By Doug Jack
It has become apparent for some years that Cummins is a growing force in the European bus and coach industry. This view was reinforced at Busworld Kortrijk in Belgium last October where a number of manufacturers were offering Cummins engines standard or as an option — for a number of reasons in addition to the capability to offer a wider range of engines than any other diesel OEM.
It must be 50 years since Cummins started selling bus engines in Europe, initially in the United Kingdom. I think even the company would admit those earliest engines were not ideally suited to European conditions. Nonetheless, Cummins stuck at it, learned its lessons and established good sales and service support.
They were helped along the way by the policies of the major European truck and bus builders, who were and largely still vertically integrated, building their own diesel engines. With one or two exceptions, Mercedes-Benz has typically not supplied diesel engines to smaller manufacturers that compete directly with its own products. Merecedes-Benz is willing to supply engines for vehicles not in its own range, such as midibuses, and more recently the new integral double-decker bus that Wrightbus intends to launch later this year.
MAN has always been in a conflict between those responsible for selling complete buses and coaches and the component sales division. The vehicle sales team often complained of lost orders for complete vehicles, because customers had elected to buy a competitive product with a MAN engine.
This came to a head a few months ago when MAN was preparing to launch its Euro 6 engines, which became mandatory for new vehicles January 1 this year (although there were some limited derogations for Euro 5 engines in the first few months).
The upshot was that MAN will no longer supply engines to Van Hool in Belgium or Solaris in Poland. While MAN might have hoped to sell complete vehicles, customers have remained loyal to Solaris and Van Hool, and in some cases specified Cummins engines in place of the MAN units.
Volvo has never supplied its engines to competitive bus and coach manufacturers in Europe. Scania had the same policy, though the smallest engine in its new CityWide range of city buses was a 9.0 liter unit. As it is larger than some customers require, Scania announced the option of the 6.7 liter Cummins ISB engine last October, saying the decision was logical because it already had a close working relationship with Cummins for extra high-pressure injection systems.
Iveco, Fiat Power Train and Case New Holland are all in the same group. A few years ago they formed the European Engine Alliance with Cummins to develop a new generation of 3.9 to 6.7 liter engines.
Most of the second tier European bus and coach builders have given up making their own engines due to high unit costs. Cummins can supply a very comprehensive range in terms of size and power from factories in Darlington in the United Kingdom; Jamestown, NY; and Rocky Mount, NC, and more recently from joint ventures in Beijing, China.
The latest level of Euro 6 emission standards applies in the European Union. The Turkish market is currently on Euro 5 and will move to Euro 6 in 2016. Turkish and Russian builders have customers in countries that still operate to previous Euro limits, partly because oil companies have been unable or unwilling to refine ultra-low sulfur diesel. Cummins can therefore supply most engines with emission standards from Euro 2 right through to Euro 6. They can also provide EPA certified engines for exports to North America.
I recently caught up with Ashley Watton, general manager, Cummins European Bus Business.
I asked him if there were any challenges in complying with both European and EPA emission standards.
“No, one actually helps the other,” he said. “The experience we gain in one market or region helps the development of products in other areas. For instance, we introduced SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology in Europe before using it in North America. It was the opposite for EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) and DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) technologies that were used first in North America.”
Cummins engines start with small units built in China and include a full range up to the ISL and ISX engines, some with CNG options. Alexander Dennis is the largest volume customer building around 2,000 buses per annum — all with Cummins engines. Customers also include Wrightbus and Optare in the United Kingdom. VDL in the Netherlands offers Cummins in its midibuses and as an option in full-size transit buses.
Scania recently started offering the option of the Cummins 6.7 liter engine. Solaris offers that unit and has also bought many Cummins CNG engines. The company has also built many hybrid buses, all powered by Cummins. Van Hool fits Cummins not just for the North American market, but also in some city buses for Europe.
Russian members of the GAZ Group, like the Likino, Pavlovo and Kurgan plants, also offer the option of Cummins, including CNG engines. Cummins diesel engines have also been offered by Neftekamsk, the bus building subsidiary of KamAZ.
In Turkey, Temsa, Isuzu and Otokar all offer Cummins as standard or optional, depending on the model and size. Buses and coaches imported to Europe from builders like Ankai, King Long and Yutong of China use Cummins engines to comply with our emissions regulations.
With so many vehicle builders taking its products, Cummins has to be sure that installations meet its requirements and do not run the risk of damaging its reputation. The company has a process called Installation Quality Assessment which ensures that all its application engineering requirements are achieved and approved prior to production launch. Its engineers work with counterparts in the various manufacturers to ensure that the complete system meets their mutual requirements. This is a major task, particularly with Euro 6 engines which require practically total encapsulation and heavy duty cooling systems.
As part of the collaboration with manufacturers, Cummins offers a range of certification programs coordinated by customer support managers at a dedicated training school in Daventry in the center of England.
Cummins has its main European parts distribution center in Rumst, Belgium, close to the pan-European highway network near Brussels airport. It serves a major network of service locations throughout Europe. Furthermore, Cummins offers dealer certification for manufacturer customers who can manage the local support where it is most suitable for customers.
Coming down to hard numbers, Cummins sells around 6,000 engines per annum to its European bus and coach customers. The 6.7 liter ISB engine has developed an excellent reputation in city bus applications. Alexander Dennis and Wrightbus used the four-cylinder ISB4.5 liter unit in their hybrid vehicles, including the New Routemaster in London. Alexander Dennis also uses the larger ISL engines in its high volume exports of double-decker buses to Hong Kong and North America.
It is a sobering thought that, without all the support from Cummins and its extensive range of engines, the smaller European manufacturers would have found it much harder to compete against the major players. Their main focus has to be on the much larger truck volumes, so buses and coaches can unfortunately play second fiddle. The smaller and leaner manufacturers can take faster decisions on product development, including building for niche segments that would not be of interest to the major manufacturers. That is why they and Cummins will continue to prosper in Europe.