VANTAGE POWER’S HYBRID TECHNOLOGY TO BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO THE AGEING BUSES
“Buses are big, they’re heavy, they’re running 24 hours a day, so they use a lot of fuel,” says Vantage Power founder Schey. “Couple that with the fact that buses – pretty much by definition – are operating almost exclusively in towns and cities, so they have the biggest impact on local quality of life, air pollution and things like that. Put those all together and you actually find out that the bus industry is the most ripe for change in this area.
More research followed, with Schey and his colleague Schulz quickly identifying the after-sales market as Vantage Power’s potential sweet spot. New hybrid buses are expensive, and that segment would be out of reach until the company’s technology was proven. Retrofitting would provide the perfect opportunity for Vantage to cut its teeth, while at the same time targeting a market exposed to increasing regulatory pressure.
Schey and Schulz decided to design and buildi a powertrain that fitted to their ideas. Known as the B320 Hybrid Retrofit System, it features a four-cylinder 4.5L displacement diesel engine. This is used to keep the 125kW lithium-ion battery topped up, which in turn provides the power to the 210kW (283bhp) electric-drive motor. The energy-storage system means a bus can travel up to 4km without the help of the diesel engine.
During a retrofit the bus has its engine and gearbox removed, and the B320 is connected to the existing electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics and mounting points. So far, all design and testing has been carried out by Vantage Power at its Greenford base in West London, but the future heavy lifting will be undertaken by its partner Ensignbus, the UK’s largest used-bus dealer.
According to Schey, the retrofit process should require about 40 man hours, taking a small team about two or three days. Once complete, fuel consumption is reduced by around 40 per cent, which works out at about £15,000 per bus per year at current fuel prices.
Vantage is currently in talks with numerous bus operators around the country and is manufacturing 10 ‘beta’ engines to undergo trials with some of sector’s main players. There are about 9,000 double-deckers in the UK between six and 12 years old, and this is Vantage’s target market. The looming emissions regulations mean a large chunk of that 9,000 will have a major incentive to adopt the technology.