The Spanish bus specialist UNVI has agreed to work together with three component manufacturers to build battery-electric sightseeing buses because more stringent rules on particulates and noise emissions in cities is having an impact on city sightseeing providers in particular. This year will see the launch of the first electric, double-decker open-top bus.

As a result of the creation of environmental zones in many large cities, unless there are any exemptions from the rules, these vehicles have to comply with the local emission standards. For example, London currently operates a “low emission zone” which stipulates the Euro IV emission standard as a minimum requirement for buses. However, the further tightening of the rules has already been adopted by many local authorities as the result, amongst other things, of pressure from the EU and citizens on the issue of particulates and noise pollution: for example, the Berlin Senate has decided that from 2020 it will only be purchasing emission-free buses. London has taken the same decision, whilst Paris wants all city buses to be operating emission-free five years later.

The average service life of sightseeing buses is double to three times as long as conventional city buses. That is forcing the operators of schedule services in cities such as London or Paris and Berlin to switch very rapidly over to battery electric vehicles as buses which have already been purchased may no longer be operated on inner-city routes to “the end of their service life”. “We will therefore be launching a battery electric sightseeing bus for the BusWorld 2017”, says Eloy Perez Martinez, Managing Director of UNVI. The timely implementation has been made possible because UNVI recognises the needs of sightseeing operators and has a number of years’ experience in the construction of double-decker, open-top vehicles.

UNVI is seen as the world’s largest manufacturer of city sightseeing buses and is known for building customised buses. In Europe, the special vehicles can be seen as part of the urban landscape of Rome, Berlin, Paris and London. Even UNVI buses operating in St. Petersburg and Dubai. “We are bringing our decades of experience as a manufacturer of special buses to bear in the field of e-mobility”, says Eloy Perez Martinez. We have already received the first orders for this type of bus.

The Spaniards have chosen experienced component manufacturers as partners: BMZ for the batteries, ZIEHL-ABEGG AUTOMOTIVE for the drive train and SAV Studio for system integration. “The three companies have already collaborated on several bus projects and are an experienced team,” stressed Eloy Perez Martinez of UNVI. This will provide for a smooth and rapid market entry.

In most cases, the batteries on electric buses which operate regular city bus services are mounted on the roof – however, this is not an option with open-top buses.

The two gearless, highly efficient and wheel-hub motors of ZIEHL-ABEGG AUTOMOTIVE do not require any additional space for the driveline in the vehicle. In combination with the battery system from BMZ-Poland, which is matched to the driving and requirements profile, a high installation flexibility is achieved under the conditions of the very limited installation space of a convertible bus.

SAV Studio provides for the smooth interaction of the technology in the electric sightseeing bus. The system integrator has a number of years’ experience in combining in-wheel hub drives from ZIEHL-ABEGG AUTOMOTIVE with battery systems from BMZ.

Independently of the legal requirements, when it comes to sightseeing tours diesel-powered buses have significant disadvantages compared with electric-powered buses: the constant starting and stopping puts a great strain on the motor and transmission, is heavy on fuel consumption and when the vehicle brakes the energy is lost completely – with battery electric buses however, the braking energy is used for recharging the batteries.

The electric, double-decker open-top bus from UNVI is 12 metres long with 2 axles. In the basic version, the vehicle has two doors; inside, there is a minimum of 74 seats. The vehicle is designed with an operating range of 120 kilometres. The basic parameters of the electric bus are therefore the same as those of a conventionally powered bus for sightseeing tours – but with huge advantages in terms of noise and particulate pollution. Since the vehicle is built as a modular system, the number of people and the daily mileage is flexibly adjustable.