Recent posts on the LT-class New Bus for London:
Crammed in, in Camden—Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Surely not another London Post (combined comments on these three = over 100)
Omnibuses’ Northern Correspondent and I have been on safari, heading for London’s Serengeti, to hunt elephant—those urban elephants with “noble and domelike brows”. In part 1, we concentrated on the customer assistants’ role, concluding the CAs were very different to their conductor predecessors. In part 2, we looked at the design. New it’s the turn of propulsion.
Hybrid drives have been with us for, what, fewer than a dozen years. Hands up who remember the early hybrid Optare Tempos, Wright Electrocities and the early promise of Transbus that was never to be. The Electrocity as used in London was believed to be the first bus of its kind—another first for Wright?—but I actually recall Optare products pre-dating them by some years, perhaps as early as 2004, perhaps even in collaboration with others, I don’t know.
Those very early hybrids, before the Electrocity, were strong on power but short on reliability. They were also very “rough” if you get my meaning, with the drive management systems asking their smaller-than-usual diesel engines to work quite hard. The result was an altogether unsatisfactory situation where engines would race—and I mean race—while the vehicle was waiting at traffic signals, as if the driver was somehow impatient to depart, flooring the throttle while out of gear. The main problem was getting them to work, though; that was a real problem.
Things have matured, for example, with today’s 400Hs and B5Ls we see hybrid technology that’s not yet commonplace but is certainly familiar enough to become credible. The industry still sweats about what will happen when the batteries need changing but, till then, today’s hybrids are just as flexible as diesels.
Yet, several trips on the New Bus for London seemed better still.
What was surprising was the amount of time the bus operated on battery power compared to other hybrid deckers. It seemed noticeably longer in London on service 24.
It has to be said that the transition from diesel to electric power was the smoothest we have seen. On “ordinary” hybrids, this can be variable and there always appears to be a “kick” as the diesel starts to top up the battery, sometimes slight and sometimes quite marked. This was less noticeable, if at all, on the LT-class. Smooth.
The LT-class also demonstrated a good turn of speed. Subject, of course, to London traffic conditions, acceleration was excellent, where it could be achieved.
The result was a very refined product but, on the down side, it did seem noisier than expected, most pronounced when seated downstairs (obviously). Upstairs, to the front of a crammed in bus in Camden, with the air condition (actually) working full tilt, the noise intrusion was more likely from the air-con itself.
That said, reports this weekend suggest that the windowless Borismaster is proving a little too hot to handle from a passenger perspective. A fortnight ago, one driver commented of the Borismaster air-con, “When it works”. And the bus was also brand new, back then. Passengers to date have been happy with their new icon; is the honeymoon over so soon?
But, all told, I’d say that this was the best hybrid on which either of us has ridden. Perhaps one day Leon Daniels might actually let me drive one : ) Leon?
As for their fuel saving potential, there’s a lot of scepticism out there about the Boris Bus. Given their potential and the pre-production claims, the early trials seem disappointing. But, based 600 in service, each over its estimated 14-year life, and based on the prototypes’ figures, TfL’s contractors will save over 5,000,000 gallons of fuel over an “ordinary” hybrid. Once they bed in, TfL expect economy in squadron service to increase and, if it does, the saving would run to over 6,000,000 gallons.
Upper image from a blog supporter
To be continued…