From humble beginnings to an international success story, our history revolves around John Turton, who possessed the foresight to recognize untapped opportunities in problem solving, had the skill to produce solutions to them, and determination to see his idea through to fruition.
In September 1985, the company was founded by John Turton along with friend, Lester Hobbs, in a small shed on Alford Forest Road in Ashburton, with a focus on coaches and specialized vehicles. Starting out with just four employees our first coach rolled out the door of our factory in April 1986.
Early Growth and Social Commitment
After the bus industry being greatly affected by changes to the New Zealand economy in the mid to late 1980s, we were the only bus manufacturer in operation. During this time, we translated our strong sense of commitment to the Ashburton community into our business practice.
We outsourced construction labour into the community and upskilled local staff through in-house training and apprenticeship programs. By closely mentoring company staff, we were able to achieve overall company success.
The Hybrid Electric Bus Is Born
Our vision, to be at least five years ahead in design and innovation from other bus builders, drove us to believe that electric buses will be the way of the future.
To ensure we were part of this future we manufactured the first successful hybrid electric bus, in 1997 as a response to the international tender for ecological buses to be used in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The ‘Olymbus’ was deployed in NZ fleets later in the year and became the basis for the development of the hybrid electric bus.
On the international stage, the hybrid electric innovation did not go unnoticed, and the potential for further development of this bus was so significant that they were exported to Hong Kong, Japan, England, Australia, UAE and USA. Over the years we earned a reputation as an international expert on the development of electric buses.
Driving Towards a Green Revolution
Over the next years we committed to push boundaries in creating the most environmentally friendly and high performing hybrid electric bus.
- In 2000, we presented a hybrid electric buses that featured an internally developed drive system and used capstone micro turbines as the auxiliary power unit.
- In 2003, we introduced MKII design with higher voltages, proprietary battery management and further refinements to the drive system. The electronics were re packaged to all for a full size 28 seat bus configuration. This new design was added to fleets in Japan, Hong Kong, UK and NZ.
- In 2006, we developed a higher performance twin drive motor arrangements and redesign Vehicle Management system. We added the options of a hydrogen combustion engines, Diesel genset as well as the capstone micro turbine. We also added the option of ultra-capacitors to further improved the drive efficiency and extend the battery life.
- In 2009, we produced next generation comprehensive systems for the US market, implemented Lithium Ion batteries, advanced battery management, twin drive technology and the most advanced vehicle management system.
Going All-Electric with Zero Emissions
The considerable success we achieved in reducing carbon emissions from the public transport sector and the subsequent appreciation we received by the wider green community fueled our resolve to create fully electric buses that produced zero emissions.
- In 2008, we manufactured the all-electric Generation 1 ‘Tindo’ bus for Adelaide City Council, featuring the ultra-safe, environmentally friendly Sodium-Nickel Chloride battery technology. This bus could perform a full day’s work on a single charge. The electricity to charge the bus was generated using solar panels so the bus was 100% zero emissions.
- In 2010, the Generation 2 ‘MKII EV’ was developed for the Sir Bani Yas Island in the Middle East, and featured improved battery technology and a higher performance drive system.
- Later in 2010, the Generation 3 ‘Liberty Demonstration Bus’ was created for Abu Dhabi; a full-sized city bus with a max speed of 90kmph and a 2400Nm drive system.
- In 2015, we introduced the Generation 4 ‘EV 20x’ for Dubai; a full-sized city bus featuring permanent magnet drive system with a high speed, high torque and greater efficiency.
Innovations That Brought Change
Our innovations extended to benefit the disabled and senior citizens of our community. For the first time, we introduced the super low floor and the amalgamation of the body and chassis. This opened doors to the implementation of the accessibility of disabled passengers on public transport.
The Great Expansion
As the years passed by, our reputation grew, orders flowed in and staff numbers built. As the business grew the company moved to larger premises and, again, to even larger premises.
We moved our operation to a new 8450 m2 purpose built facility in 2009, at the IZone in Rolleston. Production accelerated where it took just 19 days to take a coach from a sheet of metal to roadworthy. Staff numbers continued to grow; moving to more than 150 with skilled employees brought in from overseas, many from China and Romania, who have now become New Zealand residents. Our production focus shifted onto city buses and we manufactured over 1200 of the city buses used in New Zealand.
Design for the future
With the worldwide focus on climate change and zero emissions, we are proud to still be at the forefront of our industry. In 2021 we designed and built New Zealand's first hydrogen fueled electric bus while in the midst of a pandemic. Our goal has always been to overcome challenges and design for the future.