Everything in one

From left: Volvo’s Carlos Álvaro, Vinesh Rambaran and Marius Botha with the new Volvo B8R chassis.

At the 2017 Southern African Bus Operators Association (Saboa) conference, Volvo introduced a new, versatile, environmentally friendly chassis. GAVIN MYERS finds out more

The chassis in question is the raised-platform Volvo B8R, which can suit any need from city commuter, to semi-luxury or coach applications. There’s also a low-entry version; the B8RLE. The only differences with this version are the low-entry areas from the front of the bus and up to the rear axle. This version is naturally suited to a bus rapid transit (BRT) operation that has both requirements.

“The versatility is beneficial to a lot of operations,” says Marius Botha, general manager, bus division. “It comes from the build and the horsepower. While the bus features a lot of technology, the chassis build is simplified to meet the demands and requirements of the bodybuilder.”

This includes chassis preparation with pre-installed brackets to reduce welding and cutting during the bodybuilding process. “We have three or four bodybuilder partners in South Africa with whom our industrial experts from Europe and Asia are conducting training,” he says.

That’s the build, but, as Botha mentions, the drivetrain is another component that makes this vehicle special. Powering the vehicle along is a 246 kW (330 hp) eight-litre Volvo engine.

Although it replaces the seven-litre Deutz motor, torque has been kept at the same 1 200 Nm, which meets the requirements of most segments. Furthermore, it is offered in Euro-3, Euro-5 or Euro-6 variants – the only components to change being the exhaust after-treatment systems and computer software.

“We’ve upped the power, which assists with acceleration, gradeability and startability in stop-start applications. We previously offered Euro 5, and Euro 6 is achieved via a combination of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR),” he explains.

I ask if Euro 6 is viable in South Africa. “It’s customer preference – if the operator or tender requires it, then we have the vehicle available. It depends on the type of operation,” explains sales engineer Vinesh Rambaran.

Drive is via either a ZF Ecolife six-speed or Voith Diwa.6 gearbox, both automatic with intarders.

Rambaran then unleashes an onslaught of acronyms … “It has disc brakes all round with ABS, EBS, ESP and TCS. These systems give the bus outstanding stability and predictable road behaviour, which contributes to passenger safety. With the help of Volvo Driver Training and the advanced technology on the B8R chassis, performance is optimised and fuel consumption is minimised.”

Adding to the inbuilt safety features is a door brake system, which will prevent the vehicle from running if the passenger door is open.

Interestingly, the suspension system is full air, though Botha assures that it is perfectly robust. “It can handle well-maintained dirt roads. We have a lot of buses running at mines and it’s not been a problem,” he says.

In the interests of longevity, the B8R has received the Tropical Cooling pack, which includes an uprated radiator system and greater cooling capacity for the South African climate.

Aftermarket manager, Carlos Álvaro, explains that service intervals vary; from up to 20 000 km in a city application, to 30 000 km in coach/inter-city application.

“The standard vehicle warranty is one-year unlimited mileage on the entire chassis and two-years/200 000 km on driveline components. We’re also able to tailor-make extended warranties and maintenance contracts, depending on the operational and customer requirements,” he says.

Finally, the driver has not been forgotten, as theoretical and practical driver training and orientation is conducted, followed by refresher training at set intervals.

The Volvo Telematics fleet-management system is an optional extra; giving customers the choice of four packages from the most basic to the Driver Behaviour package, which utilises Volvo Bus I-Coaching that gives the driver immediate feedback as he drives.

Currently the B8R is completely built up in Sweden, but the Volvo Durban plant is ready for completely knocked-down assembly as soon as there is sufficient demand.

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