KUCHING: The hydrogen buses in Kuching have not been grounded often as alleged by DAP assemblywoman Violet Yong as they have been operating as planned and serviced in a timely manner this year.
Sarawak Transport Minister Datuk Seri Lee Kim Shin said the only major inspection and maintenance by the engineering team from Feichi, China was carried out in August for 13 days based on their contractual obligation.
Out of 300 days this year (January – October 2022), he said, the hydrogen buses were brought for inspection and maintenance by local technicians for only 16 days which amounts to 5.3 per cent.
He said the number of technical issues faced are considered typical for any similar sized buses in the market, whether they are battery-electric powered buses or powered by diesel engines.
“Our technical team, assisted by the manufacturer’s team of engineers and technicians have addressed the issues which are standard in nature. Sarawak Metro has established its local human capital and local technicians to specialise in repairs and maintenance of the hydrogen buses.
“Therefore, there is no question that Sarawak does not have any capable technicians who specialise in hydrogen technology to carry out major maintenance works.
“It is irrelevant for Sarawak Metro to fly in the technician from the bus manufacturer in China whenever there is a problem,” he said when delivering his winding–up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here on Tuesday.
The Sarawak government, he said, through Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) had launched the trial run for three hydrogen buses in Kuching to prepare the bus as the future public bus including as feeder buses for the ART system in 2020.
However, he said, the total number of hydrogen buses required to complement the service of ART can only be finalised when operational plans are firmed up.
“It is definitely not 100 buses,” he stressed, adding that it (the number) would be based on ART development phases.
On the price of the hydrogen buses, Lee said, the existing three units in Kuching cost less than RM1.5 million each and definitely not RM4 million to RM5 million as alleged.
He said the price of hydrogen buses is subject to the technical specifications, model and quantity.
Although diesel buses are relatively cheaper to maintain, fossil fuel is getting scarce and the world is moving towards green mobility.
“I must stress that zero-emission vehicles are the future mode of transport, not only in Sarawak but all over the world and they are an important part of the global efforts to combat climate change.
“By choosing hydrogen-powered vehicles, Sarawak is moving forward in line with the global move for green transport. Hence, the hydrogen buses are vital for us to prepare for a more modern and environmentally friendly mode of transport, also in line with Sarawak government’s effort to subscribe to the Paris Agreement on climate change,” he added.
Since the launching of the trial operations in January 2020, the hydrogen buses in Kuching recorded a total ridership of 25,564 passengers from September 2020 to October 2022.