The world’s first fully-low floor electric bus will make its debut at the CV Show, which takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, from 25-27 April.
Mellor Coachcraft will be exhibiting the Orion E, a fully-electric 16-seat bus which has been in development for the past two years. It has single step entry and a completely flat, low-floor saloon which offers flexible seating configuration and space for up to four wheelchairs with passenger access through either a rapid sliding side entry door or double doors at the rear.
The bus achieves its unique layout by having an electric front-wheel drive system, allowing engineers to develop the passenger area without the intrusion of a prop-shaft and rear differential. The vehicle is fitted with independent trailing arm suspension which helps to provide a large floor space that can be configured to suit customer needs.
The British coachbuilder – a part of the Woodall Nicholson Group – has partnered with an as-yet unannounced European electric vehicle integrator and drivetrain manufacturer to co-develop the electrical system and driveline. The result is a bus with an estimated 100-mile range and a recharging time of as little as 100 minutes, using industry-standard Lithium-Ion battery packs.
Features include regenerative braking and driver economy monitoring. In use, Mellor expects a 100-mile range with relative ease, more in some patterns of use. The battery packs are expected to have a life of at least five years, though users of the same technology and chemistry in similar bus applications are now reporting battery life in excess of seven years.
The first example will be displayed on the Eberspächer stand at the CV Show, and the Rochdale-based company expects to deliver the first vehicles by the latter part of 2017.
John Randerson, Managing Director of Mellor said, “We looked at a number of suppliers for the motor and power electronics, we found that in using European based manufacturers for these components the technology and manufacturing processes were both advanced and extremely stable. Indeed, similar components from these suppliers are in use in many electric car applications currently in production”
“The current concern over particulate and NOx pollution in city centres is likely to drive an adoption of electric vehicles. We believe the Orion E will find a ready market with operators and authorities particularly in historic cities. These cities already have a green agenda and the size of the Orion E certainly works where road space is at a minimum.”
Driving the Orion E is similar to driving a conventional vehicle with an automatic gearbox:
Mellor has decided to add an additional low-range gear for more extreme hill starts, though in most city situations, the 2500Nm peak torque is ample for clean, gearless progression.
Demonstrations of the new vehicle will be available from May 2017.