Engines, transmissions and alternative propulsion

Public transport is undergoing a shift to non-conventional propulsion technology. Our suppliers are there to support that transition.

Transport in the United Kingdom is undergoing a culture change. The transition towards new drivelines and propulsion technologies is well underway, so it is essential for operators to find expertise that will provide suitable solutions, keep them in good working order for years to come, and repair and remanufacture parts when necessary.

Jade Noble-Byrne is the OEM Account and Market Development Manager at Allison Transmission, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of fully automatic transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

Jade works with manufacturers within the coach and bus industry across the UK and Ireland, providing the latest information and technology Allison has to offer, and discusses how these products fit within their companies’ ethos and products. Alongside this, she is the main contact for end-users, building relationships to understand what is important to them and how Allison can help. She is passionate about being the voice of the customer, developing extensive market research for opportunities for Allison and customers alike.

According to Jade, the UK’s rapid move towards electric vehicle (EV) and non-conventional propulsion methods is going to pick up speed further as time goes on. “The commitment from end-users, manufacturers and suppliers has been remarkable and all have taken in their stride to explore what is right for their business, quickly learning technical aspects that differ vastly from the traditional propulsion technologies that came previously,” she says.

Allison hopes to assist operators react to that change by maintaining close contact, understanding their needs and providing the latest information and updates on new technologies in development. It has recently launched its eGen Power series, a fully electrified two-speed axle, into the commercial vehicle industry. It features fully integrated electric motors, a multi-speed gearbox, oil cooler and pump, and provides high performance and efficiency. “This is a bolt-in solution compatible with most current vehicle frame, suspension, wheel ends and is well suited to most OEM vehicle assembly processes. The system is compatible with full battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell-electric vehicles.

In addition, for operators not yet ready to make the move to electrification, Allison is offering end users running conventional diesel products a midlife upgrade to its standard 2100 transmission called the xFE. The benefits of upgrading from the incumbent automatic transmission is up to 7.13% fuel saving in urban driving, and up to 16% in rural environments. “Being able to provide this xFE product is helping operators keep running their buses a little bit longer and possibly get a brand new transmission in the process,” says Jade.

BAE Enviro ER

At the cutting-edge

Assisting customers with the massive cross-industry move towards zero-emission solutions is BAE, which, in addition to meeting ongoing demand for hybrid vehicles, has also been accelerating its existing battery-electric and fuel cell-electric technologies to accommodate those changes.

“Most importantly, we’re listening and collaborating,” says Andrew Ashby, Business Development Manager at BAE Systems. “Different OEMs are at various stages in their journey to get to zero emissions, and it’s important to take that into account. We’re enabling operators across the scale to navigate their individual journeys with technology that suits their needs.”

This year marks BAE’s 25th anniversary, and with that comes expertise and know-how. “We’ve proven that with our leading technology, systems integration capability and continued work with customers,” adds Andrew. “While it may feel like a lot of people are only now embarking on their journey to get to zero, we’ve already been on that journey for a long time and that’s what sets us apart.”

For BAE, it’s important to look at vehicle propulsion technology within the bigger picture – and to reflect on the end goal of total net zero carbon for vehicles, a well-to-wheel zero-emission approach for the transport service infrastructure. It will assist operators on that journey by listening to their needs and innovating. “We continue to provide operators with our latest technologies and systems integration capability and are always looking to build on that so that they can better serve our customers. A key issue we hear about is the need to optimise total cost of ownership for operators through life, so addressing this is just one of the many ways we look at meeting the direct needs of our customers.”

Of course, challenges remain, with considerable market competition pressure and disruption to the industry. “But with disruption comes opportunity,” counters Andrew. “As we look to maintain and grow our own market position, we relish the challenge that comes with it.“

Engineer using a 3D scanner at Houghton International

Repair and maintenance

Houghton International is a specialist electro-mechanical engineering company that supports the maintenance of hybrid and electric buses. Chris Robson, Houghton International Sales Director, says he is seeing growth in the adoption of electric vehicles and alternative propulsion across the coach and bus industry: “The technology itself is advancing all the time, bringing with it improvements in performance and efficiency.

“As these new technologies develop, one key challenge for operators is the maintenance of new drivetrain systems. Assets such as traction motors and generators are not found on traditional diesel buses and have different maintenance and repair requirements that may present new challenges for operators and engineers.

“Many of the UK’s hybrid and electric buses are reaching the stage where assets are approaching major service intervals and OEM warranty periods are expiring. While the temptation can be to run assets to failure, this is likely to increase the complexity of any repairs, resulting in higher costs and keeping buses off the road for longer.

“Houghton International provides a viable alternative to OEM servicing, delivering cost-effective repair, maintenance and life extension services. We can reverse engineer key components to reduce lead times where required and our bespoke load testing capabilities ensure motors and generators are tested at full load prior to being fitted back to the vehicles to confirm performance and give added peace of mind.”

For Chris, new technology brings new maintenance challenges and Houghton International is keen to work with the industry to help address these. “With over 30 years’ experience in the repair and maintenance of electro-mechanical assets we know motors and generators inside out and can support the transition to and operation of lower emission vehicles, improving the performance and extending the life of these critical components.”