Yutong: Going strong

[wlm_nonmember]
News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.
[/wlm_nonmember]

With examples entering service with Newport Transport and First Leeds recently, and more due for Go North East, Jonathan Welch visited Pelican Engineering in Castleford to look at the latest version of Yutong’s E10 and E12

“The Yutong E12 has much to offer […] The bus rides well – it handles like a car. It’s a joy to drive, with plenty of power and highly manoeuvrable. However the indicator bleeper is intrusive and the interior layout may not be to everyone’s taste. […] Overall I cannot pretend I was not impressed by the Yutong E12.” These were the words with which our then Editor Gareth Evans concluded his test drive of Yutong’s E12 before that vehicle went into service with Arriva in 2017. In the time since Gareth drove that bus almost four years ago, Yutong and its UK importer, Castleford-based Pelican Engineering have developed the product and the latest version offers a number of improvements over the earlier model.

CBW was invited to have a look around the latest buses to arrive, which consisted of shorter 10.9-metre long E10s destined for First Leeds and the larger E12s, which are 12m vehicles. First’s nine vehicles were entered service on 16 October, bringing with them a new Leeds City Electric branding, and will be used on the operator’s Halton Moor Circular route 5. The total cost of £7.3m, including buses and charging infrastructure, was offset by funding of £1.7m from the DfT’s Ultra Low Emissions Bus scheme.

In South Wales, Newport Transport’s 14 new buses join a former demonstrator which has been in service with the operator since 2019. The new buses will operate on a number of routes across the city, including the 29 which serves the new Grange University Hospital. The purchase was assisted by £1.342m of funding from the ULEB.

A side view of a 12m E12 for Newport Transport. The side marker lights flash when the indicators are in use. JONATHAN WELCH
[wlm_nonmember][…]

Are you enjoying this feature? Why not subscribe to continue reading?

Subscribe for 6 issues/weeks from only £6
Or login if you are already a subscriber

By subscribing you will benefit from:

  • Operator & Supplier Profiles
  • Face-to-Face Interviews
  • Lastest News
  • Test Drives and Reviews
  • Legal Updates
  • Route Focus
  • Industry Insider Opinions
  • Passenger Perspective
  • Vehicle Launches
  • and much more!
[/wlm_nonmember] [wlm_ismember]

Updated

The external design has been updated but not significantly changed since Gareth took the first vehicle for a drive; nor did it need to be. As Gareth reported on seeing that first bus almost four years ago, the design remains modern and stylish, the curved light surrounds and the prominent Yutong badge giving the bus a friendly and welcoming ‘face’ without looking overly fussy. The updated front panels give the bus a little more presence, and it retains the area of black below the windscreen which neatly hides the windscreen wipers. In their parked position, these sit neatly along the bottom of the single-piece windscreen.

The front end is neatly styled, with upper marker lights integrated into the destination screen surround and wipers disguised by a black panel below the windscreen. JONATHAN WELCH

Moving around the bus, to those in the know the flat sides and large glazing which reaches almost to the roof line are reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro, long considered a benchmark among European city buses. Other than the extra length, the two buses look very similar, and both manage to look like well proportioned buses in their own right, rather than giving the impression of being a shortened or lengthened version of another model.

At the rear, LED lights make for good visibility and reliable operation. The wide rear hatch provides easy access to the energy compartment, where components are within easy reach and appear well laid out. Front, side and rear destination screens appeared clear, although the front one does seem significantly smaller than on other vehicles, the aperture in the upper glass being noticeably narrow and shallow. The buses for Newport are fitted with Mobitech destination displays, while First’s E10s have that operator’s standard Hanover units installed.

Power

Our first drive for the day was the direct descendant of Gareth’s 2017 road test, the E12, though both versions share many of the same components so comments will apply equally. A key change to the latest vehicles is the battery capacity, which has gone up from 295kWh to the now-standard 422kWh, with the resultant improved range of over 350km after a 3.5hr charge. The batteries are protected by what Pelican believes is a market-leading warranty.

Both E10 and E12 share the same driveline, which is well proven, in use on over 108,000 buses so far. Drive is provided by a single Yutong YTM290-CV9-H electric motor, with a maximum power of 350kW and maximum torque of 2,400Nm and driving through a ZF AV132 rear axle. A key change from the earlier version is the switch from air-cooled to liquid-cooled batteries, which Pelican says is important in achieving an optimum working temperature, and thereby optimising working life of the batteries.

