Jonathan Welch gets behind the wheel of one of the first Yutong E9s in the UK to see how the newcomer stacks up in the midibus segment
Buoyed by the enthusiasm and support of its Castleford-based distributor Pelican Bus & Coach, Yutong has been gaining ground in the UK electric bus market, with recent deliveries of the now well-known E10 and E12 to McGill’s and Stagecoach, and a batch for First Aberdeen in preparation. But now the company has added a new option to the range, sized to fit a growing segment of the market, fitting between van-derived minibuses and a full-sized single-decker. At 8.94 metres long, the E9 is not small, but its narrow 2.42 metre width and short overhangs give it manoeuvrability in a segment traditionally dominated by the Optare Solo.
When I first saw the bus in images promoting Leicester’s ‘Hop!’ free city centre shuttle, operated by Centrebus and the destination of the first E9s, I wasn’t blown away, I have to admit. Boxy, with short overhangs and two doors, a feature which is rarely popular among UK operators outside London. And one which is aiming at a segment which has long been satisfied by venerable single-door Optare Solo, and to a lesser extent more recently by short wheel-base Wrightbus Streetlites and equally short Alexander Dennis Enviro200s, as well as new entrants such as the Mellor Sigma 8s and 9s. In context, it was a bus that I could see the point of – it offered a solution to an operator already familiar with the brand, and on a free shuttle the two doors could be useful – but at the same time I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by it.
And I have to be honest, dear reader. I was wrong. Although some buses are better than others, it’s hard to find a truly bad one on the market just now, and most of those on offer are reasonable vehicles. So I was surprised to come away from a jaunt around Leeds in the E9 saying to myself “what a cracking little bus!” But now I’ve spoiled the ending, let’s take a look around the E9 in a little more detail and see how I reached that conclusion for something which is, in layout at least, unconventional for the UK market.[…]
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