UITP undertakes EBFS_2
During the Congress and Exhibition in Milan in June, UITP launched EBSF_2 — the second phase of European Bus System of the Future, largely funded by the European Union, which UITP will manage. This follows the original project which ran from 2008 to 2012.
The purpose of this project has been to consider the design and development of buses not as an isolated venture, but as part of an urban transport system. The project looked at vehicle design, passenger flow on and off vehicles (including optimum accessibility), passenger information systems, driver workplaces and comfort, diagnostics to monitor vehicle performance, as well as the coordination of services with other transport modes.
At the original launch, some artist’s very futuristic impressions of buses showed large amounts of glass and minimal seating, but at least they stimulated thought.
Several manufacturers participated in that project. Some refined their standard products, but the most outstanding was an articulated bus developed by Volvo with the driver’s compartment mounted centrally over the front axle.
While it resulted in a long wheelbase in the front section, it increased the area of a flat floor one step above the ground. Four double-width doors facilitated rapid entry and exit.
Although this model did not enter volume production, some of the ideas carried forward to subsequent Volvo buses.
A total of 42 organizations will take part in the EBSF_2 project. They include bus OEMs Irizar, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo as well as with 10 suppliers of systems/services and research entities, along with public transport authorities in Gothenburg, Lyon, London and Madrid. There are also public transport operators, trade associations and other partners described as knowledge providers.
In the broadest terms, EBSF_2 is looking to establish advanced solutions for improved efficiency and attractiveness of bus systems. The project has identified six key areas for innovation and has set ambitious targets for their achievement.
1. Strategy and auxiliaries: The first area covers energy. The target is to achieve a 10-percent reduction in energy consumption by auxiliary systems such as HVAC by improving air circulation and door sealing. Passenger doors pose a potential conflict. On the one hand, they must be safe and fully controlled. On the other, ease of access is important in reducing dwell time at stops.
In Europe, the variety of doors systems from a number of specialist suppliers is bewildering, with doors operated both by air and electrically; opening inward and outward, single leaf and twin leaf.
2. Green Driver Assistance: There are already systems on the market in which a series of lights in the driver’s compartment note if the bus is being driven economically or harshly.
Bus fleets can monitor individual drivers and help them to improve their efficiency. In some fleets, the drivers with the best results are given cash incentives. Stagecoach, the largest bus group in the United Kingdom, reckons that these systems can save 3 to 4 percent on fuel consumption.
EBSF_2 wants to see systems utilizing different propulsion technologies, such as diesel, hybrid and all-electric, with a target of 5-8 percent reduction in energy and fuel.
3. IT standards: The target is to raise IT standards and make systems on board vehicles and back-office support compatible with other public transport systems in the same city or region. The aim is to achieve faster, easier and more cost-effective public transport. The speed in delivering commercial services is, of course, subject to other factors such as traffic density, for which the biggest improvements come from dedicated bus lanes and other priority measures.
4. Vehicle design: The overall design principally considers capacity, accessibility and modularity. At the launch, UITP showed a picture of an ingenious design by Iveco Bus with forward-facing twin seats for use in quieter off-peak periods, where one-half of the seat could slide under the other half, leaving single seats against the side-wall and creating a much wider gangway for standing passengers during peak periods.
In terms of capacity, early designs of electric vehicles suggested too much battery intrusion in the passenger area.
Studies on accessibility will concentrate on passenger flow and dwell time at bus stops. Multiple doors reduce dwell times, but at the risk of fare evasion. However, clever ticketing and payment systems can minimize that problem, and need to be considered in the overall project.
5. Intelligent garage and predictive maintenance: With the goal of a 10-percent reduction in garage and maintenance costs, EBSF_2 will study optimized maintenance processes and algorithms, changing from scheduled preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
All the main European manufacturers have very thorough maintenance guidelines for their backed software which can constantly monitor the performance of a bus for interrogation remotely by engineers in a depot. The OEMs can offer contract maintenance carried out on the customer’s premises or at authorized dealerships.
It will be interesting to see how EBSF_2 tackles the maintenance aspects of this project, as all the OEMs promote their recommended maintenance systems very strongly, often as unique selling points, closely tied in with the vehicle warranty and the use of recommended oils and maintenance intervals.
The project also wants to study optimization of garage costs, including automation of parking procedures. This will be an interesting challenge in the duty cycle of a bus returning to its garage, getting washed, refueled for the following day and then parked.
In the United Kingdom, most garages tend to have a mix of different sizes of vehicles, from midibuses to double-deckers. EBSF_2 will specifically include electric buses. Garages will need overnight recharging facilities. The concern is fast-charging facilities at the end of each route must be compatible with the different makes of electric buses.
We are already seeing different systems on fast-charging buses, from inductive to conductive. When Volvo first introduced fast charging, a pantograph mounted on the roof of the bus rose to make contact with the overhead charging gantry. In the latest version, the pantograph is part of the overhead gantry and comes down to make contact with the roof of the bus. This saves weight on each bus and also reduces the required number of pantographs.
Other manufacturers prefer a charging system beneath the bus that can also recharge other electric vehicles, such as municipal and local delivery trucks.
6. Bus and urban interface: The last area for study in the EBSF_2 project is the interface between bus and the urban infrastructure, what UITP describes as the interplay between buses and bus stops with specific attention to safety and passenger flow. Electric vehicles require a new configuration of bus stops. The project will also look at a new generation of bus terminals.
In Western Europe, the internet is making fundamental changes to shopping habits. Many people purchase goods online for home delivery by vans. As a result, fewer people are visiting traditional urban shopping centres.
This is creating an urgent need to regenerate traditional urban centers. Solutions include the abolition of parking charges.
Hopefully EBSF_2 will look at measures to improve the travel experience by bus, including shelters for waiting passengers and high-quality route information. In too many cities, the residents understand and know how to use their transport network, but the systems throw up barriers to visitors and tourists.
Twelve EBSF_2 demonstration projects will take place in seven European countries, involving more than 500 buses with diesel, hybrid and electric power. Hopefully, EBSF_2 will produce guidelines that will be of benefit to the entire industry, including fleets, drivers, passengers and the cities that they serve.
Doug Jack is with Transport Resources in the United Kingdom.