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…
That super long wheelbase chassis is fascinating. I wondered about turning radius before I got to the part about the rear wheel steering. And I suppse modern structural engineering can eliminate the flex issues that such a long wheelbase might suggest.
Those full windows might not be all that popular on a sunny extra hot day the likes of which Paris has been experiencing of late.
Are you suggesting the Frogs would know they are being slowly boiled?
Too much glass! No privacy, no sense of security.
I’m trying (but failing) to think of a time or place when privacy was a feature of public transport. That being so, the sense-of-security thing kind of answers itself: I think I’d be safer, or at least feel safer, with more rather than fewer people able to see what’s going on.
I would feel safer from surrounding vehicles if there was more metal lower down, say up to hood height on an SUV.
I wonder if the battery waste from disposed electric vehicles will be less toxic than fuel emissions or nuclear rods.
From what I understand, bus (and car/EV) batteries contain large enough amounts of rare-earth minerals to make recycling them profitable without the subsidies needed to recycle, say, phone batteries. There’s also a fast-growing industry around rebuilding them and upgrading older ones.
This question was settled years ago, yet still keeps being asked. EV’s are far, far better for the environment – and especially when they are used over a long lifetime.
Don’t look for this question to go away any time soon; “ZOMG ROMGZ THEY’LL KILL US WITH DEADLY MERCURY!!!!!1111!!!!” is still regurgitated—with utterly no basis in reality—as an argument against this century’s light bulbs.
True, but in my part of Australia we’re urged not to put them in the bin with other rubbish. We were supposed to take them to the council offices for disposal, but many of the counter staff there seemed unaware of that directive.
We have Alstom trains here, and quite a lot of their trams on what is the world’s largest tram network. The trains are at best ho-hum, not being as good as the beautifully comfortable locally made (Comeng) trains from 35 years earlier. The trams suffer exactly the problem JPC alludes to, especially in a country where even mild sun has a lot of UV intensity. It’s too easy to find oneself sat in a glary, unrelieved fishbowl, with no air and too much smell from the heated-up neighbour’s unwashed parts. They also ride poorly, and when new, were not reliable. (The trams, that is, one doesn’t ask the person with Alstrom Armpits squashed against one how they rode when young, really).
This creature is not an aesthetic wonder, even if it could do a waltz under one like the Arc. Perhaps it is a secret French plan to reduce the peskiness of le touristes by putting them in a unidirectional glass cases, continually swapping ends on the way to cause confusion, and, if unfortunate enough to be warm, browning them till crusty like baguettes.
Sometimes, engineering-led design is a triumph, like a Range-Rover or Mini, and sometimes, it looks like this. Someone call Msr Braq from his retirement, rapidement.
Everytime I’ve rode a bus any time that wasn’t winter, they have brutal AC cranked to 11, and the passengers smell bad just the same, and its hard to see because of full height ads on the windows. These are some of the many reasons I never want to step foot on a bus again.
Have always enjoyed Mr. Brophy’s weekly recaps of busses, both current and historic, endless variety on the concept of a box… am wondering if I’m the ONLY one finds this 100% electric unit attractive.
Thank you Jim for making buses your niche, and area of expertise at CC. Always look forward to your Saturday posts.
I agree with others that the large glass area, especially the several feet above riders, will potentially create excessive uncomfortable glare. Though the high glass does aid in the sightseeing experience for this specific Paris location, it is easy enough to solve with deeply tinting at the top, or pull down shading. The floor plan appears to reflect a commuter train layout with an emphasis on additional standing room, with fewer seats than many buses. The floor also appears to be flat for most of the length of the bus, except the very ends, which is a big plus. Many gasoline-engine low floor buses have raised rear floor sections with stairs. Which makes navigation less easy/safe for riders.
To address Justy, and the questionable homogeneous exterior looks of this bus, I think it’s largely because this bus looks very much like a train with large tires and wheels applied. If the track of the tires wasn’t so wide with the wheels steerable, wheel skirts could be applied to all four wheel arches. Giving the design a more futuristic and commuter train-like appearance. With the exposed wheels and tires, the design looks like a very bland and generic looking bus. Although, I think most people would get used to the plain and functional looks pretty quickly.
Curious whether this design could be exported to markets that deal with heavy snow. I could see the mid section of this specific bus design getting hung up in deep curbside snow banks.
That’s an excellent point Daniel regarding operation in areas with heavy snow – according to the press releases all orders have been in France and an order from Santiago Chile, though the bus has been tested in various European countries. It does look like it would be fairly easy to high center on a less than perfectly level surface. Jim.
Here in Portugal we’ve been running electric buses for nearly a year now, even though they look conventional at best. They are built locally.
I don’t mind the large windows, I get claustrophobic in busses, but judging by what I see on trams with large windows they’ll be almost completely covered with some awful vinyl advertisements.
The wheelbase is the standout for me, proof positive no overhangs are even less attractive than long overhangs, and unsurprisingly it needs a Rupe Goldberg steering system to work.
I must say I am absolutely fascinated by this bus’ styling, and functionality benefit that came with that style. Good job.
The only thing that I am not so sure of is the top heavy with battery on the roof. But being a city bus that goes in slow speed, it may be ok?
Yes Toffee, my understanding is this was a known concern and Alstom compensated with a computer controlled dynamic suspension that keeps the bus in balance and stable at all times. Jim.
The French like buses with a lot of windows:
Wow that’s ugly. Did they hang a carrot in front of the windshield from that forehead spike?
Santiago is also currently testing an Aptis! I haven’t had the time to ride on it, sadly.
Electric buses don’t need to be so groundbreaking though. Electric Chinese buses (by BYD and Yutong) have been in regular service in Santiago for months now. I haven’t hear of issues.
I like it – looks great, modern, imaginative, low level access, big windows for tourist views, electric for the modern city.
The long wheelbase, managed by 4 wheel steering, should give ride benefits as well. Truly, showing the advantages of a clean sheet of paper and fresh brains.