What’s better than seeing an electric car on the road? Nexport says it’s an electric bus carrying 60 passengers, all making changes to the way they travel in a bid to support Australia’s push towards net-zero.
The electric passenger vehicle company is a leader in the switch to electric buses, quietly plotting a greener path for the future.
Nexport chief executive Michel van Maanen. 
Nexport has rolled out nearly 100 zero emission buses on Australian roads, which will swell to 400 electric buses in the coming years. But it’s only at the start of the journey, with about 100,000 public transport buses in Australia providing plenty of future growth for the business.
Nexport is the AFR Sustainability Leader for logistics and transportation for 2023.
While Australia has been slow on the uptake, Nexport predicts an explosion in electric vehicles hitting Australian roads in the coming years. It won’t be long before electric buses are carrying school kids home each day, commercial and partnerships director, Sid Rallapalli says.
“We aspire to electrify all 8000 buses in NSW, which will remove 691 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. We also want to secure the sale of at least 20 per cent of all new zero emission buses or trucks over the next five years,” Rallapalli says.
A few years ago, Nexport realised that customers wanted help with more than just the switch to an electric vehicle, leading to a rethink of its product offering.
A comprehensive technology offering called GoZero was built, blending manufacturing, procurement, engineering, consultancy and deployment capabilities into a single service, which ultimately make the switch to green transport even easier for customers.
GoZero has opened up new market opportunities for Nexport, with both public and private transport operators wanting to electrify their depots in Sydney on board.
“We could see that customers wanted a one-stop solution that unpacked the switch to green vehicles to better understand how electric vehicles would integrate in their business and impact on their overall energy supply. Ultimately, there was a strong market demand for a piece of technology that optimised the overall transport operation within a turnkey solution,” Rallapalli says.
Anticipating the uptake of zero emission vehicles across Australia, Nexport is investing in a manufacturing facility in Sydney that will create up to 100 jobs in design, engineering, production and maintenance of electric vehicles.
Benefits of the transition extend beyond pollution. He also pointed to savings on the health system due to a reduction in airborne pollutants, which have been known to cause issues for asthmatics and other illnesses. “Electric vehicles are cheaper given the price of diesel. There’s also a comfort factor there because there’s less vibrations and less noise when you’re travelling on an electric bus,” he says.
Nexport is not afraid of some healthy competition in the green transport space. “The more competition out there, the more opportunities to grow with the broader market.”
Australia Post is acutely aware of the responsibility it carries as one of the largest employers in Australia. This has pushed the national postal service to look for more sustainable ways of getting the mail delivered every day.
A switch to electric delivery vehicles began in earnest three years ago. It now has 4365 electric delivery vehicles in its national fleet. This accounts for 30 per cent of its fleet, which can handle 45 per cent of its delivery rounds.
Australia Post executive general manager of sustainability Tanny Mangos. 
“We have a strong focus on using our transport network in a way that benefits people and the planet in a positive way,” Tanny Mangos, executive general manager of community, sustainability and stakeholder engagement, says.
This has enabled Australia Post to optimise its delivery route, with the electric vehicles replacing the company’s iconic fleet of red delivery motorbikes and being able to carry both letters and parcels at the same time.
Australia Post has also been phasing out wooden pallets used to transport postage, reducing landfill by saving about 5000 tonnes of timber waste per year and significantly reducing single use plastic wrap within the company. The pallets have been replaced by 250,000 large metal buckets that have a shelf life of about a decade.
Like any sustainability journey, there have been challenges to overcome. Mangos admits the switch has been costly and there have been hoops to jump through to ensure the new vehicles comply with Standards Australia.
“We are slowly trying to phase out motorbikes because electric delivery vehicles are a safer mode of transport for our posties, but supply and cost is challenging. Our service reaches the far ends of the country and the terrain can be challenging in some areas, which can be a challenge for electric vehicles,” Mangos says.
But the good news is that the switch has resulted in a reduction of about 2000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, which equates to removing 800 standard cars from the road.
An electrified bus depot in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt is the first stop for NSW to reach its target of electrifying all 8000 buses in its network.
