Wright Gemini 2 launched at Euro Bus Expo

Wrightbus)

The new Wright Gemini 2 (photo: Wrightbus)

PRESS RELEASE

The first of a new generation of Double Deck bus – the Gemini 2 – that can be powered by both diesel and hybrid – electric drivelines has been unveiled by Wrightbus this week.

The Gemini 2 HEV on show at Euro Bus Expo is the first of an order of five hybrid-electric powered Double Deck buses which will enter service with Arriva in London this winter, with five of nine Gemini 2 orders from FirstGroup also destined for hybrid-powered operation in the capital.

The Wrightbus Gemini 2 has been developed as a modular concept, with the option of both Euro 5/EEV Diesel (DL) and Hybrid Electric (HEV) power, whilst at the same time being fully compliant with both TfL and provincial specifications.

Hybrid-powered buses are seen as an important way of further reducing emissions, which can add to pollution problems in densely populated cities such as London. With high oil prices now likely to be the norm, the potential fuel savings that can result from deployment of hybrid-powered vehicles means that the payback on the incremental capital cost is much quicker than was previously the case, making such vehicles a realistic economic proposition.

The Hybrid-Electric Version (HEV) of the new Gemini 2 has been developed following a long-term in-service evaluation with Arriva in London. The Series Hybrid Electric variant features Siemens ELFA® traction components, with energy provided by a Ford Puma 2.4 litre diesel engine.  The Diesel (DL) version of the new Gemini 2 features a 6.7 litre Cummins engine, with both variants offering the choice of ZF or Voith automatic transmission driving through a Spicer rear axle.

The new vehicle has been developed by the product development team in Ballymena lead by Product Development Director, Damian McGarry. A key objective was to develop a weight optimised vehicle which delivered excellent fuel economy.

For example, Wrightbus has also used its growing expertise and capability in LRTM (Light Resin Transfer Moulding) composite materials to extend the use of automotive quality panels on the new vehicle, enhancing fit and finish, as well as further reducing vehicle weight. Emission standards have been achieved without the need to fit a particulate trap, further reducing vehicle weight.

The resulting unladen weight of the new Gemini 2 is excellent, at 12,271kg and 12,075kg respectively for the HEV and DL versions to TfL specification, with the provincial specification DL version having a tare weight of 11,200kg (all weights stated are specification dependent).

Another major objective for the new bus has been to maximise seated passenger capacity, not just in the low floor area (where the new vehicle has ten seats) but throughout the entire vehicle.  With overall capacities of 87 (for HEV) and 91 (for DL) passengers in a two door bus to the latest London specification and 96 for the Gemini 2 DL to Provincial specification, the new Wrightbus Double Decker offers a class-leading proposition to bus operators in the Capital and other large cities.

Integral to the development of a modular driveline approach has been a new flat radiator design which sits 1.5m above ground, providing both improved engine cooling and quieter operation for passengers and other road users alike. The Wrightbus product development team has worked closely with chassis partner VDL on this and other aspects of chassis weight and layout optimisation.

A totally new drivers’ area has been created to deliver an efficient and comfortable place of work for the driver, featuring a Wrightbus-designed instrumentation panel with touch screen technology. An integrated telematics package is also the result of extensive development work by the Ballymena team.

With vehicle uptime of critical importance to bus operators, the new Wrightbus Gemini 2 will be fully supported by Customcare, a division of the Wright Group. Customcare is already highly experienced in supporting hybrid powered Wrightbus products in service, and have in place a mobile team of technicians who are experts in the specific requirements of hybrid-electric vehicles.

Speaking at the show, Group Managing Director Mark Nodder said “Double Decker buses are the mainstay of city bus operations in London as well as the large provincial cities, and have become a very important part of our company’s business.  Building on our experience of being first to make hybrid-electric technology a reality in city bus operations in the UK, we have been convinced of the need to offer a new vehicle which gives our customers the choice of either Euro 5/EEV diesel or hybrid electric drivelines, without changing the layout and specification of the vehicle.”

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World Debut for Volvo Hybrid Double-deck

Volvo Bus has officially launched its new hybrid double-deck bus, the B5L, at the Euro Bus Expo show.

Volvo B5L Hybrid Double-deck Bus (Volvo Bus)

Volvo B5L Hybrid Double-deck Bus (Volvo Bus)

PRESS RELEASE

Volvo Bus is launching the latest generation of low environmental impact vehicles – the B5L Hybrid Double Deck Bus – at the Euro Bus Expo show in Birmingham UK.

The first of a batch of six Volvo Hybrid Double Deckers, takes centre stage on the Volvo stand at the Euro Bus Expo at the NEC. The advanced parallel hybrid technology on this vehicle, unique to the Volvo Group, offers potential fuel savings, air quality improvements and significant whole-life cost reductions in operation.

