Mel­lor's coachcraft

Mel­lor Coachcraft is ad­vo­cat­ing the use of elec­tric and low floor mini-buses in Europe.

Commercial Vehicle - - WHAT'S INSIDE - Story by: Ashish Bha­tia

Mel­lor Coachcraft is ad­vo­cat­ing the use of elec­tric and low mini-buses in Europe.

UK-based Mel­lor Coachcraft (Mel­lor) par­tic­i­pated in Bus­world Kor­trijk for the first time in 2017. It ad­vo­cated the use of elec­tric and low floor mini-buses by high­light­ing them as a prof­itable busi­ness model across Europe. Show­cas­ing Orion E, which it claims to be the world’s first low floor al­l­elec­tric mini-bus, the com­pany — part of the Woodall Ni­chol­son Group, part­nered with EMOSS, an Euro­pean elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­te­gra­tor for the de­vel­op­ment. Iden­ti­cal in ap­pear­ance with Orion, its pre­de­ces­sor, the new all-elec­tric mini-bus was sub­jected to sim­u­lated test cy­cles in a bid to achieve com­pli­ance with all Euro­pean reg­u­la­tions. Aimed at Euro­pean markets rather than just the UK mar­ket, the Orion E adds to a fleet of elec­tric and low floor mini-buses that com­pany makes. Show­cas­ing a low floor left­hand drive vari­ant of the Strata at Bus­world Kor­trijk, Mel­lor, ac­cord­ing to Steve Reeves, Head – Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, has been good at gaug­ing fu­ture trends of the mar­ket. De­vel­op­ing Orion E in left-hand drive form

espe­cially for main­land Europe and other left-hand drive markets, Mel­lor, at Bus­world Kor­trijk also dis­played the Tu­cana II based on Volk­swa­gen T6 Trans­porter. Stress­ing on the abil­ity of the com­pany to un­der­stand cus­tomer needs and sub­ject them to en­gi­neer­ing re­search, Reeves averred, “Mel­lor has been prac­tis­ing a fo­cused ap­proach to un­der­stand the Euro­pean bus mar­ket. It is do­ing so by strik­ing syn­er­gies and tap­ping op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Putting the find­ings to good use, Mel­lor is en­sur­ing that the elec­tric low-floor Euro6 com­pli­ant mini-buses it is of­fer­ing in Europe make a prof­itable busi­ness case. Keen to be a lead­ing small bus man­u­fac­turer, the com­pany did a lot of ground­work. Ex­pressed Reeves, “It took three years to plan the prod­ucts. The process in­volved an in-depth need gap anal­y­sis in the Pub­lic Ser­vice Ve­hi­cle (PSV) seg­ment.” “The key to our suc­cess has been twofold,” added Reeves. First is the vi­sion to de­velop prod­ucts for the PSV seg­ment, and sec­ond is the abil­ity of the com­pany to pur­sue busi­ness am­bi­tions. Backed by an am­bi­tious busi­ness plan, the Orion E, with its chas­sis fea­tur­ing an elec­tric drive and gear­box that was pro­cured from EMOSS, is a low-floor mono­coque de­sign. Claimed to be a good sub­sti­tute for the Orion mini-bus which is pow­ered by a Fiat de­rived diesel en­gine, the Orion E, ac­cord­ing to Reeves, has its bat­tery packs dis­trib­uted across sev­eral lo­ca­tions to achieve op­ti­mal weight dis­tri­bu­tion. De­signed and built en­tirely by Mel­lor, the Orion E is of­fered in dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions. Avail­able in a four-seater, three-wheel­chair guise as well as in a form that can seat 16 peo­ple, the Orion E comes with a sin­gle step en­try. With space for up to four wheel­chairs through dou­ble rear doors and a fold­ing ramp, or fold out ramp at the front en­trance, the em­ini-bus fa­cil­i­tates pas­sen­ger ac­cess through a rapid slid­ing side en­try door and dou­ble doors at the rear.

Orion E for di­verse ap­pli­ca­tions

With a five-tonne GVW and a wheel­base of 4890 mm, the Orion E has the power go­ing to the front wheels. Mea­sur­ing 7479 mm in length, 2200 mm in width and 2645 mm in height, the em­ini-bus, ac­cord­ing to Reeves, of­fers a spa­cious pas­sen­ger com­part­ment be­cause of its front-wheel drive mech­a­nism. An in­de­pen­dent trail­ing arm sus­pen­sion also helps in of­fer­ing a spa­cious pas­sen­ger com­part­ment – a large floor space in par­tic­u­lar. Suit­able for di­verse cus­tomer ap­pli­ca­tions, the Orion E is made ver­sa­tile by its abil­ity to ad­dress the needs of cus­tomers like des­ti­na­tion dis­plays, ac­cess ramps and heat­ing op­tions. The Orion E, averred Reeves, has been de­vel­oped and built keep­ing in mind the needs of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, stage car­riage op­er­a­tors, com­mu­nity trans­port groups and Dial-ARide or­gan­i­sa­tions. Much like any

other elec­tric ve­hi­cle, the dash­mounted screen on the Orion E pro­vides the driver with vi­tal in­for­ma­tion. It dis­plays met­rics like speed, charge, auto recharge, etc. Run­ning on 400-volt DC, the em­ini-bus is equipped with LiFe PO4 bat­ter­ies that have a 72 kWh charge ca­pac­ity at 180 Ah. Claimed to do 100 miles on a sin­gle charge with a peak mo­tor power of 158 kWh, and a top speed of 90 kmph, the Orion E con­sists of an elec­tric mo­tor and a re­duc­tion gear. Tak­ing 3.5 hours for a sin­gle charge, the low-floor elec­tric bus has a sin­gle-speed trans­mis­sion with a ra­tio of 1:10.2.