The bus depot is capable of charging up to 40 electric buses at once, bringing efficiencies into the public transport network along the way.
Kelsian chief executive Clint Feuerherdt. Roy Vandervegt
Land and marine transport service provider Kelsian is behind the innovation, which has provided a verified blueprint for the future of green transport.
Before building the depot, Kelsian had to provide a case to the government that highlighted the benefits of electric buses, which justified further investment in the space, CEO Clint Feuerherdt says.
“We deployed significant amounts of charging infrastructure for the demonstration, which has helped us highlight this as a proven pathway for the public transport network in Australia,” he says.
The pilot was successful and electric bus fleets are now popping up across the country. “Regenerative braking means the buses often come back to the depot with a significant amount of charge still available, which reduces the load on the recharging infrastructure. It means less downtime for the buses and we can adopt changes within our network planning to maximise route and energy efficiencies,” says.
The Kelsian depot in Leichhardt, Sydney. 
Forging a partnership model where other players in the sustainability game bring something to the table has been a key to Kelsian’s success. But wider adoption remains a continuing challenge.
“The quickest way to decarbonise our cities is not turning a diesel bus into an electric bus. It’s actually getting more people into the public transport network, so we hope these assets will help drive greater use of the broader network,” Feuerherdt says.
Sustainable aviation fuel has seen Qantas flying high in the sustainability fight, with the company claiming it’s enabled them to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. The airline is the only Australian carrier using sustainable fuel on an ongoing commercial basis.
With long-haul routes accounting for the majority of the company’s emissions profile, switching to a fuel alternative is the only viable decarbonisation option available, chief sustainability officer Andrew Parker says.
Qantas chief sustainability officer Andrew Parker. Rhett Wyman
Produced by using sustainable biogenic sources such as cooking oils, council waste, plant oils and agricultural residues, Qantas has committed to funding fuel refining projects in its push to reduce emissions.
As it stands, Australia is exporting millions of tonnes of feedstock overseas every year to be made into sustainable aviation fuel. “By establishing a local commercial scale sustainable fuel industry, Qantas could further decarbonise the aviation sector, creating jobs and also reducing Australia’s dependence on imported fuels,” he says.
By building a local industry here in Australia, it would create jobs and see the production of about 400 megalitres of neat fuel per year by 2030. “This is a relatively new and complex lever for decarbonisation, especially given the enormous variety of feedstocks and technologies that can be used to produce it,” Parker says.
“We’ve spoken to dozens of project originators and the most common hurdle they raise is a lack of access to development or seed capital. We believe that together with governments, we must assist the right projects with early funding,” he says.
As one of the five foundation members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Coalition, BCG members of the 2023 Sustainability Leaders List Panel recused themselves from the determination of this category’s winners and finalists.
Team Global Express has its sights set on becoming a sustainable transport and logistics operator, beginning its decarbonisation journey with the acquisition of 60 light and medium electric trucks and the necessary charging infrastructure.
The company has been trialling the switch to electric commercial trucks, marking what the logistics company says is the most significant change in the transport sector since the invention of the diesel engine.
“It has been incredible to see the response we’ve had from our Team Global Express people putting their hands up and volunteering to be part of this trial. We often talk about the transition of workforces as we move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy – we’re doing it in real time,” director of ESG Heather Bone says.
Team Global Express, which returned to Australian ownership two years ago, is leading others down the path towards reducing scope 1 emissions with its trial.
There have been many wins along the way. Reducing noxious pollution and associated health impacts, increasing fuel security and lowering carbon emissions, for a start.
“But there have been many challenges to this project and many mountains to climb, not only with financial barriers, but the regulatory and technology requirements that need to be addressed before electric trucks are adopted more widely,” Bone says.
However, the economic feasibility of shifting to a greener fleet is yet to be proven, with price hikes not easy for customers to swallow, Bone says.
“Innovations in electric truck technology continues to present a major risk for large fleets such as ours, and businesses have been slow to adopt. This is due to several outstanding barriers to update, and these challenges will need to be addressed before electric trucks become wisely adopted across depots across Australia,” Bone says.
Follow the topics, people and companies that matter to you.
Fetching latest articles
The Daily Habit of Successful People