Xcelsior gives a spirited ride

New Flyer looks to 2010 and beyond

By David Hubbard

Xcelsior is more than a name at New Flyer. The company believes the tag encapsulates its spirit of continuous improvement, seeing this new 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid vehicle as the next step in the customer-centric evolution of transit buses.

New Flyer, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, launched Xcelsior in October 2008 at the APTA Expo in San Diego, CA.

Even with its many product improvements over standard New Flyer bus designs, Xcelsior weighs in 10 percent lighter, which the Department of Energy estimates could deliver seven percent improvement in fuel economy.

Developed during John Marinucci’s watch, the now retired president and CEO says it was never the intent to build an all-new transit bus, but rather to allow Xcelsior to demonstrate only the most significant improvements to existing models. According to team members who worked on the project, their leader at the time raised the bar significantly to bring about the new look.

“The Xcelsior incorporates the reliability and quality of our proven low-floor platform, but many more innovative features,” says Amy Miller, director of marketing. “We recognized that customer preferences change over time, and through a comprehensive market analysis, we identified new opportunities to deliver maximum benefits at lower projected life cycle costs.”

The advanced vehicle design and upgraded styling incorporates a redesigned bumper and LED headlamps. A single-reduction axle, all-wheel disc brakes and improved access to components address maintenance concerns. The rooftop AC and improved insulation will reduce the noise level. Larger windows with narrower pier panels improve the view for passengers.

“Xcelsior is the result of listening to our customers and our people,” says Miller. “We expect this product to address the concerns and surpass expectations of transit properties throughout North America.”

First order

New Flyer recently received its first order for the Xcelsior. Brampton Transit, Brampton, ON, Canada, opted for 25 with options for up to another 40 units over three years. The agency currently runs 76 New Flyer buses out of a fleet of 210 assorted vehicles.

The City of Brampton says it selected the New Flyer Xcelsior through the customary RFP process, determining it to be the bus for the job ahead. The agency will operate the Xcelsior primarily as a BRT commuter express vehicle.

“The greatest challenge with the Xcelsior design was to decrease gross vehicle weight,” says New Flyer director of new product development, Glen Naylor. “The disc brake axles helped.

After that we brainstormed improvements for every area on the bus. Some we passed down to our suppliers who we included in the process.”

Naylor says further major innovations include an increase in seating capacity from 39 to 42 with more forward-facing seats, larger windows, increased headroom on the rear deck and skylight roof hatches. Since many customers prefer forward-facing seats, especially for commuter or express service, engineers relocated the fuel tank under the rear deck and adapted the rear suspension to make room.

“We refined the interior styling by eliminating visible fasteners and going with more molded surfaces to add character,” says Naylor. “A wider door and entry area with a lower front step and reduced ramp angle improves accessibility, especially for wheelchair access.”

Beyond curb appeal, Naylor says the redesigned front mask, bumper and roofline improves aerodynamics. The vehicle meets bumper impact requirements, and the narrower A posts in the windshield improve visibility for the driver.

Drivers are reporting improved visibility with the LED headlights, which Naylor says are another first for New Flyer and the Xcelsior.

“LED headlights last about 25 times longer than regular low-beam bulbs,” he says. “The headlights have a six-year warranty, but they are designed to last the life of the vehicle.”

New Flyer has always incorporated a slide-out battery tray. In the Xcelsior the batteries are moved forward away from of the heat of the engine compartment, which the manufacturer believes will increase battery life.

The improved driver area features a recessed overhead control panel and a contemporary dash design that New Flyer says is the only automotive-style electronic instrument panel in the transit bus industry.

With power from the Cummins ISL 280 and Allison B400 or Allison EP-40 hybrid drive, the Xcelsior is developed expressly as the next generation to meet 2010 EPA mandates.

Compliance in meeting the new NOx levels also requires a larger cooling system and, in this case, the addition of an SCR system complete with urea tanks and delivery hoses. Naylor says while there is no weight increase of the engine, the addition of the SCR and larger cooling system accounts for around 300 pounds and requires more space at the rear of the bus.

New stylized corner pillars flip open to permit easier access for maintenance.

“To accommodate these adaptations we moved the AC system from the rear of the bus to a roof mount location over the front axle,” he says. “This change not only creates the needed space, it also improves the weight balance.”

The AC system is a Thermo King RLF1-M1. According to Naylor, moving the AC forward also contributed to the vehicle running quieter. The integrated roofline with less-visible drip rails conceals any of the roof-mount components.

Miller says development of Xcelsior was a true integrated effort across the company.

“It was critical for New Flyer to manufacture an upgraded product that addressed customer needs and maintain the highest of manufacturing standards,” says Miller. “We needed to control costs and ensure that New Flyer’s legendary product quality was not compromised. To do this, senior management representing all impacted parties came to the table. New Product Development was the voice of innovation; Sales and Marketing, the voice of the customer; and Engineering, Supply Management and Manufacturing, the voice of reason. It is our version of a three-legged stool.” BR