The six Volvo B5L Hybrid buses are due to enter service with Arriva London during the period December 2008 to January 2009 and will operate on Route 141, being based at Wood Green.

This new Volvo Hybrid will enter series production in the fourth Quarter of 2009 and deliveries of complete production double deck vehicles will commence early in 2010. There will be some early production vehicles on the road in 2009.

The chassis layout follows the same principles as the Volvo 7700 Hybrid, which was recently launched at the IAA in Hanover, with a rear offset driveline. The battery energy storage unit is installed under two of the seats in the lower saloon, just behind the front axle, to achieve the minimum intrusion into the gangway and to optimise the weight distribution.

The show vehicle features Gemini bodywork, from Wrightbus in Ballymena, which is already a familiar sight in double deck fleets across London. With an overall length of 10.4 metres, the vehicle offers 66 seats (45 upper saloon, 21 lower saloon) and space for up to 20 further passengers.

A Long Experience in Hybrid Development

The new Volvo B5L Double Deck is a testament to Volvo Buses long experience in hybrid development, which dates back to the early 1980’s, a timescale which also underlines Volvo’s commitment to its core value of Environmental Care. That long experience has been distilled into the refinements seen in this new concept, which has prioritised commercial viability.

Ever tougher environmental standards for buses, be it emissions or noise, combined with the uncertainties over fuel prices in the long term, mean that the time is now right for hybrids to enter the market in quantity. However, that can only happen if the product is a commercially viable proposition for the operator.

To ensure this, the Volvo Hybrid technology and components are shared across several Business Areas in the Volvo Group, in to order to achieve higher volumes: Volvo Trucks have recently announced a hybrid development and plans are well advanced at Volvo Construction Equipment.

“Irrespective of the environmental benefits, it is vital that hybrid technology is quickly seen to be a good investment for the operator, with savings in fuel and other costs paying for the additional costs of the driveline” says Steve Dewhurst, Managing Director of Volvo Bus UK & Ireland.

“Our development builds on the strengths of the Volvo Group and means that service support and parts availability will be to the standard of any Volvo product. That support will include leasing and contract maintenance packages as a matter of course”.

The Driveline Elements

The key elements of the Volvo Hybrid are:

•    D5E 4 cylinder 5 litre Volvo diesel engine to Euro 5 emissions level with SCR exhaust aftertreatment
•    Volvo ISAM Integrated Starter Alternator Motor electric machine to provide parallel operation of diesel and electric power
•    Volvo I-Shift 12 speed automatic transmission
•    Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System, rated at 600 Volts, water cooled
•    Electrically-driven Air Compressor, Hydraulic Pumps and AC/Air Chill compressor

The chassis module is very similar to that of the existing Volvo B9TL Double Deck.  Many proven Volvo components can be identified from the front end through to the drive axle, driveline and rear suspension for maximum service commonality.

The Hybrid Vehicle Management System includes the software “brain” of the vehicle and this interfaces with the regular Volvo diagnostic functions.

The ISAM unit is integrated in the clutch housing between the diesel engine and the gearbox, this allows for combining the power inputs of both motors in the simplest way. In a parallel hybrid, the vehicle can be driven by both the diesel engine or the electric motor or any combination of the two.

This means that the diesel engine can be downsized from that of a conventional bus, and at the same time the electric motor can also be smaller, because it does not have to provide the maximum power level on its own. Combining the two sources provides the power needed to climb steeper hills or for maximum acceleration.

The strategy for managing the hybrid system prioritises fuel efficiency and therefore reduced emissions of carbon dioxide. At the same time, the range of gear ratios in the transmission means that the diesel engine can operate in its most efficient range more of the time.

It is also possible to operate in purely electric mode – at bus stops for example – to minimise local air quality emissions in sensitive areas: the bus can pull away from the bus stop in quiet electric mode and engage diesel power as the system requires for maintaining battery charge. Normal braking can drive the ISAM unit in alternator mode to achieve regenerative braking/energy recovery to charge the battery and this is another key step to reduce fuel consumption.

Driving the auxiliary systems with electric motors also saves energy because the load can be delivered when needed most – as with power steering where the most power is needed at low speeds so matching the demand avoids wasteful operation.

Thorough Development and Support

The Volvo parallel hybrid system has been under development for some years, as can be seen in the presentation of a development vehicle at Euro Bus Expo in 2006. During that period, single deck and double deck test buses have been undergoing a comprehensive development programme centred on Volvo’s Hällered test complex in Sweden.

The next step will be the in-service operation of six Double Deckers in London and a Single Deck bus in Sweden. As well as defining the best control strategies for the vehicles to deliver the best results, this operation will also give operators, drivers and maintenance staff the practical experience needed ahead of volume introduction.

