Last week we reviewed the Autotram Extra Grand, the longest bus currently in operation. That begs the question; what’s the shortest bus out there? Well, let’s refine our criteria a little first – we’ll rule out one-off prototypes and home-made hacksaw IH Loadstars (amazing how many are out there…) and focus on production models. That leads us to the bus above – the Technobus Gulliver U520, built by Technobus SPA, of Frosinone Italy.
The Gulliver is a transit bus made specifically for small urban streets, like those found in many European cities. The bus is only 5.3 meters (17.3 ft) long and 2 meters (6.8 ft) wide.
Capacity is 10 passengers seated with an additional 10 standing, for a total of 20.
Powertrain is electric – currently there are three versions; the basic model above was introduced in 1996 and is powered by a lead-acid battery pack which limits range to between 40-60 km. This limited range restricts the bus to very short routes – but the battery pack is on a removable pallet that can be changed out quickly.
Customers desired longer range and air conditioning, which the Base model’s lead acid batteries couldn’t support. In mid-2000’s, Gulliver introduced an updated model with a new lithium-ion battery pack that allowed for A/C and an extended range to around 120 km.
Recently introduced is the latest model which incorporates fuel cell technology that allows a range of over 250 km.
Many European cities have purchased the Gulliver – Rome is currently the largest operator with over 50 of the coaches.
While most sales have been in Europe, Quebec City purchased eight in 2008 for use in its “Old Quebec” district as a free shuttle.
At 17.3 feet, its two feet shorter than my 1978 Lincoln Town Coupe (19.3 ft)…
That sound even better for Paul’s camper conversion than the ProMaster. It even has the European windows installed already. 🙂
I love that bus – there’s something about shortened or the shortest) transit buses that makes them endearing in general. And the battery swap method is interesting and seems practical enough to be workable for that one particular model.
On the face of it though, one has to wonder if just a tall Promaster or Sprinter or whatever couldn’t serve the same market, I’m sure 20 people could stand in one of those as well at a much lower initial cost even if the door opening was modified to be more “real bus like” in operation.
A key element is the electric drive. Not adding even more Diesel pollution is quite important in tight spaces.
Of course but even just five years ago nobody cared about that. This bus has been around a lot longer than that. Still, it doesn’t seem that it would be overly difficult to build a Promaster or whatever with an electric rear drive unit and battery pack. I’m just Saturday-morning-musing here, not actually pencilling it all out :-). (But if someone runs with it, I only ask for a 10% royalty)
What do you mean “five years ago nobody cared about that”? You mean inner city diesel pollution? If so, you’re quite wrong. European cities have been quite concerned about that for a lot longer than that. There have been efforts minimize that going back quite a few years. It’s one of the reasons the EU-market Prius had an EV-mode switch, unlike the US version. It could go some 1.5 miles in electric mode only, enough to get one out of the densest part of the inner city.
Note in the video how this bus is used: in pedestrian-only areas. Which is really why this exists. There are so many areas in European cities that have been cut off from cars, but allow necessary buses (and service trucks) to access/service them.
When I was in Paris in 2012, there were gobs of little EV trucklets for the street sweepers, delivery, etc. The movement to get stinky and noisy vehicles out of the densest neighborhoods has been going on for decades,, actually.
Fiat Ducato (= Ram ProMaster) EV bus by Tribus.
Yes, now EV buses/van conversions are quite a bit easier to make than ten years ago.
Ha, there it is, now make it standing room inside with the seats folded against the walls and it can compete. Very interesting, thanks JD!
This is designed for city transport, not cargo. The floor in the middle anyway is very low and maybe has a wheelchair ramp. Tall enough door to walk in and then stand up. It has the aerodynamics of a barn, but that is not a big factor when going 25 mph. Plus being battery electric or fuel cell.
Very cool. I like that it’s successful, not a one-off, and LOL at the name. You really don’t get a sense of just how small these are until the very last shot in the video when a car follows it. The proportions are just like a regular bus (except the rear overhang).
This would probably work fairly well in my town as a feeder to the express bus to San Diego. Currently the feeder is similar to the rental car busses at an airport, and I imagine this would be rather cheaper to operate ( if not to purchase).
Looks to be a very good design solution for short range transit on many of Europe’s narrow streets in concentrated central urban areas. Creative solution, altho as many forget electric power simply moves the pollution back to source of electricity generation. Hydrogen power tho, might be THE answer!!
A far better little bus than the “big” airport shuttle bus conversion I did back in 1987! DFO
Where do you think hydrogen comes from? It’s not pumped out of the ground. Fossil fuels are the dominant source of industrial hydrogen. The steam reforming technique puts out lots of CO2 greenhouse gas as its byproduct.
This would be a good bus to have for an island community like Roosevelt Island or Governors Island.
Have you ever covered the minibuses of Hong Kong? They were a small minivan sized bus with cream colored sides and green tops, probably Toyota based.
Alright, longer for the denser(densest) inner city cores. But at least where the governmental double-speak is considered in regard to wanting to get rid of diesel and pollution but then incentivizing the sales thereof with a lower effective cost of ownership of diesel vs gasoline in many areas of Europe cleaning it up didn’t seem like a serious effort until more recent years, certainly not decades.
I did see the video, but also noted that towards the end of the video the bus is mixing it up on a regular street with a taxi and a scooter. Most of the featured pictures show it running on regular streets as well with regular traffic all around it. You keyed on the pedestrian zone, I saw the regular traffic use.
