Long gone are the days when Air Conditioned buses were where beyond the reach of any normal Passenger and Operators, be it Intercity or Tourist/Staff bus. Thanks to Volvo, today we have sizeable share of AC intercity buses in various combinations of seaters and sleepers in single as well as multi-axle platforms. When the AC buses were getting popular most of them were obviously based on 15 Ton or higher GVW platforms.
One of the primary reason for this is the availability of suitable AC bus models across these platforms. Moreover, OEM’s concentrated on satisfying demand for chassis in the market, that they conveniently kept AC segment away. Having said that, we do find, from the pages of Indian CV history, pioneering attempts by leading OEM’s to offer AC buses. Example, Ashok Leyland introduced mini AC buses as early as 1996 based on the, then Iveco platform. Similarly, in early 2000, Tata Motors as part of its aggressive strategy to offer fully built buses, included AC buses in their Starbus range. But market apprehensions and lack of service support for AC systems hindered growth of this segment. Today, with drastic change in socio-economic factors and rapid urbanization, the demand for AC buses are one the rise. Though aggressive efforts by leading OEM’s in promoting these buses was missing.
Unlike Intercity operations, the characteristics of tourist application is different, with more short-run and with limited passengers. This application demands buses with various seating capacity ranging from 25 seater to 45 seats. Hence 9T and 12T platforms are preferred along with 16 Ton buses in Tourist application. Sensing the opportunity in premium tourist application, the new comer to Indian CV space, BharatBenz choose to explore the bus segment with its AC minibus model, the 917. And we must agree that, it has finally caught the attention of the industry. Though sales volumes are tad less and nothing to panic for other manufacturers, 917 is sailing in the right direction.
With the AIS052 standards to be enforced finally, the chassis driven market is likely to upgrade to fully built buses. Let us look what are the present ICV offerings available in the market for AC buses.
BharatBenz – 917
Distinctly different from the lot in aesthetics and performance, this 9Ton platform buses introduced in 2016, has won the hearts of operators across the country. Powered by 170HP four cylinder BS4 SCR based engine, it developes 520 Nm torque @ 1500 rpm, is more than sufficient to run the AC unit offered as standard. The bus is available in 5300 wheelbase with varying configuration of seats for different applications like Tourist/Staff (26 and 35 seater), Institutional (35, 40 & 50 Seats) etc. It also comes with
latest technology like light weight Aluminique body structure for better fuel efficiency.
Eicher – Skyine Limo and Pro3009
Skyline Limo is the AC variant of the 10.75K platform based bus. This is an ideal offering for institutional and staff transport application. Its powered by E483 TCI BS4, engine based on EGR developing 114HP &and 400Nm torque @ 1400 rpm. Meanwhile Pro3009 platform based AC bus is the latest offering powered by E494 BS4 engine with 120HP & 400Nm torque. This model has the passenger door in the front overhang.
Tata – Starbus & Ultra range
Tata Motors offers a range of AC buses both in their Starbus (economy) & Ultra (premium) platforms. While Starbus caters to the demands of institutional segment, Ultra address the tourist and premium staff segment. Starbus range of buses are powered by four cylinder BS4 497 TCIC EGR based 123 Hp engines. With multiple seating options from 32 to 51, Starbus has the largest range of AC buses.
Whereas Ultra range is powered by 3L new generation BS4 DICOR 137 Hp engine with 320Nm torque @ 1400rpm. The body is built in-house by Tata Marcopolo at Dharwad plant. Also available is 28 seat AC fixed glass tourist application variant on Ultra 10.7 platform.
While Executive7 model caters to tourist application, the S7 XM series caters to staff and institutional segments. Both are powered by BS4 CRDi 100 Hp engine with 296Nm torque @ 1500rpm. SML was one of the front runners in addressing the needs of AC segment.
Ironically, the leader in bus market in India, does not offer any ICV ac bus for tourist applications. Meanwhile, their most successful Lynx Smart and Strong platforms offers AC variants for institutional and staff segments. These are powered by H-series BS4 CRS 130HP EGR based engines, with 450Nm torque @ 1400 rpm. Even though, Ashok Leyland offers fully built premium models like Oyester in overseas markets, its yet to make debut in India.
As the market gains momentum, the competition is yet to begin. Lets wait and watch.
By, Raj Bharat.