The Arriva London vehicles will be taken care of through the Volvo Truck and Bus Centre at Enfield, as the hybrid package and much of the chassis will be on a Contract Maintenance agreement. In addition, Transport for London are supporting the programme.

The Potential Benefits

The Volvo Hybrid Concept should deliver significant savings in fuel consumption – potentially up to 30% – and corresponding reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas contributing to man-made global warming.The more effective use of the diesel engine will result in reduced emissions of NOx and Particulates, two key pollutants in urban areas.

The Hybrid bus will be quieter in operation because of the reduced use of the diesel engine. Passengers will also experience a smoother ride because of the characteristics of the electric motor and, in turn, service and mechanical maintenance demands should also be reduced because of the smoother operation.


Future Plans

Volvo Buses will be following the introduction of the hybrid system in Single and Double Deck buses with an articulated vehicle in the future.

Looking longer term, a parallel hybrid has the potential to also deliver fuel savings on intercity and express routes – although savings may not be as significant as on a citybus, the longer distances travelled in express services still result in significant fuel savings. There is therefore considerable potential for greater sales volumes in the future.

Speaking at the show, Steve Dewhurst said, “We see the new Volvo B5L Hybrid Double Deck as one of the most important developments in recent years. Whilst diesel-only powered buses are likely to continue to be the bedrock of bus fleets for many years to come, hybrid vehicle projects which can prove their commercial viability will be watched with great interest by operators in cities throughout the British Isles.”

Translink add to Volvo order-book

Volvo Bus have confirmed an order for 45 B7RLE single-deck buses with ADL Enviro 300 bodywork for Translink, as well as confirming current Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus double-deck orders.

Volvo Bus)

Volvo B7RLE ADL Enviro 300 (Photo: Volvo Bus)

PRESS RELEASE

Orders totalling more than 200 vehicles confirmed at this week’s Euro Bus Expo show have underlined the market-leading position of the current Volvo bus range in the British Isles.

Whilst the new Volvo B5L Hybrid Double Deck may have stolen the headlines at the show, the current Volvo bus line up – the Volvo B7RLE Single Deck and the Volvo B9TL Double Deck, which are now available with four and three body choices respectively – continue to rack up important orders, maintaining their positions as the market-leading products in their respective classes.

Volvo B7RLE – versatile, durable and economic

Volvo’s low entry single deck citybus, the B7RLE, is part of the B7R family – Volvo’s best selling chassis worldwide. Renowned for its versatility, economy, durability and reliability it’s easy to see why the B7RLE is a truly competitive, efficient chassis – ideal for any urban environment. Two examples of the Volvo B7RLE are on the Volvo stand at Euro Bus Expo.

The Volvo Wrightbus Eclipse Single Deck is now a mainstay of the FirstGroup fleet and the example featured – destined for service with First Leeds – has the tried and tested 7.1 litre Volvo D7E Euro 4 engine rated at 290hp coupled to the ZF 6 speed automatic gearbox.

The Wrightbus Eclipse bodywork features 44 seats and ACIS RTPI system, guide arm compatibility and ten camera CCTV system. A newly face lifted Eclipse 2 is also displayed on the Wrightbus stand, one of 10 Volvo B7RLEs poised to enter service with Lothian Buses.

Another long-standing Volvo customer, Transdev Blazefield, has ordered 19 Euro 5 compliant Volvo B7RLE Eclipse 2s for their Burnley & Pendle operation, whilst Warrington Borough Transport have ordered 12 similarly specified vehicles – their first of this combination – as part of their fleet upgrade programme, which are due to go into service on a variety of routes around the borough in June next year.

In addition to the 27 Volvo B7RLE Eclipses delivered in the summer to trentbarton for their Rainbow 5 service between Derby and Nottingham, a further 14 of the new Eclipse 2 bodied B7RLEs will be delivered in the New Year for their Calverton Link service running from Nottingham. GHA in Wrexham have also taken three of the Ballymena-bodied Volvo single decks.

A second Volvo B7RLE  is displayed on the stand, this time Euro 5 compliant and featuring the ADL Enviro 300 bodywork, which forms part of an order for 45 vehicles for Translink, It has 55 seats with 3&2 seating in the rear section.

The Volvo B7RLE is also available with body options from Plaxton in the guise of its Centro model and now, for the first time – Optare with its newly launched “Esteem” model.

Rotola plc has purchased 33 Volvo B7RLE single decks for use on its Diamond Bus Network in the Midlands, twenty-two of which feature the Plaxton Centro bodies and have gone into service on a number of key routes in the Black Country under the ‘Black Diamond’ brand. The remaining eleven B7RLEs have Wrightbus Eclipse bodywork and are entering service in partnership with Worcestershire County Council under the ‘Red Diamond’ brand.

