Full speed electric for Volvo

Full speed electric for Volvo

A consistent champion for electric mobility, Volvo’s first hybrid double-deck was introduced in the UK in 2009 and by the end of 2016 there will be more than 1,500 in service. At Euro Bus Expo, it will present a world premiere of its latest electric hybrid double-deck bus, as well as confirming the first UK order for its full-electric single-deck buses.

Harrogate is to become the first UK city to embrace Volvo’s City Mobility concept with the introduction of eight full-electric 7900E buses alongside opportunity charging infrastructure to cover three short Transdev Blazefield routes in the city with delivery expected in the first quarter of 2018. 

The contracts for the buses and infrastructure is backed by a successful bid to OLEV’s Low Emission Bus Scheme and Transdev Blazefield is starting a contracting process for the infrastructure alongside the order for eight 7900E buses from Volvo, which will also benefit from another successful OLEV bid, involving 51 B5LHs for Arriva Merseyside.

The electric buses will be able to use three charging units which are to be installed in Harrogate’s bus station.

Globally, Volvo has agreements with both Siemens and ABB for the supply of roadside units which can re-charge electric and electric hybrid buses via an overhead pantograph. Volvo has pioneered an ‘open standard’ for the charging units, in partnership with a number of other European manufacturers, which will allow operators and cities to ‘mix and match’ electric-powered vehicles from different manufacturers.

Volvo had previously identified Edinburgh as the likely launch platform for its electric and electric hybrid concept under the City Mobility banner; this project has been delayed, although not yet shelved, according to Volvo.

However the launch of the Harrogate project will provide an important focus for Volvo which has long pioneered an electric future for urban public transport. 

The manufacturer is also using the NEC show for a world premiere of its Electric Hybrid double-deck bus which combines an emission-free electric-only option for up to around 7km with a ‘conventional’ full hybrid for use when electric power is not available.

The new B5LHC double-deck chassis will be launched with a Wrightbus SRM body and two vehicles are due to go into service in London during 2017 in a trial that will involve the installation of roadside opportunity charging units, subject to getting approval from local planning authorities. 

The B5LHC double-deck, which is certified for a passenger capacity of 87 with 43 seats on the top deck and 17 downstairs, follows on from Volvo’s 7900 single-deck Electric Hybrid bus that was launched in 2014. The B5LHC driveline is an extension of the technology used in the Volvo B5LH hybrid double-deck with the use of a more powerful electric motor, increased capacity lithium ion battery, rated at 19kWh, and roof-mounted equipment for opportunity charging which is common with the 7900E and 7900EH single-decks. 

Pointing to the success of the existing trial of electric and electric hybrid buses in Gothenburg and elsewhere, Volvo commercial sales director Phil Owen says that the new Electric Hybrid double-deck builds on a proven system. “We know that the vehicle technology works,” he says, “but this trial is about showing how opportunity charging can work in a busy operational environment.”

The world premiere of the B5LHC on the opening day of Birmingham’s Euro Bus Expo will be attended by TfL managing director of surface transport Leon Daniels and president of Volvo Buses Håkan Agnevall.

“The new Volvo B5LHC Electric Hybrid is an exciting addition to our city bus range, saving up to 75 per cent in diesel fuel cost compared to an equivalent diesel double-deck bus,” says Nick Page, managing director, Volvo Bus UK & Ireland. “We already have a proven pedigree here in the UK with more than 1,500 Volvo hybrid double-deck buses both in London and beyond, so this is another exciting step along the road to further emission-free operation, with all the environmental and societal benefits that this can bring.”

Also at the NEC show, the new Jonckheere JHV2 body on Volvo’s B11R coach chassis will make its debut with launch orders for the updated model totalling 34, including 8 for Travellers Choice and 10 for Park’s of Hamilton.

The new JHV2 includes a redesigned dashboard with improved layout and an integrated I-Shift lever, as well as increased locker capacity with a new offside locker designated for drivers’ use. The new coach also features a new Brava seat from Fainsa and comes complete with reversing camera, LED lights at front and rear and improved Thermo King climate control.

The third vehicle on Volvo’s Euro Bus Expo stand is one of the 30 open-top 11.5m B5TLs for Lothian Buses with Wrightbus’ Gemini 3 body for sightseeing operations in and around the Scottish capital. 

The show comes at a time when Volvo reports buoyant sales and a very strong order book in the UK. Excluding the midibus sector in which it is not represented, Volvo claims it will achieve a 34 per cent share of the UK bus market this year with 644 deliveries, including 383 B5LH hybrid double-decks. On the coach side, Volvo will deliver 372 vehicles this year with Plaxton accounting for 41 per cent of the bodies, demonstrating the continuing importance of this partnership, alongside the Sunsundegui, Caetano and integral 9700 options.

Its largest bus customer is the Go Ahead group representing around 24 per cent of orders and the second largest is currently Dublin Bus. However the situation for the latter is about to change dramatically with the newly-established National Transport Authority in Ireland taking over responsibility for specifying and purchasing of all vehicles. A major NTA tender is currently in progress and the first results should be known early in 2017.

There are of course uncertainties in the air, but Page brushes aside any suggestion of a ‘Brexit’ effect to date. There are currently no price increases in the offing from Volvo, according to Page, although given the way the Sterling-Euro exchange rate has moved since the referendum, and the fact that all the components in Volvo’s chassis are from Euro-based markets, there are clearly strains on pricing that will at some point feed through to retail prices.