Karsan eyes UK market with Atak Electric midibus

Karsan has worked closely with BMW when developing the Atak Electric small bus. It offers a claimed range of 300km with a gross weight of 11,000kg, and it is likely to come here at some point, says Karsan

There may be scope in the UK market for a lightweight, small electric bus with a range of 300km, believes Karsan. When it launched the Atak Electric in Germany recently, it revealed that delivering a right-hand drive model is in its development programme.

The Atak Electric is 8.3m long and in its launch form it has two doors and 25 seats.

However, the Turkish builder does not rule out revising that layout to further suit the UK. It believes that the bus has potential in several right-hand drive markets, strengthening the argument for its homologation in such a layout.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Atak Electric is how Karsan has collaborated with BMW in developing the driveline. The five BMW batteries give a total energy storage of 220kW/h; all are positioned in the short rear overhang, either below the back seat or on the roof.

A single electric motor rated at 230kW and able to deliver 2,400Nm of torque from stationary, along with an unladen weight of below 8,000kg, means that performance is sparkling. The Atak Electric’s looks are modern, and its passenger area is attractive, quiet and rattle-free.

Turkish delight

While BMW is Karsan’s driveline partner, the remainder of the vehicle is its own work. It is Karsan’s second electric bus debut in less than a year; the smaller Jest Electric is an outside bet for development in right-hand drive form.

The Atak Electric utilises space frame construction, and when kneeled its step height is 270mm. Air suspension is fitted on both axles and it is independent at the front. Unusually, the front wheels are slightly larger than those at the rear. Charging is via either AC or DC. With the latter arrangement, the time required is three hours; using AC, it is either five or 10 hours depending on whether a double or single plug-in is used.

A dash switch governs the level of regeneration. Under the more aggressive setting, speed is lost quickly when the accelerator is released, although engagement is ‘blended’, and there is no sudden jerk as it commences.

Work is required to configure the saloon to the layout needed in the UK

The dash binnacle is entirely digital, with dials created on an LCD screen. As shown, the Atak Electric has a greater degree of driver control over some elements than would likely be wanted by many UK operators, but the cab is nevertheless a pleasant place to be.

In the saloon

Demonstration Atak Electrics are all fitted out to a continental layout, where the volume of standees is greater than the number of seated passengers.

A 22kW air-conditioning unit is fitted to the roof. It uses heat pump technology, and as a result Karsan says that it is highly efficient. Additionally, side radiators are also fitted, although the manufacturer adds that they are only necessary in sub-zero temperatures.

The air-conditioning unit worked well in an ambient temperature of over 30oc. Also dotted around the saloon are USB charging points.

It is only beyond the drive axle that the floor rises, with two steps into the rear area. Visibility throughout the bus is good, but the most noticeable aspect is how quiet it is. Not only is the driveline almost silent, but there are no rattles whatsoever even on a poor road surface.

Behind the wheel

Karsan made three Atak Electrics available for test. The most striking thing when driving them is how fast they are. The motor has already been reined in from its original specification – when Karsan says it could propel the bus from stationary to 50mph in less than eight seconds – and it will be further moderated before production begins in August.

As is typical with an electric bus, acceleration is constant regardless of the starting road speed. The opportunity was provided to drive the Atak Electric through a variety of chicanes, and another impressive aspect is how well it handles being pushed hard. There is no oversteer at all, although the anti-slip regulation cut in more than once when the throttle was opened while the bus was not completely straight.

The five BMW batteries of 44kW each are amounted behind the rear axle

Coach-style electrically adjusted and heated mirrors are fitted, and external lighting all round is with LEDs.

Coming here soon?

Karsan will need to do a reasonable amount of work to make the Atak Electric suitable for the UK. The main bulk of that will be moving the steering wheel, but adjusting the wheelchair area’s location and potentially removing the centre door are also relevant.

If it can do all of that satisfactorily, the Atak Electric stands a chance of being taken up here.

Important to note is that it is neither a low-cost nor a low-quality bus. Its retail price starts at the equivalent of around £295,000, but it is an attractive model that seems to be well put together.

The attraction of a claimed 300km range in a bus with a GVW of 11,000kg is obvious, and the use of BMW technology in the driveline should give an assurance of durability. Karsan will provide a warranty of two years for the motor and four years or 200,000km on the batteries.

It remains to be seen what potential the smaller Jest Electric has in the UK, but on this first showing, the Atak Electric will certainly tick some boxes.