Kent County Council
will be the first operator to put the new Volvo/Optare single deck combination into service with a total of six such vehicles. Whippet Coaches are hot on their heels, with three due to enter service on the Cambridge busway in 2009 – a further 10 Volvo B7RLEs with Wrightbus Eclipse bodies, operated by Stagecoach and fuelled by bio-diesel are set to join them.

Volvo B9TL – leader of its class

Over 500 Volvo B9TL Double Decks have been registered in the UK alone this year, and with body options available from Wrightbus, ADL and Optare further orders in the pipeline are likely to cement its leading position, both in the UK and Ireland.

The Isle of Man
will see their first ever new Volvo bus when 11 Wrightbus Gemini bodied Volvo B9TL Double Decks enter service on the island in early 2009.

Across the Irish Sea,  a batch of 10 B9TL Geminis are currently being delivered to Bus Eireann, whilst Dublin Bus is currently taking delivery of 50 Volvo B9TLs with ADL Enviro 400 bodywork, with a further 50 to follow, and their first ever Wrightbus double decks will enter service in the Irish capital before the year end.

London sighting tour operator Big Bus have recently taken delivery of 10 Volvo B9TL Double Decks with Optare Visionaire body work – three of which are open top, with the other seven “half top”. The Euro 5 compliant vehicles are being deployed on all three of the companies “hop-on hop-off” tour routes which take in many of the capital’s tourist sights.  A further order for 10 has been confirmed for delivery during 2009.

Speaking at the show, Volvo Bus Sales Director Phil Owen said, “Our product range and the comprehensive options available is attracting new customers as well as retaining existing Volvo operators. “We are committed to providing the best in customer service – from the initial quotation to the vehicle handover and support through the life of the vehicle, with an emphasis on being able to recommend the best driveline configuration for a particular application to maximise performance and optimise fuel return.”

He added, “Whether it’s product information, driver training, soft products or after sales service, we want Volvo customers to feel that they truly are getting the best.”

New Volvos for Ballincollig

Volvo Bus)

Ballincollig Coaches new Volvo B7R coaches (photo: Volvo Bus)

PRESS RELEASE

Ballincollig Coaches of Co Cork have just taken delivery of two Volvo B7R Sunsundeguis.

Purchased as part of a programme of fleet modernisation, the new coaches will be used for touring throughout Ireland and also into Scotland.

The family run firm had not bought Volvo for some years but were impressed by the B7R/ Sunsundegui combination. “It’s very stylish looking so helps to create the right impression; it’s very comfortable; and there’s great luggage space – all of which is perfect for our requirements,” explained Managing Director, Donal O’Callaghan. “Add to that the fact that the Euro/Sterling rate is so favourable to us at the moment, there was no excuse not to buy!”

Specified with Volvo’s D7C 7.1 litre common rail fuel injection engine rated at 290hp, combined with a ZF six-speed gearbox, the 53 seat coaches feature full double glazing, air conditioning, DVD player and reversing camera.

Ballincollig plan to use them on incoming tours which make up a large part of their business. “We shall be very busy over the next few months, particularly with French and American students requiring sightseeing tours, and these coaches really are ideal for the task,” said Donal.

Established 20 years ago, Ballincollig’s 15-strong fleet ranges from six seaters to full size executive coaches. The company runs its own programme of two to three day short breaks and seven to ten day tours. In addition, a variety of specialist breaks are arranged for incoming tourists, ranging from historic sightseeting and pilgrimage tours to short breaks for fishing, golf, gardening and art enthusiasts.

ONE IN TWELVE – Aerdart

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of the founding of the site, every day during November I’ll be bringing you one of my favourite photos from the past 12 years.

Today we go to 2001 for the launch of the short-lived Aerdart service.

Aerdart DLA7 seen before entering service in 2001

Aerdart DLA7 seen before entering service in 2001

Sample through Bus/Rail ticket

Sample through Bus/Rail ticket

The launch of the Aerdart service by DelGro (owners of Metroline in London) seemed to show the start of an interest in the Dublin market by the large players in the UK bus scene (and was to be followed over the next couple of years by the entry into the Irish market of First and Veoila). The route linked Dublin Airport to the DART rail network at Howth Junction, running 7 days a week, with through ticketing to or from any station in the Dublin area.

The Aerdart service eventually foundered however, with the company blaming poor interchange facilities at Howth Junction where passengers had to lug their baggage up and down sets of stairs, and frequent closure of weekend DART services for engineering works.

The photo was taken on Saturday 31st March 2001, a few days before the launch of the route. I was lucky enough to meet up with a visiting Delgro executive who took the bus out for me to photograph, and printed the sample ticket above. He also explained to me that Metroline bosses had assumed they would use their existing livery for the Irish service, but that local staff had warned that red white and blue might not be the most sensitive of livery choices for this market!

The buses themselves were very smartly turned out Dennis Dart SLF Pointers, dual door with luggage space.