Bus Stop Classics: Alstom Aptis – The Electric Bus Comes to Paris

We’ve reviewed electric-powered buses several times over the past couple of years; in Apr 17 we looked at the Proterra electric coach, and in Oct 16 when we reviewed possible mass transit future motive trends.  Now in mid-2019, almost every bus manufacturer has an electric model in their product line.  China is far out in front of other regions in transitioning their urban transit bus fleets to electrics, but the US and Europe are striving to catch up.  One example – in 2020, a new electric bus will transport passengers down the historic Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris – the Alstom Aptis…

Alstom SA is a large French multinational company most known for its integrated railway systems and technology; both high-speed trains and urban metro models.  Alstom’s TGV currently holds the world record for wheeled trains set in 2007 when it reached 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph).  The Aptis is the company’s first bus, and it draws from Alstom’s deep experience with trams and other small tracked carriages.

In comparison to other electric buses, it has some unique qualities.  First is its appearance – it’s pretty easy to tell that the manufacturer of this bus has experience with trains and trams.  It appears tram-like and utterly functional – a square box with the wheels pushed out to the four corners to maximize interior space.  Contrary to its appearance, it is not bi-directional – in the picture above the front is on the right and the rear to the left.

Length is 12 meters, with width 2.5.  To ensure a low floor height, the batteries and control mechanisms are all located on the roof – which makes the coach top-heavy.  The suspension has been strengthened and is dynamically controlled to ensure stability.

Electric motors are located at each wheel, which allows both axles to steer.  At higher speeds, the rear wheels counter-steer to reduce the turning radius, and at lower speeds can turn in the same direction allowing the bus to “crab” into tight spots.

Volvo Electric Bus at High Capacity Pantograph Charger

Battery range is less than some other models, to include the Proterra – 200 KM (124 miles) but a recharge can be done at route end-stations via an overhead high capacity pantograph in six minutes.  Alstom is working on road embedded charging options also.

It’s definitely open and airy – maybe a little too much for me – like sitting in a moving storefront window…

The Paris Public Transport operator, RATP, has ordered 50.  The Aptis will no doubt be extremely efficient and functional – but in terms of style, it may not add much appeal to the beautiful streets of Paris…