New “affordable” hybrid being developed by Wrightbus

New “affordable” hybrid being developed by Wrightbus

Today’s electric vehicles and tomorrow’s “affordable hybrid” will be among the themes on Wrightbus’ stand at Euro Bus Expo. A 10.6m-long StreetAir EV with Siemens ELFA 2 electric drive will be centre stage to reinforce the electric message. The StreetAir is built on the StreetDeck chassis and will be available with three charging options: overnight plug-in, inductive and conductive. The show vehicle will be a plug-in version that can be charged overnight to provide 200 miles or 18 hours service per day, according to Wrightbus.

The StreetAir EV is a two-door Tfl-specification vehicle with a maximum capacity of 72 including 23 seats, and will take part in an evaluation project with Arriva in Liverpool before going into service with the same operator in London.

Meanwhile, Wrightbus is developing what it terms its HEV ‘next generation hybrid’ with a promise that it will be focussed primarily on affordability at a commercial price that will be around half the current supplement for a full hybrid. The vehicle is around a year away, however, with a limited number of production vehicles scheduled for quarter four in 2017 and full series production in 2018.

Wrightbus reports that in recent test cycles, the forthcoming HEV has shown improvements in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of more than 34 per cent compared to a Euro 5 low emission-certified bus when used alongside the latest version of its Micro Hybrid technology.

The HEV will be available in StreetLite and StreetDeck models and on-the-road trials will take place next year with series production scheduled to start at the end of 2017.

The new HEV will use lithium titanate batteries and two motor generators driven by re-capturing braking energy. 

“All manufacturers have been set the challenge of making hybrid buses commercially affordable,” says Wrights Group chairman and CEO Mark Nodder. “The HEV will bust this market wide open.”

In addition to reducing the premium to around half of the current £100,000 extra for a hybrid bus, Wrightbus says that the HEV will also offer lower total cost of ownership with a significantly reduced payback period.

The vehicle is designed to offer some zero-emission capacity, without the need for opportunity charging along the route, although Wrightbus has not yet given full details of its capabilities.

“Building on the success of Micro Hybrid technology that we have progressively advanced in recent years, our latest HEV system has been developed as a truly affordable propulsion solution which doesn’t compromise on operational or environmental performance,” says group engineering director Brian Maybin. “Recent testing at Millbrook has delivered outstanding results and we are very excited about what this new HEV system could achieve in helping operators meet ever-demanding environmental targets without the big step cost which is normally associated with investment in hybrid electric buses.”

Wrightbus’ Micro Hybrid is now in its third generation and will be demonstrated at Euro Bus Expo in a 10.8m Door Forward StreetLite for Metrobus’ Fastway route. The latest version of Micro Hybrid offers further fuel economy improvements, according to Wrightbus, and uses a third alternator and electric air compressor in addition to Daimler’s stop-start system. Wrightbus says that on top of the 11 per cent fuel savings from Micro Hybrid 2, the new version will deliver an additional 10 per cent improvement.

On Wrights’ stand, visitors will also be able to see one of the six distinctive StreetDecks recently delivered to Reading Buses for its Orange route. The 10.4m-long StreetDecks have 70 seats plus 30 standees and feature wi-fi, USB points, and upstairs tables, tablet holders and sofa.

There will also be an 11.4m Volvo B5TL with Gemini 3 body for Lothian Bus, as well as one of the Edinburgh operator’s 25 bespoke open-top B5TL/Gemini 3s.

The Wrightbus range has extended considerably in recent years in the wake of its transition from bodybuilder to complete vehicle supplier, and it has just announced an order for a new small bus, the StreetVibe, based on Nu-Track’s base vehicle. Wrightbus will supply 12 StreetVibes to Guernsey for bus operation, while Nu-Track will continue to target the welfare sectors.

“Today’s Wrightbus line-up is the broadest and most technologically advanced in our 70-year history,” says Ian Downie, MD sales at Wrightbus. “From our StreetVibe entry model across our StreetLite and StreetDeck ranges, our partnership with Volvo on single-deck (Eclipse 3) and double-deck (Gemini 3), through to our leading position on Micro Hybrid, HEV, and full-electric technology in the shape of our StreetLite EV and StreetAir EV models, our technology roadmap approach is very apparent.”

Wrightbus reports that the group has maintained a strong research and development budget over the past few years. Nodder acknowledges that a manufacturer of its scale needs to spend around £2-3million on R&D each year, just to stand still in the light of legislative changes. The group has however invested closer to £6million in the past year as a result of rapid development of electric, hybrid and Micro Hybrid options.

A further boost to technological development is likely to be delivered by a new partnership with Queens University in Belfast which will see the opening of the William Wright Technology Centre with both parties investing around £300,000 as part of a joint venture with ongoing commitments of more than £6million.

The new centre, which has been named after William Wright to recognise the family’s innovative leadership of the business over its 70-year history, will eventually be housed in a new building on the campus which is scheduled to open next summer.

“This is a new and exciting facility that will continue to stimulate fresh thinking and encourage innovation,” say William Wright. “At Wrightbus we believe our special relationship with Queens University sets us apart from many other manufacturers within our industry.”