Electric buses to drive tourism in Far North Queensland

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

All new bus purchases in Victoria and south-east Queensland are expected to be electric from 2025.
All new bus purchases in Victoria and south-east Queensland are expected to be electric from 2025.

A Far North Queensland tourism firm will become a case study for electric transport in Australia after pledging to make one third of its bus fleet electric. 

Cairns-based charter firm Tropic Wings announced plans to roll out 12 electric buses on Monday, with financial support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

The investment will make the firm the first private tour company to make a significant commitment to electric buses. 

It will follow the rollout of more electric vehicles in the public fleet, amid state and territory government commitments to the transport technology. 

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said Cairns electric bus project would be an important example for other smaller companies looking at ways to  “play their part in transitioning the nation’s bus fleets”. 

“With roughly 100,000 buses in Australia, the scale of the challenge is enormous,” Mr Miller said. 

“For smaller family-owned businesses, the barriers are even greater.”

ARENA will invest $4.75 million in the project from its $500 million Driving the Nation Fund. 

The investment will go towards the installation of 11 chargers for the tourism company and two battery systems designed to store renewable energy on a short-term basis for use during storms and other outages. 

The electric bus investment will be the second for the Cairns firm after it added a battery-powered bus to its fleet in 2019. 

Tropic Wings director Michael Woodward said the company would work with the Electric Vehicle Council to turn its experience into a blueprint for other companies considering investments in electric transport technology.

“We’re committed to sustainability in tourism,” Mr Woodward said. 

The company runs tours throughout Far North Queensland, including tours to Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas and Kuranda.

Several state and territory governments have announced plans to transition from diesel to electric buses for public transport, including the ACT that will make its entire fleet electric by 2040 and NSW that will follow in 2047.

All new bus purchases in Victoria and south-east Queensland are expected to be electric from 2025. 

But a study from the Australia Institute released earlier this year criticised the nation’s progress, saying only a “pitifully small number” of electric buses were in use considering their “broad benefits” to the public and emissions cuts.

AAP