Design Concept of the Day: Superbus

March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

What the hell is this? It’s called the Superbus and yes, it’s a bus. Sort of. Seats 23, 15 foot long, eight doors per side, a cruising speed of 155mph and it looks like a supercar: passengers have seatbelts, airbags, air conditioning internet connectivity and TV.  It’s the brainchild of former space shuttle astronaut Wubbo Ockels (the “first Dutchman in space”), now a professor at Technical University Delft, and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, and the Superbus team includes a former BMW-Williams aerodynamicist. It’s flexible in its routing, it’s electrically-driven, and they reckon it could be in use by 2015; prototypes are up and running. More details, including videos of it testing and interactive diagrams to explain its engineering, at the Superbus Project website. Love it, much more fun than a bendy bus or even the good ol’ Routemaster.

Other news and general thoughts today:

  • Well, the Budget: 3p a litre on fuel from 1st August, VED up, and a tightening-up of the criteria for the 10% company car tax banding – all as expected. To qualify for 5% BIK, cars must emit 75g/km or less, and for the 10% banding, under 100g/km for the 2012/13 financial year with further lowering of the benchmark. No surprises there, bar the removal of the 3% diesel surcharge. Some worries, though, that the 0% tax banding for EVs will end in 2015, when they will become liable for BIK at 13%; could this kill off EV usage in the UK, as some commenters are suggesting? Still, EVs haven’t made sense for company fleets on a purely financial basis anyway; there are more issues (such as advertising eco-friendly credentials, positive PR) involved beyond the fiscal. And expect some shifts in pricing between now and 2015, too: I suspect that the recent price-slashing of the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn is just the beginning. The manufacturers haven’t spent out on R&D for all these EVs just to let the market for them die before it’s so much as drawn breath.
  • Ford has some conveniently-timed good news for us, though. The latest Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi returns 85.6mpg and emits 87g/km, meaning free road tax and exemption from the London congestion charge. Yes, expect to see more small diesels on the road now.
  • Fisker will reveal the Nina exec-saloon at the New York Motor Show next month. A very sketchy sketch has been released.
  • Opel is entering six Amperas in the 13th New Energy Monte Carlo Rally, which kicks off today. The three-day run finishes in Monaco, to coincide with the EVER (Ecologic Vehicles & Renewable Energies) conference, and is open to cars emitting less than 115g/km; they’ll be judged on their energy usage at a steady speed and there are separate classes for production vehicles, hybrids and ‘other’ alternative-fuelled cars. Participants in a 146-car field include a pair of bioethanol-fuelled Volkswagen Up!s, and vehicles from manufacturers including Tesla, Fisker, Protoscar, Exagon and PGO as well as mainstream car-makers. There’ll be a separate Urban Challenge for short-range EVs. More info about the event from the Automobile Club of Monaco.
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