A hydrogen fuel cell bus. Picture: ALLAN SECCOMBE
A hydrogen fuel cell bus. Picture: ALLAN SECCOMBE

Real African Works (RAW), a black-owned automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that specialises in bus rapid transit system (BRT), wants to launch “green” buses for municipalities before the end of 2019, says CEO Vuyelwa Penxa. 

RAW designs, develops, manufactures and sells automotive drive trains. The company's decision to build electric and hydrogen fuel cell buses will see it compete for a share of the bus-based public transport system such as Rea Vaya in Johannesburg or MyCiti in Cape Town.

 The government recently released  long-term plans for the automotive industry, with trade & industry minister Rob Davies on Friday unveiling the  automotive masterplan 2035. One of the objectives is to grow vehicle production to 1% of global output, which is projected to reach 140-million units a year  in 2035. The plans include increasing local content in locally assembled vehicles from 39% to 60%.

RAW has built a fleet of diesel buses for a Polokwane, Limpopo customer, which Penxa declined to name on Monday. She said RAW’s next milestone would be to build electric buses.

“That will be followed by a hydrogen fuel cell bus, which will be a purely green bus. These still require more work. We are working with partners to refine the technology and configuration,” she said.

She said RAW’s “ambitious” target was to launch electric and hydrogen fuel cell buses in late 2019.

Penxa said the company had in the past unsuccessfully tendered for contracts. “We knocked at various doors. We tendered for Rea Vaya (in Johannesburg), we tendered for eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay. We were fortunate that a client in Polokwane gave us a chance. We have now built 25 of their buses. Now we are going to have a balance sheet to show when we tender,” she said.

Diesel engine manufacturer Cummins supplied the buses’ Euro V engines. “It is not just diesel that is the future of mobility. It is electric and fuel cells. We have invested $500m in electric technology … trying to figure out how we can in that technology,” said Cummins automotive and electrification leader Rashi Gupta.