Biggest and best Busworld

The biennial Busworld exhibition held in Kortrijk, Belgium, in October included 411 exhibitors spread over 10 halls, and featured nearly 50 vehicle manufacturers.

The record attendance of just under 35,000 visitors from more than 100 countries equalled nearly half the population of Kortrijk.

The new Van Hool EX, built in Macedonia.
The new Van Hool EX, built in Macedonia.

New innovations
Irizar — The Spanish OEM launched its i8, a top-of-the-range coach to replace its long running PB, one of the outstanding coach designs of this century.
Less than 10 years ago Irizar was a traditional builder of coachwork on a wide variety of chassis in its native Spain and in its factories in Brazil, Mexico and Morocco. The company was aware that some of its chassis partners were more interested in promoting complete integral products and therefore took the brave decision to design and develop its own integral range.
The first product was the i6, built to a lower overall height than the i8, but still a very attractive and well-equipped coach with a DAF (Paccar) engine. The company gradually introduced the i6 into select European markets to minimize friction with the chassis manufacturers, especially in the important Spanish market where Irizar held more than 40-percent market share.
According to Gotzon Gomes, export sales director, Irizar will launch an i6 model tailored to North American   markets at UMA Motorcoach EXPO in January.
The standard European design has been extensively modified to meet the requirements, which includes an 8-foot, 6-inch overall width, a full flat interior floor, a floor level washroom, and an all-American drivetrain.

TEMSA sprang a surprise with the new Maraton high deck coach.
TEMSA sprang a surprise with the new Maraton high deck coach.

Van Hool — Filip Van Hool, CEO of the family-owned Belgium coachbuilder, proudly introduced the EX coach range, built in its facility in Macedonia, where it has already built more than 600 CX models for North America, while  producing its TX models in Belgium. Van Hool claims leadership in the U.S. coach market, including further deliveries of TDX25 Astromega double-decker coaches.

Volvo — At Volvo’s busy booth, the emphasis was on the latest all-electric full low-floor city bus that relies on overhead gantries at each end of the route for regular fast charging.
Different than the previous prototype, this 40-feet model with three double width doors will go into volume production in 2017.
Another new product from Volvo is the Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) system, which uses an electrically operated motor mounted on the steering column and works in conjunction with the hydraulic power steering. Those who test drove the system said it substantially improved directional stability and made the coach very easy to steer at low speeds.

Temsa — The Turkish caochbuilder offers an extensive range of medium and full size coaches in Europe. One new model is the MD7, a 25-foot, 4-inch, 33-seat midicoach. At the other end of the range, the Maraton is a high floor model nearly 13 feet in height and powered by a DAF (Paccar) engine.

More double deck coaches
Following deregulation of the large French and German markets, there is a growing market in Europe for double deck coaches for express services.
Van Hool says it will build more than 270 double deck coaches this year and Setra is not far behind. Neoplan launched the latest version of the Skyliner, now built in its large factory in Ankara, Turkey.
Attractively styled with its massive one-piece windshield, the Volvo VDL Futura FDD is a totally new double deck model built to an overall length of just over 46 feet. The interior is light and airy, with ample headroom on both decks and clever use of every available space for luggage.

The world premiere of the gas-fueled Mercedes-Benz Citaro.
The world premiere of the gas-fueled Mercedes-Benz Citaro.

Karsan — The innovative Turkish manufacturer showed small and medium sized vehicles, and says it would like to enter the US market with its 19-foot Jest.
This neat minibus features a front-wheel drive Fiat power train pack with much of the floor only one step above the ground. Karsan sees an opportunity for paratransit and community type services for the Jest because it can easily carry passengers in wheelchairs and other people with disabilities; and small enough to negotiate residential areas and narrow streets.

BYD — Its prominent stand included the first all-electric double deck bus, shown in traditional red for one of the London contractors. All the batteries are stored at the rear of the lower deck, giving a range of around 150 miles on normal daily service.
The bus is rather heavy at 13.7 tons unladen, but the European Union has said it will increase maximum permitted gross weights for buses and coaches to 19.5 tons on two axles. The other BYD exhibit was an attractively styled 60-foot low floor articulated bus.
Busworld Kortrijk coincided with a state visit by President Xi Jinping of China to the United Kingdom. During that visit, BYD and Alexander Dennis signed an agreement to build up to 200 BYD all-electric chassis with Alexander bodywork per annum for ten years, principally for the UK market. This contract was valued at around $1 billion, but there was the potential to extend it to double deck buses, taking the value to around $3 billion.

The growing interest in all-electric buses — This is likely to accelerate when the World Climate Change Conference convenes in Paris in November. Several other all-electric buses were in the exhibition, including Chinese and European models.
Scania and Man — There was some interesting speculation during Busworld concerning Scania and MAN, both members of the Volkswagen Truck and Bus Group. Following the admission by Volkswagen that it fitted defeat devices on around 12 million cars, there will not only be heavy rectification costs, but almost certainly substantial penalties and probably class actions from owners who feel that their vehicles have been devalued.
That in turn led to speculation that if Volkswagen needs to raise more funds in a hurry it might be forced to divest either the Porsche luxury car division, or Scania, whose previous Swedish investors have already expressed interest in buying back the company if it became available.
Both companies showed new interurban models with the main floor about 2-feet, 9-inches above ground. Scania offered the Interlink, fuelled by compressed natural gas, while MAN introduced its Intercity.

Iveco Bus — CNH Industrial, won the coveted International Coach of the Year 2016 trophy with its Iveco Magelys after extensive trials of six competing vehicles by leading trade journalists from 22 European countries.
While not the most expensive vehicle, the Iveco Magelys impressed the judges with its overall comfort and potential for a long operating life, as the total Cost of Ownership is a very popular measurement of buses and coaches
over here.
The coach has a number of attractive features, including glass panelling let into each side of the roof, giving increased visibility, especially for passengers sitting adjacent to the gangway. It also has a wheelchair lift that enabled the passenger to ride in a space normally occupied by a table.

Mercedes-Benz — As usual at Busworld, a wide variety of small buses and coaches were on exhibit, many converted from popular Mercedes-Benz and Iveco panel vans. One of the most interesting was a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter by Altas Commercial Transport of Lithuania who to an intelligent plug-in hybrid vehicle with much of the floor only one step above ground.

King Long — The Chinese company showed a very advanced low floor bus with plug-in hybrid electric drive that could operate in series or parallel drive or in full electric mode, depending on the operating conditions. King Long said that the system was in use in around 3,000 buses in China.
There is some demand, mainly political, for city buses fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). Mercedes-Benz reckons the Western European market is around 1,000 units per annum. The company’s previous CNG engine was a heavy old 12-liter unit, but Busworld staged the launch of a new lighter 7.7-liter gas engine in the Citaro NGT city bus. The new engine, combined with new lightweight gas tanks at roof level means that the increase in weight is less than half a ton compared with the equivalent diesel model.
Compared with the exhibition of two years ago, this Busworld Kortrijk brought a feeling of greater optimism in the industry, which the greater number of visitors and exhibitors reflected.

Doug Jack is with Transport Resources in the United Kingdom.