Wrightspeed to provide its turbine-based PHEV powertrain to New Zealand bus operator

Wrightspeed turbine-based powertrain

Ian Wright was a co-founder of Tesla, but he soon left to start his own company, partly because he felt that large commercial vehicles represented a better target for electrification than passenger cars (read more about Wright’s electrifying adventures in the April 2014 issue of Charged, and in the book Tesla Motors).

Since then, Wrightspeed’s turbine-based powertrain has powered delivery trucks for FedEx and garbage trucks for the city of Santa Rosa, California.

Now the company has announced a $30-million deal with NZ Bus, a New Zealand transit operator with a fleet of over 1,000 buses. This is Wrightspeed’s first venture into the public transit market, and its first major international sale. It also appears to be the first pilot of plug-in buses in New Zealand.

Go Wellington trolley bus (69)

Wrightspeed will be providing its Route 500 powertrains to NZ Bus, and plans to set up a New Zealand facility to install them. The first application will be to retrofit some trolleybuses, which are currently powered from overhead wires.

Wrightspeed’s Route 500 powertrain features two electric motors and the company’s 80 kW, fuel-agnostic Fulcrum Turbine Generator, which charges a 40 kWh onboard battery pack. The buses can be charged at 19 kW, using a standard J1772 charging plug – a strong selling point versus all-electric buses, which require larger battery packs and/or expensive charging stations capable of much higher charging levels. The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive, which digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, can handle grades of up to 40%.

Wrightspeed turbine-based powertrain 2

“Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to future-proof our transit assets,” said Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus. “The technology enables us to reimagine our trolley buses, rather than decommissioning them.”

New Zealand seems like a perfect fit for electrified buses – fossil fuel prices are among the highest in the world, and nearly 75 percent of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources. “There’s support at the government level, at the company level, and a lot of support from the public as well,” Ian Wright told Charged. “They have hilly cities where you need performance from the powertrain, and it’s a good place to do business, so I think everyone’s happy.”


SEE ALSO: Wrightspeed is hiring at Charged Jobs
Turbine EngineerMechanical Engineer – Drivetrain Engineer


Source: Wrightspeed

  • Gyrogordini

    Excellent initiative from the kiwis – Go Wellington! Any ideas about what type of fuels they might contemplate? Presumably doesn’t have to be fossil – perhaps some sort of biofuel?

  • BJChippindale

    Wellington will almost certainly be wanting to use natural gas. NZ still has its own gas wells locally for that and has no major biofuel infrastructure suitable for fueling the buses. The desire to capture the CH4 emissions from the Agriculture sector is large, but that problem is intractable. The local Greens signed on for it, and given that the alternative was full diesel this is a win.


    The terrain in Wellington favours this design, as there is darned little “flat” here.

    • Deborah Marie Flower Power

      Yeah…. We really need to be getting away from fossil fuels….ASAP….

  • Floyd Rudolph

    Good on you Ian. Thanks mate. I have been using my electric Longboard ( since Aug 2015) with my dial a driver biz to ride between jobs and make 100% profit. Great to see real electric vehicles getting validated.


  • Electric Bill

    Anyone familiar with the wildly unconventional Wrightspeed X from a decade ago, knows Ian Wright’s obsession with weight, performance and electrification. I have a converted Chevy pickup EV which serves most purposes, but would be impractical for interstate travel. I do wish Mr. Wright could cobble up a microturbine that could be used to avoid long stops to charge up on Interstates, something small and light enough for EV conversions such as mine, for such rare instances.