns Regional Council, this traffic is now funnelled into the Mossman Gorge Centre and does not pass through the community, helping to significantly address these issues, as well as environmental issues associated with previous access and parking arrangements at Mossman Gorge.

The groundbreaking buses were hand built by Varley Electric Vehicles, a division of The Varley Group. Varley has been working closely with the ILC in the challenging design and manufacture of possibly Australia’s first ground up electric bus. Varley designed from scratch all aspects of the bus including the chassis, body and full electric driveline, which uses the latest AC drive technology and offers minimal environmental impact on the surrounds.

Features include regenerative braking, which recaptures energy while braking, use of highly efficient AC motors and inverters, as well as an ergonomic design providing ease of access and an adventurous experience for passengers.

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