January 2011

BusCon 2010: Cutaway Vehicle Introductions, Green Technology in Abundance

by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

BusCon's busy show floor had more than 58 vehicles and 140 exhibitors attendees could visit.

While many of the newest unveilings centered around the cutaway market at the 2010 BusCon show, there was definitely still a drive toward greening the industry and upgrading products to improve efficiencies. The event, celebrating its 15th anniversary, displayed 58 vehicles and hosted more than 140 exhibitors at Chicago's Navy Pier September 29 to 30.

BusCon offered innovations ranging from new vehicles to environmentally friendly cooling systems and everything in between to attendees on the show floor, while technical sessions and speakers addressed topics such as alternative fuels, driver fatigue, securing coach funding and driver safety. Sessions designed for university transportation providers focused on sustainability and increasing levels of service.

Debuts, highlights

One groundbreaking innovation from the show floor was the unveiling of the Solar Hybrid Bus Powering System by Gary Bauer of Bauer's Intelligent Transportation of San Francisco.

The Solar Bus consists of four thin film solar panels that run the length of the bus and charge an on-board battery bank. When the bus engine is off, the batteries power the air-conditioning and wireless connectivity equipment to prevent idling.

"You are doing multiple things by utilizing this system: You are going green because you're cutting 40 percent of the emissions out by not having to run your bus and saving $14,000 a year on fuel, as well as the life of your engine, because you're not idling," explained Bauer.

The new prototype will have a smaller overall footprint, so it will be able to fit in a variety of bus sizes, according to Bauer, who has had the bus operating as part of his fleet since January 2010 with solid results. 

Another new product on display at the show included IC Bus' AC Series, — its first fully integrated small shuttle bus - which features a proprietary design that enables bumper-to-bumper coverage and ensures customers have a single point of contact — the IC Bus network.

The AC Series bus is powered by the lightweight, 220 hp 6.4-liter MaxxForce 7 matched with an Allison 1000 Series transmission and features frame rails rated to 80,000 psi and a full-tilt hood, allowing for unobstructed access to the engine compartment.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) launched two products, including its highly anticipated S2 cutaway, featuring a near-complete shuttle bus cab, and the XB-P, 45-foot commercial bus chassis.

Built on a lightweight aluminum frame to reduce flex and bowing, minimize coach stress, and keep the driver and passengers comfortable, the FCCC S2 cutaway provides coach designers with options, including adding or removing certain cab amenities such as the rear wall, seating and roof top doors.

Additionally, the FCCC XB-P chassis is equipped with a 16,000-lb. ZF independent front suspension and a Neway ADL series rear air-ride suspension, and is equipped with a Cummins ISM 450 horsepower rear-diesel engine and an Allison B500 six-speed transmission.

Supreme Corp.'s StarTrans Bus division featured its P/S2 model, which is built on FCCC's S2 cutaway chassis. It is available in 31-, 34-, 37- and 39-foot lengths and has numerous seat configurations with seating for up to 41 passengers.             

Foton America Bus Co., this year's booth winner for Most Innovative New Product, showcased its FCB-30-, 35- and 40-foot low-floor buses featuring the Cummins ISL-G natural gas engine. The FCB-Low Floor is Buy America-compliant and meets or exceeds all U.S. government standards on emissions.

Designed for wheelchair accessibility and exceeding ADA guidelines, the only purpose-built vehicle, the MV1 from MV Sales & Leasing, was also on display, featuring a durable body-on-frame architecture and a Ford electronic 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. It is available with either a Ford 4.6L unleaded gas or dedicated-CNG engine and comes with a manual wheelchair ramp, standard, or a powered-telescoping ramp, optional.  

Speaking of ramps, Ricon Corp. showcased its compact, modularly-designed BR2C bi-fold access ramp for low-floor buses.

"The ramp is simple to operate and complies with all applicable ADA regulations," said John Condon, VP, commercial/transit sales — North America. "In addition, the BR2C does not require any special tools or procedures to manually operate the unit in the event of power loss."

Some of the many environmentally friendly products on the show floor included the Cummins Crosspoint VTM S-3000 hybrid power system for Class 3-7 vehicles, which has been tested by fleet users for two years and found to reduce emissions by as much as 35 percent and increase fuel mileage by 30 percent, and Micro Bird by Girardin's G5 cutaway powered by a Roush propane system and built on a Ford E-450 chassis.

Carrier Transport introduced its new cooling system for the small and mid-size bus market, the AC-430, which was showcased on several vehicles on the show floor. Thermo King unveiled its Slim Line Rooftop A/C unit (SLR), which allows for 90 percent of the maintenance to be performed from inside the bus due to the system configuration. 

Additionally, Q'Straint debuted the Q'UBE, a completely integrated rear wheelchair securement module that will adapt to any vehicle layout, including paratransit and transit vehicles. REI, this year's Most Creative Display booth award winner, unveiled its VR-3000 DVD/CD/MP3/USB/SD player.

Alt fuels, 2010 compliance

The "Alternative-Fuel Panel of Experts: Fill Your Tank with Green Solutions" discussion featured Clean Energy's John Somers, the Propane Education and Research Council's Greg Zilberfarb and the National Biodiesel Board's Richard Nelson, each discussing the benefits of natural gas, propane and biodiesel, respectively, as well as the infrastructure and maintenance costs involved.

Currently, all major U.S. OEMs support at least B5 and lower blends, provided they are made with biodiesel meeting ASTM D 6751, and more than 55 percent of U.S. manufacturers now support B20 or higher blends in at least some of their equipment, with several more OEMs completing testing toward B20 support, according to Nelson. 

For their part, Zilberfarb spoke of propane's growing usage, while Somers discussed the prevalence of natural gas production in North America — around 97 percent. Audience members discussed their experiences — both positive and negative - using alternative fuels as well as some of the learning curves.

Meanwhile, Michael Melaniphy, vice president, public sector, for Motor Coach Industries Inc. (MCI) spoke about the long road to building a 2010 EPA-compliant coach. Melaniphy's presentation included an in-depth explanation of what it took to bring a new power plant package to the market, from development to prototyping to testing to eventual production ramp up.

Specifically, Melaniphy discussed changes that were made to the coaches, such as re-engineering its cooling packages for all coaches to accommodate the 2010 engines, and the learning curve that comes with re-adapting a proven product to meet new compliance stipulations.

"Designs had to be changed to not only optimize performance, but also meet regulatory requirements," he said.

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