KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s very first electric bus (eBusKK) service has started operations between Sepanggar and Menara Kinabalu in the city’s downtown area.

The public will enjoy free rides during the six-month pilot project.

Qhazanah Sabah Berhad (QSB), the state government’s strategic investment arm, has deployed a single 54-passenger bus, which cost RM1.2mil.

QSB Group chief executive officer Ahmad Rizal Dahli said the trial run would assess consumer behaviour and collect input from the public in their study on service feasibility and sustainability.

“We will use this data as part of our evaluation on how we will run it permanently, hopefully by next year,” he told reporters after the launching ceremony at the Sabah International Convention Centre here.

Community Development and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Shahelmey Yahya witnessed the flagging off of the bus yesterday.

Ahmad said QSB would also use the trial period to determine the appropriate fares to charge in the future.

Realistically, he said, they were looking at operating anywhere from five to 20 buses as a start next year, depending on the success of the pilot project.

Ahmad said the bus would ply through the key areas in the city before eventually going beyond the Sepanggar-Menara Kinabalu route, possibly to the neighbouring Penampang and Putatan districts.

For the initial period, he said the bus would run four days a week from 8am to 5pm, though the timing was subject to change.

He urged the public to check their social media accounts for updates.

“We are continuously engaging with the authorities, especially the Kota Kinabalu City Hall, so that this initiative will be more meaningful.

“This is just one component of a larger integrated system for the whole of Kota Kinabalu before we go further throughout Sabah.

“Our approach has to be structured as we do not want to work in isolation, but rather with all the relevant stakeholders so it will be an effective service,” Ahmad said.

Since last October, QSB had been working to ensure that technical preparations and safety measures were in place ahead of the pilot run.

These included mechanical-theory studies, reliability of products, vendor support, infrastructure and system efficiency to support existing public transportation services.

The eBusKK service is a collaborative effort between QSB and Gemilang Coachwork Sdn Bhd, one of Asia’s leading electric bus and aluminium bus body builders.

In a press release, QSB executive director Mohd Shukor Abdul Mumin said eBusKK was QSB’s response to being tasked to help address the city’s traffic congestion by incorporating an environmentally sustainable public transport service.“Through eBusKK, we are supporting the government’s drive to improve the city’s public transportation system while introducing the use of emission-free vehicles.

“This is also an effort to build awareness among the relevant stakeholders on the importance of having an integrated and robust transportation system,” he added.