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Introduction by the Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille:
‘We would like to provide the media with the latest update and facts on the electric buses which the City is in the process of procuring.
On Sunday, the Sunday Times ran a grossly inaccurate story about the specification testing of the buses.
As the City’s leadership, we would like to correct this and provide the media with the latest update and facts to avoid the practice of spreading misinformation.
Before we get into the facts of the specification tests, I would like to address the dangerous practice of reporting allegations as fact and not seeking comment from the relevant person which the allegation is linked to.
The article refers to a meeting agenda for a visit to Cape Town by BYD, the successful bidder for the electric buses.
The article stated that this meeting was between BYD representatives and myself to discuss ‘detailed finalization of specifications,’ to ‘finalise and conclude a business agreement’ and for ‘confirmation of roll-out times.’
As always, I would like to see evidence of this. My office was certainly not contacted to confirm if such a meeting took place and whether this was a factual agenda that was being referred to in the story.
I was never part of any meeting with BYD to discuss any tender specifications as I am never involved in any part of any tender process.
With reference to all statements related to me in this article, I will be reporting this to the Press Ombudsman as I was never contacted for comment on the aspects of the story which mention me.
I have already lodged a complaint against the same media house for reporting allegations and not contacting me for comment relating to another issue.
The Press Ombudsman found against the journalist and the media house who were ordered to apologise for incorrect and imbalanced reporting.
With regard to the Bowmans investigation into the electric buses tender, I have welcomed this investigation and I have cooperated with it and eagerly await the outcome of their probe.
The story this past Sunday also quotes the Deputy Mayor saying that the report by Bowmans is delayed.
I have written to Bowmans to ask them to confirm whether or not they have told the Deputy Mayor that the report is delayed and whether there is a date yet for the release of the report.
I will now hand over to Gerswhin Fortune, the acting commissioner for Transport and Urban Development, to speak to the tests done on the buses and the results thereof.
The information that Gerswhin will share, and the correct response on the results of the testing of the buses was ready to be sent to the journalist but the City Manager was not available for signoff and therefore this response was not sent to the journalist.’
On the testing of the buses, Acting Commissioner: Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA), Gershwin Fortune said:
‘Multiple tests and inspections were undertaken over the past eight months as part of the overall acceptance testing of the electric buses. Three tests were conducted on the electric buses since October 2017 with regard to the performance on grades (hills). The first testing period commenced in October 2017, the second in June 2018, and the third and final testing was conducted on 4 July 2018.’
The second testing period confirmed that the buses met the City’s requirements.
The third testing period was conducted with an independent system and again confirmed that the electric buses that are being procured for the pilot project indeed meet the City’s requirements in terms of overall performance.
On-road tests took place along the M12 (Stellenbosch Arterial), as well as along Hospital Bend, Geneva Drive in Camps Bay, and Kloof Nek Road.
Thus, contrary to misleading reports, the electric buses will be able to service various routes, including hilly routes in the city.
It is important to add that Cape Town is the first city in South Africa to procure and test electric buses. We are breaking new ground and leading the country in the fight against climate change and electric vehicle procurement. Even the homologation process by the National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications took over six months to conduct their testing to ensure that it complies with the Road Traffic Act because no procedural testing programme was yet available for electric buses.
October 2017 testing period
The initial testing of the prototype bus – this is the first electric bus of the type that was locally assembled and fitted with a South African-made bus body in Blackheath –took place in October 2017.
Fleet officers from the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) tested the prototype bus and two primary concerns were identified during this testing period. Firstly, when the electric bus was tested along Hospital Bend it fell short of the City’s requirement in that it did not reach an average speed of 60 km/h. Secondly, the bus driver’s cabin was not built to specification.
The City notified the supplier (BYD) of the results, and informed the company to make the required adjustments by 30 June 2018.
All of the 11 electric buses were subsequently modified in accordance with the City’s requirements, and the TDA fleet officers conducted regular visits to monitor the process during this time.
June 2018 testing period
All 11 electric buses were tested in the latter part of June 2018 by the TDA fleet officers. The tests included visual and physical testing, inspections, and comprehensive road tests to ensure the performance and equipment functionality met our requirements.
The purpose of the road testing was, among others, to test whether the bus can physically travel on the road, drive uphill and downhill, brake, and take corners.
The buses were road-tested along Polka Drive (M12) in the direction of Stellenbosch, along Hospital Bend, Kloof Nek Road, Geneva Drive in Camps Bay, and Durban Road, as well as along other routes. The tests confirmed that the electric buses reached and even exceeded the required speeds on these roads with an incline in excess of 4 degrees along certain sections.
The equipment was also tested, among which the doors, ramps, automated fare collection system, and so forth.
July 2018 testing period
All of the electric buses are fitted with a telematics system that is specifically designed for electric buses. The system is provided by an independent company, ViriCiti, which is based in the Netherlands. The system tracks the bus and its performance.
A test run was carried out on 4 July 2018 when one of the electric buses was tested along Hospital Bend. The telematics system report confirmed that the bus reached an average speed of 67,8 km/h from Settler’s Way to the top of Hospital Bend where the average sustained climb was greater than 4% and greater than 6% along some sections.
The bus performance was also tested on Kloof Nek Road, and along Geneva Drive in Camps Bay where satisfactory speeds were retained within traffic.
As stated above, this information is provided by an independent monitoring system supplied by ViriCiti. All 11 buses are fitted with the system for the purpose of monitoring the performance of each bus. The information received from this system will be used for the purpose of the pilot study.
This will enable the City to measure and track the performance of the electric buses on different routes, and to compare this information with the performance of our current fleet of diesel buses. This information will inform future decisions on fleet procurement.
For example, the system monitors energy consumption (how much power the bus uses per kilometre), the percentage of battery use, distance travelled, average speed, energy used, energy recovered, and the energy consumption in service.
A comprehensive reporting system reports on driver behaviour and the condition of the battery packs, and there is fault reporting that serves as an early warning system.
Each bus is fitted with two battery packs of 1,5 tons each. One is fitted on the roof, and the other at the rear. A fully charged battery must provide sufficient power to enable a bus to reach a minimum distance of 200 km before re-charging. The maximum time it will take to fully charge the battery packs is five hours.’
In terms of where we are now, City Manager, Lungelo Mbandazayo said:
‘We can only take delivery of the buses on conclusion of the current ongoing investigation, and pending the outcome thereof. The investigation is expected to be finalised before the end of the year.’