Features & Interviews

Minibuses join the alternative fuels revolution

18 November 2021 #Features & Interviews

The minibus sector is beginning to see a series of ultra low- and zero-emission vehicles enter the marketplace, with a handful currently available to order and more promised on the way.

Just like other sectors, manufacturers and vehicle conversion specialists are also offering a range of different alternative technologies to help businesses meet their net zero goals.

Iveco recently launched a compressed natural gas (GNG) version of its Daily minibus with the first deliveries scheduled for early 2022.

According to the manufacturer, its engine complies with the new Euro 6-E regulations and delivers 136hp with 350Nm of torque available.

The vehicle includes a roof mounted CNG tank rack, with 460-litre CNG capacity offering a range of up to 510km.

The bus can use biomethane, which can be generated from the recovery of organic waste, and the gas engine also reduces noise output.

Iveco says running on biomethane can cut CO2 emissions by up to 95%.

The bus can seat up to 28 passengers and includes a double electric sliding door, with a manual wheelchair ramp as standard.

There are low-entry versions available in lengths from 7.1m to 8m, with several seating layouts to meet various operational requirements.

Stéphane Espinasse, Iveco Bus Brand Leader said: “The extension of our city range with the new Daily Access is an important step.

“It will consolidate the leadership of Iveco Bus as one of the key players in minibuses in Europe.

“It also reflects our brand’s ability to provide the widest sustainable city range including minibuses, midibuses, standard and articulated city buses, as well as dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) versions.”

County Antrim, Northern Ireland-based converter Nu-Track is marketing its own 16 to 30 seat version of the CNG Daily minibus as well as a minibus conversion for the new Fiat E Ducato.

Moving down the size range, Ford’s Tourneo MCA Titanium minibus is available with a mild-hybrid powertrain.

Featuring a 2.0-litre 130ps EcoBlue diesel engine compliant with Euro 6.2 emissions standards, the 48v hybrid system uses a separate lithium-Ion battery positioned under the front passenger seat to assist the engine and provide lower levels of C02 output – dropping it into a lower vehicle excise duty (VED) classification.

Also, Rochdale-based bus producer, Mellor is to launch a new range of single-deck battery-electric minibuses for 2022.

The new multi-variant range will include an extensive choice of lengths, widths, operating ranges, and gross vehicle weights.

Mellor recently introduced new full-electric Orion E23 and Maxima E23 vehicles, both with 23-passenger capacities, therefore falling within scope of the £120m Zero-Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) funding for the provision of up to 500 new British-built zero-emission buses.

The low-floor Orion E23, with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 5500 kgs, is designed for urban schedule bus services, has a 92 kWh battery capacity and a range of 200km.

Meanwhile the Maxima E23 with a GVW of 7200 kgs, provides a zero-emissions variant of Mellor’s school-bus offering and has a 80 kWh battery capacity as well as a range of 160km.

Bus Division Managing Director at Woodall Nicholson, Mark Clissett said: “We now have full-electric, zero-emissions buses to offer a size- and cost-appropriate solution for an increasing number of operators who are seeing their usual larger bus services become increasingly unviable.”

Mellor, alongside drivetrain integration specialist Promech Technologies, is also developing a new, purpose-built R&D and production facility in Scarborough, set for completion next year.

Both companies are part of the British-based Woodall Nicholson vehicle manufacturing group that also includes the Treka Bus, Coleman Milne and VCS brands.

Clissett added: “The market has driven our investment into developing our electric product range, and operators in particular have told us that they want Mellor electric buses in which to invest government funding.

“With significant investment, innovative engineering and a dedicated, highly-skilled team of designers, engineers and technicians, we can offer a zero-emissions solution on an already proven vehicle platform.”

Earlier this year Minibus manufacturer EVM launched the e-Cityline, a fully-electric variant of its diesel Cityline.

It has 150kW motors with three battery packs with a total capacity of 115kWh.

Batteries are located in the engine bay and underbody, one forward of the low floor area and one behind the rear axle, while the drive motor itself is mounted just forward of the rear axle.

The motor is designed to be most efficient at lower speeds, promoting reduced vibration and lower noise levels.

Battery technology is Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt (NMC) with integrated Battery Management System (BMS), with charging time at 2.5 hours on a 50kW DC charger.

Tiverton, Devon-based Courtside Conversions has also provided a batch of electric LDV/Maxus EV80 wheelchair accessible electric minibuses to Nottingham City Council.

The long-wheelbase, high-roof EV80 features eight seats plus the driver with the option to remove eight seats to create space for three wheelchair passengers.

Lightweight flooring and seating system have been installed to maximise payload and the van has a range of 118 miles on a single charge.

Mark Barrett, general manager LDV UK & Ireland said; “More and more fleet buyers are moving from fuel-dependent engines to hybrids and pure-electric models as companies move towards a greener business model.

“It’s great to see Nottingham Council make this investment as it is an investment in the future of the planet.”

Hyvia, created in June 2021, and based in France, is a joint venture equally owned by Renault Group and Plug Power, a hydrogen and fuel cell specialist.

This month it unveiled its Master City Bus H2-Tech which uses a 30kW fuel cell and 33kWh battery.

The minibus also comes with a tank capacity of 4.5kg of hydrogen at 350 bars, enabling a range of about 186 miles while carrying up to 15 passengers, with room for nine sitting and six standing.

Available in 2022, the minibus will be wheelchair accessible and have a refuelling time of five minutes.

David Holserbach, Hyvia CEO said: “After less than six months of existence, we have unveiled three hydrogen light commercial vehicles: a van, a chassis cab and a city bus.”

Investing in alternatively fuelled minibuses, whether battery electric, natural gas or hydrogen, will appeal to many local authorities and companies that take decarbonisation seriously.

It is clear that they can actively contribute to an organisation’s efforts of becoming more socially responsible as well as make a valuable contribution towards a reduction in carbon emissions.

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