BYD meets challenge on electric deckers

BYD meets challenge on electric deckers Isbrand Ho, managing director BYD Europe.

The launch of a full-electric double-deck bus for London at Busworld Kortrijk is BYD’s answer to Boris Johnson’s challenge two and a half years ago about the impossibility of such a product. BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu rose to the mayor’s challenge and pulled out all the stops to produce not one, but five buses in order to prove that the concept is possible.

The resulting product on BYD’s stand at Kortrijk and its sister vehicle which was in London the following week, certainly look the part at first glance but it is likely that there will be a number of niggles identified and a fair bit of further work to make them fit for service in the capital. However this is still a very important development and the subsequent announcement of a strengthening of the partnership with Alexander Dennis gives a clue as to where this could lead.

“We realise that British operators need a British bus,” says Isbrand Ho, managing director BYD Europe, who is well aware that importing chassis on a long sea journey from China is not really compatible with delivering a low-carbon product for the UK.

But the Chinese lead on electric technology and batteries is well understood and if the deal with ADL sees this harnessed within a bus that is recognised and valued in the UK and other markets, it could prove to be a very powerful combination.

The 10.2m double-deck ebus has wheel hub motors and 345kwh battery capacity which BYD claims gives it a range of 300km on a single charge, as shown in tests carried to UITP’s SORT criteria, although it also quotes a range of 240km “according to the operation experiences”. The aluminium-bodied decker has a 19t GVW with an unladen weight of 13.7t giving a passenger capacity of 81, including 54 seated.

Alongside the double-deck, BYD showed a new full-electric 18m articulated bus designed for the European market. Transport for London’s Leon Daniels and Mike Weston were on the stand for the double-deck launch, but we saw no evidence of their gaze straying towards the artic; so don’t expect a reversal of London’s policy yet, although never say never, particularly with a mayoral election in the offing.

An 8m BYD electric midibus was also on show outside, although the model displayed was an earlier Chinese-specification vehicle with a European version in development. BYD says the 24-seat midibus has a range of 230km and can  be fully charged in around two hours from a 60kw power source.

BYD is now beginning to see its vehicles with paying customers rather than just on demonstration, according to Ho, with a number of orders in the pipeline including the 51 single-decks to be produced for London in partnership with ADL.

Ho is adamant that the future is pure electric and depicts technologies such as hybrids as a stop-gap. “Having the additional weight of a diesel engine [in a hybrid] just doesn’t make sense and it’s not zero emission,” says Ho.

He believes that the VW scandal may “accelerate the demise of diesel vehicles”. He adds: “We may have reached the plateau in terms of the internal combustion engine”.

In addition to buses, Ho believes that coach operators may also benefit from electric vehicles and he points to BYD trials in China which have seen full-electric coaches achieving a 220km range. Clearly the logistics of coach journeys will make any transition to electric a challenge, but Ho suggests that tourist coach operations in major cities could benefit from electrification as well as sectors such as express coaches.