One concept that will enable Wrights to keep costs as low as possible with alternative technologies is its utilisation of significant cross-platform commonality.
The 96v hybrid system, christened HEV 96, has already been delivered in StreetLite and StreetDeck models to a number of operators.
The manufacturer is coy on exactly how it works, but it is accepted by Transport for London as a hybrid and it is “significantly cheaper” than earlier diesel-electric products. For a HEV 96-equipped StreetDeck, unit cost is below £300,000.
A StreetDeck HEV for Translink is shown above, one of 28 with the Northern Irish operator. Besides the propulsion package, it has third-generation Micro Hybrid technology and engine stop-start to give what the manufacturer claims is “the most fuel efficient bus of its type.”
Above, Translink StreetDeck HEV interior
A more mundane development is the addition of the 7.7-litre, six-cylinder Daimler OM 936 engine to the diesel StreetDeck. At the moment only the 5.1-litre, four-cylinder OM 934 has been fitted to buses for the UK, but the larger unit is required in export markets. One such vehicle is currently on trial with Kowloon Motor Bus, and a demonstrator for Mexico also has the OM 936.
A second StreetDeck on show is a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) variant. Wrightbus’ approach to hydrogen utilises a common platform across double- and single-deck.
The StreetDeck FCEV at the show has been tested in Aberdeen. Wrightbus has been selected as the sole supplier of hydrogen-powered double-decker buses to the UK under the European JIVE project, which is designed to promote the commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles,
As a result, it expects to build around 50 StreetDeck FCEVs for use in Aberdeen, Birmingham and London, and Wrightbus is working closely with those cities to develop an implementation plan. It is also talking to a handful of other potential domestic customers.
Fuel cell technology has proved itself. The StreetDeck FCEV has a range of 200 miles, which can be extended. A hydrogen bus looks and behaves much like a diesel in terms of infrastructure.”
Another important point with fuel cell is that hydrogen-powered buses can replace diesels on a one-for-one basis as there is no ‘range anxiety’.
Additionally, Wrightbus sees hydrogen as sustainable. It is the most abundant element in the universe, but separating it is energy intensive. To mitigate that, the OEM is working with partners in Scandinavia, where renewable electricity is used at night for that purpose.
Longer term, it envisages a vertically integrated supply arrangement, where the operator pays a pence-per-kg fee that includes both the hydrogen and the associated infrastructure.
The vehicle on show uses a Ballard FCVelocity fuel cell, a Siemens drivetrain and a 48kW traction battery pack. Refueling takes around seven minutes. Remote diagnostics are available.
Although much focus is on fuel cell, Wrightbus has not forgotten battery electric. It is working on new EV technology and it regards diesel-electric hybrid as merely an intermediate step towards zero emission. To that end, battery electric will be available on all sizes of StreetLite, the StreetAir and the StreetDeck.
Above and below, StreetLite Micro Hybrid. StreetLite platform will include diesel with Micro Hybrid, hybrid, and EV.
Above, a StreetLite on view in the outside display area
Meanwhile, at the smallest end of Wrightbus’ product range, news of a 9.05m long, 2.28m wide diesel StreetVibe. It is one of a batch of 31-seaters ordered by the States of Guernsey, where vehicle width is a key consideration.
The domestic bus market may well be tough, but with a technology roadmap, a focus on R&D and a refreshed management team, Wrightbus remains bullish for future.