I don’t have a problem with the bus or its propulsion system, I was merely proposing that there may be a more cost-effective solution for transportation in the areas pictured that I keyed on where it seems to be used. The author stated that one of its use cases is on narrower streets that are not conducive to larger/longer vehicles, there is more than one way to skin that cat.
European Federal government policies and city policies/concerns have often not been in sync.
My point is this: European cities have been concerned about noise and pollution in their dense inner city cores for decades, quite a few actually. Which of course explains why they started closing off key streets to pedestrians only; to make them quiet, smoke-free and more conducive to walking/biking. This goes back to the 70s. And it continues.
The difference in pedestrian-zone areas from unrestricted traffic streets in inner cities is huge. Some cities have also done a hybrid thing, with narrow, slow-speed lanes for cars/trucks, and large dedicated lanes for bikes, and sidewalks for pedestrians.
My point is that these efforts to reduce traffic have been going on for some decades. And I’ll add this: IF there had been EVs (or gas-hybrids) available going back decades, the effort to ban/minimize cars might not have been so aggressive. The noise and smoke of diesels has been a scourge in European inner cities for a very long time.
Obviously, these are political tugs-of-war. Cities have often had/have more progressive governments than on the state/federal level. But the cities appear to be winning, with more street closures, restrictions on inner-city traffic (congestion charges, which can be bypassed with EVs, like in London), etc…and now heading to bans on diesels, which have been dangled around (in Paris) for some number of years already.
This bus was clearly designed to be used in these types of settings, a combination of pedestrian zones and other inner city streets. The reason it required a unique design (and not a converted van) is that it had to accommodate a very heavy lead acid battery pack. Also, it has a number of key design features that make it much more functional than the typical van -based minibus.
These van-based minibuses may work in the more typical US environment, with fewer stops and longer distances, but that does not describe how these are used.
It seems like it was at least 30 years ago when transit buses here in the US started routing their exhaust up instead of directly at the curb and passing pedestrians, or out the back and into the car behind them. Not quite the same as actually mitigating emissions, but clearly a sign of awareness of the unpleasant effect of diesel exhaust in the urban environment.
So technically you could say that a 1973 Imperial Coupe is the size of a bus!
I like it .
The whole idea of tiny little buses servicing congested areas successfully is great .
I the 1960’s we bought a 1959 IHC Metro Van that had been originally built as a tiny bus for a Hockey Team ~ I no longer remember how many it carried but more than 10, it was terrific for ferrying us prisoners into town and also for a few remote back woods camping trips .
As battery packs get better we’re going to see more and more of these tiny buses .
I am not at all an advocate of electric power for personal cars; a Tesla or the like would never work for the type of driving I do in the American west. And I dislike the fawning over them by the ever so concerned eco-weenies who flaunt these type cars as badges of their own personal goodness.
With that negative preface though I will readily concede that these seem to be ideal vehicles for their intended purpose. The design parameters (very short range, very small load ability and very limited road dimensions, offensiveness of noxious diesel fumes in the intended service area) make this vehicle ideal. I have been to the center of Quebec and can certainly understand how the bus works there, as well as in Europe. I can think of no practical use for a vehicle like this anywhere in the urban American west; the limited range along would be a killer.
Thanks for the story on an interesting and thought provoking vehicle.
With respect to the negative preface, a tiny sub-percentage of all drivers do the type of daily long-distance driving I presume you do in the west. Unless EV charging gets as quick and widely accessible as gas stations (which it might in time) there will always be a place for gasoline.
We’re excited about EVs because for most uses they’re just better, faster, cleaner and cheaper to run, and they’re getting better and cheaper and cleaner all the time.
In defense of the name-calling, I have an electric sticker on the rear window of my EV so you can see what just passed you. 😉
“cheaper to run”
Only because gasoline and Diesel are taxed higher than electricity. Once EVs get popular the taxman will come.
The fact is that “fuel” for an EV is way less than that of a conventional car in most parts of the country, so even when the tax man catches up an EV will still be “cheaper to run”. I ran it based on my area and something like a Leaf costs half as much to “fuel” as a Prius.
I could see this as very useful in some of the tight city centers in the Western US. King County’s Metro already has some battery electric buses in use, though they are larger 38 seat units. http://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/about/innovation-in-motion/zero-emission-fleet/battery-bus.aspx
Unfortunately there are a lot of places in Seattle where the standard bus struggles to fit through though I think they would need more of these to meet the demand on those routes.
As I get older, I begin to see that an electric would do just fine for the little driving many older folk do. Sure, there are many uses for which an electric would not suit, at least not at the current state and/or cost. The trick will be to make electrics cheap enough that they can be considered at least a viable alternative.
I’ve found a shorter bus! LaTrobe University here in Melbourne has just started an autonomous bus service using a Navya bus which is 4.8m long, 2.05m wide and 2.6m high. It is electric of course.
I live in florence and i used gullivers many times.
They make a strange sound but they appear to be good busses for the passenger pov (those we have dates back to 2008 and now have many mechanical problems)
However among the 480 buses that operates in florence there is another model that may stole the award of shortest bus: the irisbus civis https://imgur.com/a/qtuwBnE
That bus was derived from iveco daily and built in less than 20 units, of which 11 sold in florence and the rest sold to another bus operator in umbria.