While the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for operators, it has also been – and will continue to be – tough for suppliers. When their customers are under pressure, so are they. Yutong supplier Pelican Bus and Coach is fortunate in that it is part of a business that also has interests in other sectors. As a result, it remains in a strong place to support its clients in the passenger sector.

Activity at Pelican Bus and Coach has not subsided totally. In June it took an order for 10 Yutong TC9 midicoaches from Dawsongroup Bus and Coach. Six of those are to the new mobility specification, which can accommodate up to eight wheelchair users and their companions.

Pelican will also soon receive its largest single shipment thus far of battery-electric vehicles. Most of the consignment are E10 and E12 buses, but two further examples of the TCe12 – the UK’s first zero-emission coach – are also in transit.

“We remain on target to supply 53 battery-electric coaches and buses by 1 March 2021,” says Sales Manager Bob Elliott.

Interest remains strong in the Yutong battery-electric bus range. Pelican expects to announce more orders soon. Additionally, it recently received a first zero-emission wide-body airside bus. That vehicle will be delivered to an undisclosed airport in the UK later this year.

That work aside, the coach market remains predictably quiet. But four new and two used examples have been handed over to customers since 23 March and others are in the process of receiving pre-delivery inspections.

Customer support prioritised by Pelican Bus and Coach

The other major part to Pelican’s business is the servicing of and support for DAF and MAN trucks. That has continued 24/7 throughout the pandemic and there are synergies with coaches. Naturally, Pelican is able to work on those with DAF engines or which are built by MAN and Neoplan. But it can also support coaches from other manufacturers, particularly examples with a DAF/ZF driveline.

Pelican Bus and Coach
The Yutong TC9 range has grown and now includes a PSVAR-compliant example and a ‘mobility’ model that carries up to eight wheelchair users

“Our strengths with DAF, MAN and Yutong’s coach and electric bus products put us in a strong position. Customers can be confident in us,” says Bob.

Until the end of 2020 Pelican has reduced parts prices by 10%. That includes any component that is required for a Yutong vehicle, including the third-party driveline.

Turnover in Pelican’s parts department dropped when movement restrictions hit, but it has steadily recovered since then. The company has continued to bring back to work staff who had been subject to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“Throughout the pandemic we have communicated with the market through social media and via direct telephone calls to ensure that customers know we are open. Our business ethos has always been to deliver on what we promise, and it is particularly important to do that currently,” adds Bob.

Coach market: Quiet, but still a trickle of enquiries and deals

Pelican expects “a trickle” of new and used coach sales for the remainder of 2020.

PSVAR is becoming an increasingly important part of the Yutong coach range. The first compliant TC9 was delivered to Sanders Coaches of Norfolk earlier in 2020 and more have been ordered by other customers. Additionally, PSVAR conversion can be carried out on existing non-accessible TC9s.

The first PSVAR compliant GT12 will arrive later this year. In all future new accessible coaches, Pelican will fit only the lift in the UK. All other work will be carried out in China.

Pelican Bus and Coach
The 13m two-axle GT13 complements the successful GT12 in the high-end coach market and is available to order now; two are on the way

The GT12 has opened doors to new customers for Pelican, something that is likely to continue with the identical but longer GT13.

The latter is available to order now and two are in transit from Zhengzhou.

“The GT was designed from the start as a European-specification coach,” says Bob.

“It has been well accepted by customers because it suits the luxury travel market.”

Battery-electric in bus and coach still on an upward trajectory

A further member of the range that will shortly debut as PSVAR compliant is the battery-electric TCe12. The two TCe12s that are part of the consignment of 25 zero-emission vehicles to arrive shortly will have their PSVAR specification finalised after arrival. That will be made easier by the model’s wide centre door, which is already equipped to take a lift within the steps.

Additionally, one of the TCe12s will also undergo Ultra Low Emission Bus testing at Millbrook Proving Ground, which will enable to model to qualify for any enhanced BSOG payments.

While the purchase of zero-emission vehicles may be far from the minds of most coach operators at the moment, work being done by LowCVP to define a Low Emission Coach and an Ultra Low Emission Coach may make them a more widely attractive proposition for some applications later.

Pelican bus and Coach
A consigment of 25 E10 and E12 buses and TCe12 coaches – all zero-emission – are about to be delivered to Pelican from the factory in China

Other factors are also generating interest in the TCe12, not least a corporate focus on green credentials and the likely closer attention that urban air quality will draw in the future.

Bob explains that a solid enquiry for a TCe12 from a well-known operator is currently progressing. That does not represent the only interest seen in the model since the pandemic broke.

“We believe that there will be a shift toward zero-emission coaches, although diesel is still front and centre of our range,” he adds.

But with the market set to remain slow for the foreseeable future, discussions about new coaches are likely to be beyond many operators for the time being. Right now, they need suppliers who will back them as well as they possibly can in other areas. Pelican Bus and Coach believes that it has that box ticked.