While the city's buses may have a bad reputation, five brand new electric buses might be about to change that. They're the pride and joy of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council as it pushes for more low carbon transport in Tauranga.

"NZ Bus won the contract for running public transport services in Tauranga from December last year," said Scott Thorne from NZ Bus.

"Part of that contract was to implement five electric vehicles out of the roughly 100 buses that operate in Tauranga."

The rollout of this electric fleet means the city has more electric buses than any other in New Zealand.

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"Going forward we should see more," Thorne said. "It's early days in the transition from diesel buses to electric but we're really happy that Tauranga is first off the rank."

With 100 per cent saving on carbon emissions alone, the old diesel buses will eventually become a thing of the past.

"More and more companies will become reluctant to invest in a diesel bus with a 20-year life and lock that into the service for that period of time, so I think sooner rather than later, you'll start seeing a real transition across all of our major regions to electric," said Thorne.

While some residents claim that no one uses the buses, the numbers suggest otherwise.
Bay Of Plenty regional councillor Andrew von Dadelszen says the system is working.

"People complain there are empty buses. Well during the middle of the day there will always be empty buses – don't get fazed by that."

Over the past year, there has been an 11 per cent increase in people using the bus service.

"The key is to get our people on to the buses and we see electric as a really good option," von Dadelszen says. "Once they've been on the bus and seen how good it is they'll stay using the bus, somehow you have to get them to do it the first time."

Each bus can travel 200km on a single charge and it takes just three hours to fully re-charge. From the outside you may not notice any difference, but under the hood it's a different story.

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"The computer systems in the bus are just amazing," says fleet supervisor Chris Hawkes.

"You can't do anything wrong basically. You can't move the bus, you can't open the doors… the bus has got so many safety systems in it, I'm quite surprised how easy it is."

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