New Flyer's Soubry Embraces Company's Bold Future

Posted on September 19, 2013 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

Page 3 of 4

In May, New Flyer introduced a new medium-size bus in conjunction with Alexander Dennis.
In May, New Flyer introduced a new medium-size bus in conjunction with Alexander Dennis.

What has the response been like from the industry so far?

We were lucky at the [APTA Bus & Paratransit] show in [May], because we had the MiDi™ sitting in the middle of a whole bunch of heavy-duty transit buses, and immediately, you saw a size difference. Alexander Dennis is savvy and smart about the utilization of space. So far, feedback has been fantastic. Again, this is not going to replace the heavy-duty bus, but it will create a niche. The Canadian market has been very responsive. We are in the process of Altoona and other testing, so we haven’t been able to sell it to a U.S. customer yet, but we will have that completed by the end of the year; we are on schedule.

Yes, it is early, but we are bullish this bus is going to be able to take off for us. As I mentioned, we start building that bus here in St. Cloud at the end of the year on a dedicated line. We have the benefit of being able to draw expertise on assembly from seasoned workers. We also have all the leadership and supervision we need to help us get the MiDi™ bus started. We are going to start slow. We are going to make sure it is done right. We are still in the process of finalizing all the sourcing, in terms of making sure we meet Buy America compliance, and also, maintaining a price point that is attractive.

When do you see the first MiDi™ hitting the streets?
The first MiDi™ customer delivery will be in the first quarter of next year, and the launch customer will be a Canadian operator.

Tell me about the rest of your product line and any updates or changes you’ve rolled out.
The response to Xcelsior and its evolution of our Low Floor product has really gone well, with the acceptance by customers beyond our expectations. From a product standpoint, our focus has been to try and offer many propulsion options. Every city, the politics and the definition of green is different. Every route is different. The duty cycle and service is different. Therefore, our view is we need to have a very solid, right-priced clean diesel engine option. We think the hybrid market will continue to stay in a certain segment and the pressure on fuel efficiency will have many operators still looking at that option. The issue is you have to put a hybrid on the right route for the math to work. We think natural gas will continue to have prominence. The fuel costs are very compelling, so we think that will continue to generate much interest. For 2013, more than one-half of our production will be natural gas.

The all-electric is clearly, we believe, where the industry is ultimately going to go. There are still a lot of unknowns — the battery weight, size and packaging; the charging strategies; the range anxiety and passenger trade-offs — there are just no standards yet in our industry. Our view has been to team with customers where they want to do R&D-type projects on electric. We have one operating on a prototype basis now out of our New Flyer facility. We have two going to Chicago, which are heavily battery-centric and will have overnight charging strategies. We have four going into Winnipeg in early 2014 that will use on-route charging. We are looking at multiple charging strategies, everything from catenary systems to induction charging. And, we believe by 2020, we are going to see that a good portion of the transit fleet in the U.S. will be electric. We believe as the leader of the heavy-duty transit bus space, we have to be propulsion agnostic, so we will continue to invest in electrification.

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