Strata LF for stage car­riage

Aimed at the grow­ing stage car­riage mar­ket, the Strata LF is based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 516 van. Steer­ing clear of the van con­ver­sion mar­ket, the Strata LF is en­gi­neered with the ap­proval of MercedesBenz ac­cord­ing to Reeves.

A low floor con­struc­tion, the ve­hi­cle has proved to be pop­u­lar with op­er­a­tors in UK. Ex­pect­ing a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence in the rest of Europe, Mel­lor is of­fer­ing the Strata with a 2x2 seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion. Claimed to have been com­pletely reengi­neered to pro­vide a large low floor sec­tion with space to ac­com­mo­date two-wheel­chairs, the Strata LF saw Mel­lor in­vest in the lat­est 3D CAD soft­ware to cre­ate a strong stain­less steel frame. Apart from CAD, CNC machines were de­ployed to cre­ate GRP mould­ings and in­te­rior plas­tics. Em­pha­sis was laid on ad­dress­ing the de­mand­ing na­ture of stage car­riage op­er­a­tions with­out sac­ri­fic­ing a light and airy feel.

Com­ply­ing with the Euro­pean ve­hi­cle type ap­proval stan­dard, the Strata has un­der­gone rig­or­ous ac­cel­er­ated dura­bil­ity test­ing at Mill­brook. It un­der­went sim­u­la­tion tests that are equiv­a­lent to eight years of use in a stage car­riage en­vi­ron­ment. Ca­pa­ble of seat­ing 22

pas­sen­gers, the ve­hi­cle could be had in mul­ti­ple seats and handrail con­fig­u­ra­tions. Equipped with des­ti­na­tion dis­plays, a rapid slid­ing en­trance door, a ticket ma­chine plat­form, the Strata is DDA com­pli­ant. Flaunt­ing a 5000 mm wheel­base, the ve­hi­cle weighs 5.5-tonne. Mea­sur­ing 7760 mm in length, 2300 mm in width and 2760 mm in height, the Strata is pow­ered by a four-cylin­der 2143 cc Euro6 Mercedes-Benz BlueTec diesel en­gine that pro­duces 163 hp and 360 Nm of peak torque. The en­gine routes power through a seven-speed trans­mis­sion.

Tu­cana II

Based on the Volk­swa­gen T6, the Tu­cana II seats 16 peo­ple. Built from CAD de­signed mould­ings to en­sure a dis­tinc­tive styling and good fit and fin­ish stan­dards, the Tu­cana II can ac­com­mo­date up to four wheel­chairs. A truly flat floor con­struc­tion, the ve­hi­cle em­ploys com­pos­ites in­stead of ply­wood. In­cor­po­rat­ing a space sav­ing tip and fold seat, large win­dows and a glass roof hatch to present a roomy and airy feel, the HVAC sys­tem of the Tu­cana II is via a 12 kW roof­mounted unit. Propul­sion power for the van comes from a 147 hp two-litre turbo-diesel en­gine mated with a seven-speed DSG au­to­matic trans­mis­sion or a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. Weigh­ing 4.1-tonne, the ve­hi­cle has a wheel­base of 4300 mm, and mea­sures 7012 mm in length, 2080 mm in width and 2565 mm in height.

With a prod­uct port­fo­lio that con­sists of dis­tinc­tive of­fer­ings like the Tu­cana II, and the Orion E mini-bus, Mel­lor is aim­ing to gain a strong foothold in the Euro­pean markets. Con­fi­dent that prod­ucts (Orion E espe­cially) like these will ad­dress the re­quire­ments of op­er­a­tors in the Euro­pean sub-con­ti­nent and fill the void in the small elec­tric bus mar­ket, Reeves opined that the Orion E is the first of its kind ve­hi­cle. “It is a break­through prod­uct for Mel­lor,” he said. Launched in the UK in 2017, the Orion E was born out of the com­pany’s re­search, and a close study of var­i­ous po­ten­tial com­po­nent sup­pli­ers for the mo­tor and power elec­tron­ics across Europe. Men­tioned Reeves, that by us­ing Euro­pean based man­u­fac­tur­ers, the tech­nol­ogy and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses were well de­fined. The com­po­nents that have found their way into the Orion E are claimed to be used by many high vol­ume elec­tric car man­u­fac­tur­ers, and are thus proven. The adop­tion of elec­tric ve­hi­cles in all of Europe, in­clud­ing UK, driven by the grow­ing con­cerns over par­tic­u­late and NOx emis­sions caused by diesel ve­hi­cles, Mel­lor is look­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity to drive its elec­tric ve­hi­cles into the mar­ket. Con­fi­dent of carv­ing out a good por­tion of the mar­ket that is con­vert­ing to elec­tric, the com­pany is bank­ing on elec­tric mini-buses as they can be ma­noeu­vred eas­ily through the nar­row city streets. Ap­point­ing three Euro­pean dis­trib­u­tors, in­clud­ing a Swedish en­ter­prise called BK In­vest, which would cover the whole of Scan­di­navia (Swe­den, Nor­way and Den­mark), Mel­lor, for the Aus­trian mar­ket has ap­pointed E-Vade. For rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Benelux coun­tries, it has ap­pointed E-Bus of the Nether­lands. Stat­ing that there is a def­i­nite gap in the Benelux mar­ket for small buses with both diesel and elec­tric drive trains, Reeves signed off, “We are well poised to carve out a pie of Euro­pean markets.”

⇩ Orion E (in left-hand drive) is aimed at main­land Europe and other left-hand drive markets.

⇦ Steve Reeves, Head – Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, Mel­lor Coachcraft.

⇩ The Strata LF based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 516 van.

⇧ The Tu­cana II based on Volk­swa­gen T6.

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