An additional option fitted by Pelican is a fire extinguisher system in the energy compartment, which has to be fitted once the vehicles arrive in the UK due to restrictions on shipping extinguishers. On the subject of optional fittings, Pelican pointed out that the wiring for a lot of the third-party systems is done by Yutong at the factory, but installation of the systems is carried out by Pelican when the bus arrives in the UK, thereby creating revenue at UK-based companies and supporting jobs in the UK.

In the cab

Stepping aboard, one of the first things I notice about the E12 is that it is, in the best possible way, unremarkable. It isn’t trying to be an eco-bus, nor is it trying to set a fashion trend or pretend to be a tram. It is a bus, which happens to be electric. The first impression for the driver and passengers as they step through the doors is of a practical and pleasant environment. The platform area is uncluttered, and Newport Transport has chosen to apply vinyl advertising to the upper surface of the wheelchair ramp, highlighting the green credentials of the bus as well as reminding boarding passengers to mind their step.

The rear end is neat and tidy, with clear LED lights and a wide access panel to the energy compartment. Side and rear CCTV cameras are part of the system provided by 21st Century which are fitted to the pre-wired buses on arrival in the UK. JONATHAN WELCH

Looking around, the mid-grey tone chosen for vertical surfaces combined with wood-effect flooring and black dashboard gives a professional and understated effect. The ambience is pleasant without being brash. Opening the cab door, it felt solid and well-built. The step into the cab was not too high, and when seated I agreed with Gareth’s earlier sentiment that the cab area was at a suitable height to give drivers a clear view and place them at a good height in relation to boarding passengers.

Pelican offers a choice of drivers’ seats; this bus was fitted with a Chapman seat, whilst Isringhausen is an option. The cab door closed with a solid clunk, and the large steering wheel immediately gives the feeling of driving a ‘big’ bus. A large flat area in the centre of the wheel will provide a useful surface for drivers when it comes to filling in defect report cards. Also noticeable is the number of switches, which is pleasingly few but without feeling spartan. Everything a driver needs is there, with nothing extra to confuse or get in the way. I immediately felt at home, and after just a couple of minutes looking around the cab with no outside help, I had a good idea of where everything was.

Simple layout

To the left of the steering wheel, buttons are provided for hazard lights and interior lights, which have a dim and bright setting. A rotary switch controls external lighting. Other switches include one to operate the electric sunblind, and another to cancel the reversing horn. To the right of the steering wheel are the door and suspension controls, logically grouped together. Mounted atop the binnacle are two air vents aimed towards the driver.

The instrument display itself is clear and well presented, with information in a logical and familiar style. The key focus for drivers is of course the speedometer, which shows both the traditional dial and a numeric reading in the centre, which I found myself using instinctively. In the bottom of the speedometer dial is the SOC, or State of Charge reading. A useful indication of remaining range is given, whilst the right hand side of the display shows the rate of energy consumption or charging, providing useful real-time feedback to the driver.

Storage appeared sufficient, with a large door pocket and space by the driver’s left foot, as well as to the right hand side of the seat for the numerous items that a driver might carry around. The wide ledge on top of the cab door features a shallow tray, and the dashboard has ample space for mounting ticket machines within reach of the driver.

On the road

Not only were the switches and controls laid out in a sensible and simple way, but starting the bus is equally simple. Some electric vehicles seem to over-complicate this, with starting procedures that almost require a degree in electronics. Pushing two buttons, the Yutong was immediately ready to go, no need to wait for systems to start or the computer to think about it, just a case of switch on and go. As the technology matures, this should become the norm for all electric vehicles – it should not be forgotten that there are already many tens of thousands of similar Yutong buses in service.

As we headed out of Pelican’s Castleford premises, the first thing that came to mind was how comfortable I was behind the wheel. It is always more nerve-wracking when driving someone else’s bus than one belonging to an operator you work for, but I felt as much at ease behind the wheel of the Yutong as could be expected.

