The Science Behind Bus Seating

We have the answers today to the mobility questions of tomorrow – and we are doing all that we can to ensure that this remains the case in the future.

One important aspect of tomorrow’s mobility is sustainability. We meet our constantly growing commitment to our environment today with our modular recyclable construction systems. In all the divisions of the company, we are also continuously working toward even more resource-conserving and environmentally friendly operations.

We want to preserve and extend all this – for we are certain that this is how we can best position ourselves to deal with future challenges.

In seating, quality manifests itself in a number of details. Our passenger seats satisfy all the standards of environmental protection, fire safety and German and international road traffic laws as a matter of course. But they also go far beyond these legal requirements: thus, we increase passenger safety through innovative frame and material concepts which significantly reduce injuries in the event of an accident. We achieve this with seats which are as stable as possible and securely anchored in the vehicle, but are, at the same time, so soft that they absorb the dynamic energy of the person in the seat behind in the event of an accident.

We take environmental protection into account not only with the lightness of the seats, but also with their modular construction. This makes them easy to repair, and broken down into their basic elements, 100 percent recyclable. 

We are also committed to developing and using innovative, environmentally friendly materials, and wherever possible, producing them in line with environmentally friendly procedures. This also includes using materials as efficiently as possible and handling energy and natural resources economically overall. Thus, we heat our production hall in Nordlingen, for example, with renewable energy such as district heating and biogas. Our environmental management system is certified according to ISO 14001.

The development of new seats and seating systems at Kiel is characterized by extensive specialist knowledge and many years of experience, as well as by fresh ideas and, whenever possible, the aspiration to satisfy customers’ requirements.

At the start of the development process, we undertake intensive design and ergonomy studies and initially let the new design take shape on a virtual level. Using the latest software, we create an animated image of the product in a realistic environment even at this early stage. This “digital mock-up” is an essential element of the entire development process. After the production of a volume or surface model in the CAD program, we carry out a so-called Finite Element Method (FEM) analysis, which will provide precise information about a component’s stability before it is constructed, as well as information about potential weaknesses, if applicable. This step also plays an important role in the optimization of the weight of the respective component. Our goal is to reduce the weight as far as possible, without compromising the quality, through the use of modern materials, such as lightweight structures made of steel or special plastics.

In the final stage, the seat must prove itself as a model or prototype in various stress, fire protection, and crash tests, as well as in trial installation, before it finally goes into production.

Quality design takes time

We live in an age in which people are becoming increasingly mobile due to mega trends such as globalization, urbanization, and individualization. For us, as a manufacturer of seats for buses and trains, this is a challenge that we are only too happy to accept: because it is our mission to make every single journey as safe and comfortable as possible for the passengers – regardless of whether it lasts just a few minutes in the city tram or underground or several hours cross-country in a long-distance coach. But it is not only the travelers who have specific requirements for our seats: our customers, the manufacturers of railway vehicles and buses, expect us to produce seats that are increasingly economical, robust, and light and cover all eventualities, from basic to luxury features, depending on the intended purpose.

The requirements placed on passenger seats today are completely different from those of several years ago. It is necessary to reconcile safety, comfort, and functionality for the passenger, on the one hand, and quality, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency for the vehicle manufacturer and transport operators, on the other hand.

In addition, not all seats are the same. Seating systems at intercity transport have to satisfy completely different requirements to those in local public transport. Seats for short journeys need robust and durable materials; due to the short stay of the passengers, comfort is a lower priority. In intercity transport, however, the focus is on comfort. Here, back and seat cushion angle adjustment, for example, and additional amenities such as pull-out tables or USB connections for individual mobile devices are of great significance; however, they increase the overall weight of the seats.

In both the bus and train seats segments, low weight is important in achieving the greatest possible energy efficiency and the lowest power consumption.

Design aspects and the feel of the materials are also gaining in significance. We satisfy this requirement with the dynamic, modern lines of the seats, an attractive color scheme, and high-quality materials. All of this helps to determine whether a passenger feels comfortable on their journey – whether it lasts a couple of minutes or several hours.

And that is our daily goal.

Nicholas Gwynne is general manager of Kiel Americas. As part of Kiel Group, Kiel Americas has been providing seating solutions for the North American mass transportation industry since 2009. Kiel Americas employs ca. 150 employees, and has full R&D and manufacturing capabilities at its facility located in Bellwood, Illinois. Visit for more information.