All kinds of drive systems at UITP
The International Union of Public Transport (UITP) held its biennial Congress and Exhibition in the northern Italian city of Milan, June 8-10. Although Rome is the capital, Milan is the country’s financial and industrial powerhouse.
The exhibition was spread over two large halls. The lower one was occupied by bus manufacturers and their component suppliers. The upper hall was for rail manufacturers because UITP members include cities running tramway and metro systems.
Although UITP started out in 1885 as a European organization, it has in recent years become much more global. It attracts top executives from the world’s largest transport systems as well as many politicians and legislators, the people who should be planning the provision of public transport at least 10 to 15 years ahead. UITP has its own ambitious PTx2 program to double the use of public transport by 2025.
It means that UITP exhibitions are always more about quality of visitors, rather than quantity. Various congress sessions are run in parallel, so, at times, the exhibition halls are relatively quiet, but that gives the opportunity for useful discussions with exhibitors. Entry prices to the exhibition for visitors were spectacularly high, and that certainly kept numbers down.
In the lower hall, all the bus exhibits were situated side by side, facing a wide central aisle. On the opposite side of that aisle there were the booths of well known suppliers like Allison, Cummins, Voith and ZF which, incidentally, celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
In the exhibition, the manufacturers were certainly not singing from the same sheet. Between them, they were offering the latest Euro 6 diesel engines, hybrid, compressed natural gas, biogas and all-electric. The major European manufacturers and independent engine builders like Cummins have all spent a fortune developing and meeting the latest Euro 6 emission standards. While the majority of them will be sold in trucks, bus manufacturers also need to recover their share of the costs.
Mercedes-Benz showed the CapaCity L articulated bus, built to an overall length of just less than 69 feet. This is longer than the standard European limit of 61 feet, 6 inches, and therefore needs special dispensation to operate. However, the vehicle has a fourth axle that steers, enabling a turning circle as good as the standard articulated model. It has capacity for 191 passengers, nearly as many as on a bi-articulated bus, but without the complication of two turntables.
Two years ago, Iveco Bus launched its Urbanway range, starting with diesel and hybrid, the latter using BAE Systems. In Milan, the range was completed by the option of a compressed natural gas (CNG) engine. Iveco has supplied more than 5,000 buses with CNG engines in Europe over the last twenty years and seems comfortable and confident with the technology.
VDL Bus, with its headquarters in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, showed the first of eight articulated all-electric buses that will enter service in the coming months in Cologne, Germany. This vehicle had a modified front assembly, with a large one-piece windshield sloping backwards towards the roofline, looking more like a tram than a bus. These vehicles will take a full charge in a depot overnight and then a fast charge (using a roof-mounted pantograph system) at each end of the route during service. This enables the bus to have fewer batteries and lower weight. The whole vehicle was very well packaged and passenger friendly.
Volvo had a strong presence in Milan. The company can offer hybrid, electric hybrid and now full-electric city buses. The electric hybrid uses overhead charging at each end of the route to top up the batteries, therefore the small diesel engine probably only runs for 30 percent of the time. The all-electric model requires more batteries and the same overhead charging facilities.
Van Hool displayed a front section of its Exqui.City Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicle, with a number of new features. The main side windows were considerably deeper than previous production models, letting more light into the vehicle and making it more attractive to passengers.
Jan Van Hool, design and development director, said that the factory in Macedonia was now fully operational and that more than 600 CX coaches had been built for U.S. customers. It was now gearing up to supply similar but more competitively priced coaches to European markets.
The main factory in Belgium was fully occupied with high-specification coaches, including many for the expanding networks of intercity express services in Western Europe. One week after UITP in Milan, megabus.com started an Italian network with 23 double-decker Van Hool coaches.
On the Solaris stand, I met someone who will be well known to many BUSRide readers. Dr. Andy Strecker took up the position of chief executive on April 1. He had spent the last four years in another industry but is delighted to be back with buses.
Solaris built a record 1,380 units last year, but they included articulated, gas, all-electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as trolleybuses. There is considerably more work in most of those vehicles than in standard 40-foot transit buses. Therefore, Solaris is currently extending the factory near Poznan, Poland, to provide more production capacity and offices. Looking ahead, development projects include an 80-foot bi-articulated version of the new Urbino city bus.
Turkish manufacturers were well represented in the exhibition. Temsa introduced an all-electric midibus, called the ElectroCITY. It was alongside a full low-floor transit bus with a CNG engine. Gas is an increasingly popular option in Turkey.
Bozankaya is a company with factories in Turkey and Germany. It builds structures for all-electric city buses in Ankara then ships them to Salzgitter in Germany for fitment of all the electrical equipment and drivetrain. Their vehicle was a 60-foot low-floor articulated all-electric bus that was evidently completed just a week before the exhibition!
Irizar is best known as a major builder of luxury coaches and that came through in the styling and finishing of their i2e all-electric bus. This 40-foot model had a full low-floor layout and carried sufficient batteries to give around 150-mile range on a full charge. The first three i2e buses are in service in two Spanish cities, while others are being demonstrated in France and Spain. Two will reach London by the time you read this article.
Irizar is confident about the future of all-electric city buses and plans to build a separate factory for that range, near to its main factory in the North of Spain. A number of other group companies are involved in the project and that should give Irizar a competitive advantage.
BYD had a standard 40-foot bus in the exhibition. The battery packs were two thirds of the size of the previous generation, but still offered the same daily range of around 160 miles. There is no doubt that the Chinese have invested very heavily in battery technology. That is bound to continue, giving more range and/or lower weight.
Indeed, BYD argued strongly against fast charging during the course of the day, saying that buses can be held up in city traffic and fast charging at each end of the route could delay their schedules. BYD also said that it will launch an all-electric double-decker bus at Busworld Kortrijk this coming October.
You can always find a Cummins stand, with its beautifully show-prepared bright red engines. Both diesel and gas models were on display. The company said that it was working on stop-and-go technology to improve fuel consumption. Customers thought that stop-and-go was simple because they were used to it in cars. There were many more challenges in city buses, but Cummins expects to unveil this option later in the year.
In many parts of Europe there has been a revolution in payment for transit bus travel, although there are still too many places where time is taken up by passengers paying individual fares to drivers.
UITP gave a Global Public Transport Award for Operational and Technical Excellence to Transport for London (TfL), Barclaycard and Cubic for their joint project, “Acceptance of Contactless Payment Cards for Pay as you Go Travel on London’s public transport network”.
UITP said that the award was “recognition for their contribution to the deployment of contactless payment cards in London, contributing to more efficient operations, increased customer satisfaction and decreased costs related to revenue collection. The negotiation of the transit transaction model and the ability of the system to support the local transport smart card, the national transport smart card and contactless payment cards are among the most remarkable achievements”.
It is all the more remarkable when one considers that there are more than 8,000 buses contracted to TfL, but none owned by the authority. The cards also work on the extensive underground (metro) network.
In two years the UITP Congress and Exhibition will be held in Montreal. The city had an attractive booth, tempting visitors with fresh pancakes and maple syrup. The Canadian city is bound to be a popular venue for delegates, but UITP will have to work hard to persuade European exhibitors to incur the additional costs of crossing the Atlantic.
Doug Jack is with Transport Resources in the United Kingdom.