At over 13,000kgs, this is no lightweight bus, and nor is it a cheap option for low budget operators, and it could be felt on the road that the Yutong seems to be a good quality product. The E12 felt solid and handled well during the short drive to Castleford Bus Station, where its excellent steering lock meant that full lock was not needed to swing around the station’s 180 degree turn. In both directions, we crossed the level crossing where I deliberately maintained close to the speed limit to try and provoke the suspension and exaggerate any rattles. Electric buses are already a good test of bodywork, with no engine noise to mask any unwanted body noises, and I was very pleased to note that the Yutong appeared to be very solidly built, with no more than an expected amount of noise as we crossed the railway, the suspension soaking up the rough surface well, aided no doubt by the weight of the batteries.

Pausing at Castleford Bus Station gave chance for a more thorough look around, and although Pelican had not finished preparing the interior at the time of CBW’s drive, it appeared very much fit for purpose. This version is fitted with Esteban Civic V3 seats as specified by the operator; again Pelican is able to offer a choice of passenger seating to suit operators’ requirements. A full CCTV system by 21st Century is fitted, including internal and external cameras, and passengers are kept informed by a Mobitech passenger information system. I noted that useful luggage space has been provided over the front wheel arch, the area having been built up to give a good flat surface in a convenient location, although it will always be a subjective matter as to whether an extra seat or luggage space is preferred.

Whilst taking photos, I used the opportunity to deploy the standard Yutong manual wheelchair ramp fitted to this bus. I was slightly disappointed to find that it is not the most ergonomic, with the handle mounted in the centre making it a stretch for drivers, and it did not seem to be fitted with a handle to lift it off the pavement and lower it back into place in one movement. Instead I had to put my fingers underneath to lift it off the pavement. A small point, but a disappointment nonetheless – when better designs are available which are friendlier to drivers’ backs it seems a shame that while the ramp itself and the handle felt solid enough, Yutong has not taken the opportunity to engineer a better solution. Pelican Engineering was keen to point out however that both it and Yutong are willing to listen to feedback and offer alternative specifications to meet operator’s exact requirements, and that the buses due for Go North East are to be fitted with Compaq ramps.

A metre shorter

After taking some photos of the fully-liveried Newport Transport E12, we returned to Pelican’s premises which were a hive of activity with all 23 buses being prepared for delivery. There are a number of small differences to the FirstGroup specification vehicles, some of which are obvious such as interior specification, others less so.

On sitting down in the cab and adjusting the seat, I went to adjust the steering wheel and discovered that as seems to be standard on First buses, it is necessary to switch off the ignition first. Thankfully, whereas on a diesel such as a Wrightbus Streetlite this can turn a simple task into a drawn-out faff, on the Yutong switching off and back on meant no more than the flick of a switch. Unfortunately when going to adjust the mirrors on the First bus I found the cab window to be rather stiff to open; hopefully this will loosen with use, and the cab door seemed a little stiff too.

Whist at Castleford Bus Station for a second time, the Yutong attracted the attention of a number of Arriva drivers taking their breaks, who came across to have a look. The consensus was a positive one, with all agreeing that the E10 looked like a good bus, and one they would be happy to be seen driving.

The driving experience of both buses was very similar, and again I had tried to provoke the E10 over the level crossing. On this run, the ceiling panels were open as Pelican’s engineers had been undertaking a pre-delivery inspection, but even so noise was minimal. Indeed, I was surprised to realise when we returned that not only had the ceiling panels been open, one of the floor hatches directly above the motor was too – and the vehicle was still quiet at road speeds! Picking up on a point made in CBW’s 2017 drive, I also noted that the indicators were quite loud, though Pelican points out that the vehicles driven had not yet been fully set up and the volume can be adjusted.

Overall, despite the minor points addressed above my conclusion echoes that reached by Gareth: that the latest Yutongs are good buses in themselves, and an evolutionary improvement on the earlier version, thanks to Yutong’s and Pelican’s willingness to listen to feedback and develop the product. From a passenger point of view, they ride well, are smooth and quiet. From a driver’s point of view, I found the cab comfortable and controls well laid out.

In the main, the Yutong did what I expected it to, how I expected it to, when I expected it to. With plenty of power and highly manoeuvrable, I cannot pretend I was not impressed by the E10 and E12.

 

[/wlm_ismember]