Equipmake partners with Agrale to develop ‘low-cost’ electric bus

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Hethel-based electric vehicle specialist Equipmake has agreed to partner with Brazilian bus chassis manufacturer Agrale to jointly develop a low-cost electric bus.

The bus designed through the joint venture is expected to go on sale in 2020

The UK firm will develop the vehicle’s powertrain from its Norfolk headquarters, providing the electric motors, power control and battery integration systems; once mated to Agrale’s body and chassis, the bus will go on sale in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2020.

The Equipmake EBus drivetrain will feature two APM200 motors and the firm’s spoke-architecture electric motor, which it says is ‘the highest power/torque dense automotive electric motor in the world.’

The APM200 motors will also power the upcoming Ariel Hipercar, and will be mated to Semikron SKAI inverters; battery technology will be provided by the latest generation lithium-ion cells.

The goal for the powertrain is for it to have enough capacity to run for a whole day without needing to charge – equivalent to around 200 miles of range.

The powertrain will support fast charging, but it can also be charged at a regular three-phase outlet in “around five hours.”

Equipmake’s modular design means the powertrain can be adapted to suit different lengths of vehicle.

The new bus is to be based on the Agrale MT17, a 12m single-decker with a maximum capacity of 70 passengers. The overall weight of the new electric bus will be the same as the diesel version, according to Equipmake.

The EBus drivetrain is designed to provide a turnkey solution for Agrale, enabling more widespread adoption of electric buses.

The £2.5m development project is being supported by funding from Innovate UK, and will see the first prototype vehicles testing in the UK in autumn 2018, with in-service testing starting in 2019 ahead of a projected on-sale date in 2020.

Equipmake Managing Director, Ian Foley, said: “This is a very exciting announcement. We are very happy to be working with Agrale, one of South America’s leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles.

“We have always prided ourselves on our ability to offer the complete EV drivetrain solution and this project will allow us to show off all of our skills, of which proprietary technology such as the APM200 spoke motor is a very important part.

“The potential for this project is huge. Buenos Aires has around 16,000 buses on its streets – that’s roughly twice the size of London’s fleet – and the global market is around 300,000 vehicles per annum.

“With many experts predicting that all buses will be electric by the middle of the next decade, our Ebus drivetrain has much promise.”

“Edson Martins, Commercial Director of Agrale, added: “We are delighted to be working with Equipmake on this project.

“Ian Foley and his team were a natural choice, offering us a true one-stop-shop, thanks to the company’s capabilities in every part of the electric vehicle drivetrain, in particular its highly impressive electric motor.

“Crucially, Equipmake has been able to balance this innovation and high performance with low cost.”