- a magnet for passengers, a boost for the
city and a boon for the environment.
Catching the Christchurch Shuttle at a popular time means joining a
with people of all ages.
The Shuttle in action.
Photo source Peter Hunt
A leap forward in technology
The technology for electrically powered cars is now commonplace but
for electric buses.
The problem has been to power a larger vehicle so that it can carry
passengers. It was designline who developed the technology to
computer controlled, power management system for the Christchurch
This makes it one of the first ultra low emissions vehicles ready for
Why was the Shuttle introduced?
Because of its location, Christchurch suffers from pollution,
CO2 emissions. Vehicle transport accounts for almost 60 percent of
total transport emissions. The situation will continue to get
The inner cultural and shopping centre is very spread out. Improved
is necessary to attract shoppers back from the suburban malls.
These problems caused the Christchurch City Council to form a
with passenger operator, Redbus, and coach manufacturer, designline,
launch the Shuttle in December 1998.
How does the service operate?
Trips are free for passengers with the ratepayers footing the bill.
The Christchurch City Council pays Redbus $450 000 a year to run the
service. Sponsorship has also been received from the Department Store,
Smith's City, located on the Shuttle route.
Three Shuttles, each with a capacity of driver plus passengers (20
16 standing and one wheelchair) are used on the 4.5km route.
The vehicles have 'super' low floor access and wide entry/exit doors
both front and rear.
The service operates every ten minutes during the day and fifteen
in the evenings, seven days a week. Vehicles travel 90 to 150 kms
The 22-stop-route links the Casino in the north and Hoyts 8, Science
and the Christchurch Polytechnic in the south via Colombo Street.
What has been the public reaction?
Patronage has exceeded expectations. As many as 80,000 passengers
travelled in the five weeks from 24 December 1998.
Most are shoppers, although there are large numbers of international
tourists on board who use the Shuttle to get to know Christchurch.
According to an independent survey, most people travel on the Shuttle
because it is convenient and free. Others use it because it is
and environmentally friendly. Some like the fun image of the
colour and design. They rate the smoothness, the spaciousness and the
quietness of the vehicle very highly.
The Shuttles have been so popular that drivers have had to turn
away. A fourth vehicle is ordered for late 1999.
What have been the benefits?
The Shuttle has lifted the whole image of public transport. Some
passengers are making their first trip on public transport for a long
Many say they would be prepared to pay to ride on the Shuttle.
Shoppers are being attracted back into the city centre, say
The Christchurch Casino
Arthur Pitcher Chief Executive, Christchurch Casino says: "I'm
flabbergasted by the success of the Shuttle. It's fantastic. Every
it goes by, it lets off 10 to 12 people, which has got to be good for
business and for Christchurch. Tourists come from the city hotels in
Andrew Tremewan, manager of the cinema complex, says: "The Shuttle is
great. It adds value for those customers who used to walk back to the
Square to get connecting transport. Now it's much more convenient for
them. It makes their evening out very reasonable in cost."
Peter Dickie, marketing manager for Smiths City, says: "Comments are
good from staff and shoppers. We believe the Shuttle is having a very
positive effect on business."
Fewer cars are going into the city centre. Christchurch Polytechnic
reports with improved public transport fewer students and staff are
The Shuttle brings Christchurch alive for tourists and students. The
Polytechnic English Language School uses the Shuttle for city
The Shuttle is attracting visitors to Christchurch. A convention for
Japanese tourists has been attracted to Christchurch because of
The Shuttle assists the disabled.
Graham Tapper, of the Burwood Spinal Unit says: "The Shuttle means
that the disabled can be included as members of the general public.
can now come into town on a low floor bus. They can then transfer to
and go at no cost to Science Alive or Hoyts. The cost of the whole
In other centres travelling the same distance would cost $12 or
How does the Shuttle work?
The Christchurch Shuttle is a hybrid vehicle.
Power is supplied from 54 solid gel, water-cooled batteries, charged
regenerative breaking. This can be supplemented by an auxiliary power
(APU), using a low emissions, diesel powered generator. This diesel
engine, built to Euro 2 specifications, runs at a steady speed to
The driver is in control and can over-ride the charging system if
emissions-free running is required. The motor is switched off along
main street, so no diesel fumes are produced. The generator can be
on again when the battery needs a boost.
The vehicles do not have to come off the road to charge. Charging
just eight hours and can take place overnight or anywhere en route
there is a 3 phase 15 amp power supply.
How it is more environmentally friendly?
Running or stationary, electric vehicles have no opacity and no
particulates in emissions. Noise is minimal. There are no air
filters or other diesel waste material.
Running costs are several cents a kilometre cheaper than for diesel
Having fewer moving parts, electric vehicles are cheaper to
Benefits can be enhanced through the use of solar panels which could
provide 6 to 7 percent of the power supply.
Future designline electric vehicles
Teething problems were experienced with the diesel engine based APU.
Initially power was not sufficient for a full day without
Replacing the diesel engine with a turbogenerator that has a
rating of 24 KW will make an electric vehicle viable for almost all
operations. The turbogenerator will mean:
*Virtually zero emissions
*Increased range of viable average operational speeds
*Reduced maintenance requirements
*Controlled management producing a constant power supply
*Smaller batteries allowing more room for passengers.
Dr Ross Green BE (Hons) PhD MIEEE MIPENZ of Auckland who is
internationally known for his power electronics expertise says: "With
changes I am confident that designline's electric/hybrid bus will have
superior performance to any comparable product."
Worldwide recognition for designline
The rest of the world agrees. There has been considerable interest
internationally in designline's achievement from areas as far away as
UK, Germany and Chile. Orders have been received from Thailand where
vehicles will be used as a showcase for the Indian and Chinese
Transport Authorities internationally are choosing the electric
drive the future of transport.
Try the Shuttle and spread the word.
When you are in Christchurch join the throngs - catch the Shuttle.
your city council about this impressive service to the citizens and to
Read the next article in this series
to find out how popular the shuttle service has become.