Door Forward for StreetLite

Door Forward for StreetLite Door Forward for StreetLite
When Wrightbus launched its StreetLite Wheel Forward midibus last year it promised a Door Forward version, which was duly unveiled last week, reports Gavin Booth.

Although the names attached to the two models may seem prosaic, it’s difficult to deny that they make it clear just what the difference is. And the new Door Forward version, with its set-back front wheels and front-mounted entrance, may well prove to be the bigger seller as it goes head to head with established models like the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 and Optare Versa.

The StreetLite is the first proper Wrightbus venture into building complete vehicles and the new version is available in 10.2m and 10.8m lengths. The Wheel Forward version, which competes with the well-established Optare Solo, is available in 8.8m and 9.5m versions and has sold steadily to smaller operators.

The new StreetLites are available in single-door and two-door form with seats for up to 41 passengers and a total capacity in the longer one-door version of 70, with Wrightbus strongly pitching this version as a serious option to full-size heavyweight single-deckers in the light of the looming Euro6 emissions legislation. Wright Group managing director Mark Nodder says that many bus operators are concerned about the new standard coming into effect in 2013, particularly the cost, extra weight, fuel consumption and reduced seating penalties that seem inevitable. “The StreetLite has been designed with Euro6 in mind,” says Nodder. “We are working to take weight out of the bus so that a complete Euro6 version should weigh no more than the current versions do. And we have a target to improve fuel efficiency to counteract any negative effects.”

The unladen weight of the new 10.8m StreetLite is 7.6 tonnes and of the 10.2m version (to Transport for London spec) just over 8 tonnes. Customers for the Wheel Forward StreetLite report inner city fuel consumption of 10-12mpg and as much as 14mpg on interurban work, and Nodder says that he believes the new versions will be just as good.

Nodder acknowledges that there have been teething problems with the Wheel Forward StreetLites, but Wrightbus has worked hard to sort these on existing vehicles and has incorporated improvements in later vehicles. One criticism had been the steering lock, which has been improved by 4 degrees.

The StreetLite uses the Cummins iSBe engine rated at 160bhp or 185bhp, coupled to a Voith three-speed or four-speed gearbox. Wrightbus acknowledges that the Voith is a costly unit, but believes this is more than offset by its robustness and reliability.

Over 70 per cent of the parts on the new StreetLite are common to the Wheel Forward version; only the front-end module, stretching to behind the front wheels, is new.

Nodder’s ambitions for the StreetLite go beyond the UK market. “Export is a key part of our strategy,” he says. “There has been a lot of interest from Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and we need to be able to adapt it to each country.

“It has been designed from the outset as an international product. For Europe we are in discussions to develop a partnership with a major player, another manufacturer, which could mean that we would be offering a different powertrain from the Cummins/Voith package. We always saw StreetLite as a range that could be expanded and amended to suit different markets.

“All of our customers are talking about fuel consumption. Suddenly with the ever-increasing price of fuel and the concerns about the adverse effects of Euro6 there is a realisation that future buses will have to be lighter and more fuel-efficient. We believe that we’re ahead of our continental cousins in working to reduce weight and improve fuel consumption, and I think it’s beginning to dawn on them that they can’t continue in this way.”

The StreetLite Door Forward is an attractive package. The two pre-series demonstrators that were launched last week were a TfL-spec 10.2m two-door 185bhp 31-seater and a 10.8m one-door 160bhp 41-seater aimed at provincial fleets. In both buses there is no real feeling that this is a midi-sized vehicle, and inside there is a sense of light and space that belies the relatively modest proportions.

If Wrightbus has got the powertrain right, the new StreetLite could be a serious contender in the midibus market, possibly tempting some operators to consider these instead of a heavyweight model, particularly when a 41-seater comes close to the optimum seating capacity on a 12m heavyweight. The cost of a Door Forward StreetLite is likely to be in the range £115,000-£120,000, which makes it an attractive proposition. OK, StreetLite Door Forward is not the most attractive name for a new bus, but then, it does what is says on the tin.