Mellor prepares to launch electric low-floor minibus

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The Orion E is visually identical to the existing Fiat Ducato-based Orion, with its batteries and components concealed neatly within the existing body and chassis

In what the company is calling a world-first, the Orion E fully low-floor vehicle will be debuted at the CV Show this year

Mellor Coachcraft is to launch what it is calling the world’s first fully low-floor electric minibus, the Orion E, at this year’s CV Show at the Birmingham NEC from April 25-27.

The company said that the Orion E will offer a nominal 100-mile range and can accommodate 16 seated passengers or up to four wheelchairs. It uses a unique, electric front-wheel drive system to achieve an adaptable, single-step entry, fully low-floor passenger saloon.

The vehicle uses conventional Li-Ion batteries, and has a drive system developed in conjunction with a European EV integrator. The power electronics are provided by a European manufacturer which supplies many of the electric drive components bound for the car and bus industry.

The Orion E is visually identical to the existing Mellor Orion, but the chassis cab, on which the Orion model is based now sports an electric drive and gearbox in the engine bay. The low-floor, coach-built body accommodates its battery packs, distributed in several locations, to achieve the best weight distribution possible.

The first Orion E minibuses are expected to be delivered to customers as soon as July 2017.

John Randerson, Mellor Coachcraft Managing Director, said: “The project has taken us two years to complete

“We looked at a number of different electromotive suppliers and products, with the aim of ensuring we could have absolute confidence in the product and drive train.

“We are extremely proud to be bringing the world’s first electric low-floor minibus to market, in a 12-month period during which Mellor has already launched no fewer than three new models. Our decision to develop this vehicle has been validated by the immediate interest shown by our customers.”

The Orion E has been through prolonged simulated test cycles, and the company said it has achieved compliance with all European regulations. As a result, the vehicle is now being developed as a left-hand drive vehicle for mainland European and other markets.

Mellor said that the combination of congested cities and air pollution targets mean that the need for appropriately sized zero emission bus is greater than ever, and it sees potential in the base vehicle for inner-city parcel and freight deliveries, particularly as the low-floor allows it to avoid many manual handling issues associated with lift platforms and steps.