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Transport Benevolent Fund - 2019
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October 24 2018
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

Electric 'decker due from Volvo as hybrid grows

Battery double-decker to enter production in 2021, but builder sees a strong future for hybrid power

Volvo is to introduce an electric double-deck and a single-decker B5LH

Volvo has become the fifth manufacturer to throw its hat into the electric double-decker ring by announcing that a demonstrator built in conjunction with bodybuilder MCV will debut in Q2 2020.

That will represent the first appearance here of Volvo’s new electric bus platform. It will be used in both double- and single-decker applications, and in the latter case it will displace the 7900e from the UK market.

95 passengers targeted

Volvo is confident that with a GVW of 19,000kg, the electric double-decker will be able to carry 95 passengers.

It will come with 264kW of onboard energy storage. While the batteries must be kept within a certain charge window to maximise their lives, the manufacturer believes that the bus will be well-suited to “a great number of London bus routes,” says Commercial Sales Director Phil Owen.

With electric heating, Volvo is targeting 100 miles on a single charge. Like the 7900e, the new platform will be compatible with both opportunity and overnight charging. The double-decker is scheduled for market readiness during 2021.

Battery layout is modular, with the double-decker to have four 66kW packs. In single-deck form either three, four or five modules will be available. Volvo says that battery life will be five years.

Single-deck upgrades too

In the meantime, the 7900e will receive a battery upgrade Next year it will gain four 50kW packs in place of the current same number of 19kW modules, with only a modest weight gain. Mr Owen says that the 7900e demonstrator - which concluded its stay with Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire last week - was successful in the five locations that it visited, and that average energy consumption without electric heating has been 0.98kW/h per kilometre.

MCV will also be sole bodybuilder on Volvo’s next-generation electric chassis in single-deck form, which will be available at 10.8m and 12m lengths. In the single-decker, the manufacturer says the batteries will be roof-mounted.

Partially as a result of the electric double-decker, Volvo’s range-extended diesel-electric hybrid B5LHC will be discontinued. It uses opportunity charging to give an engine-off range of up to 8km, but only two have been built.

Hybrid’s strong future

Volvo’s commitment to conventional hybrid propulsion remains unwavering, adds Mr Owen. To complement the B5LH in double-deck form, the chassis will next year gain a single-deck option in exclusive partnership with MCV.

The single-deck B5LH will offer up to a 12% fuel efficiency gain over the double-decker, and like the new electric single-decker it will come at lengths of 10.8m and 12m. “We don’t believe that hybrid is merely a stepping stone from diesel to zero-emission,” he says.

As part of Volvo’s development of its parallel hybrid package, it is working to substantially increase engine-off range. Mr Owen adds that it is likely to increase three- or four-fold, possibly to 500m, and that it will be compatible with geofencing.

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