Chinese auto maker BYD has managed to fight off stiff competition from four other manufacturers to supply 35 of its electric buses to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, one of Europe's busiest airports. Under the SUBSS Project (Sustainable Bus System of Schiphol), the single-deck e-buses will replace the airport's aging fleet of specialized gas-powered vehicles, and be used to quietly transfer passengers between terminals and aircraft. The new e-fleet is due to enter service this time next year.
BYD already has over 250 electric buses on the road, including 200 in the city of Shenzhen, China that have clocked up more than 17 million km (10.6 million miles) of service, as well as recent evaluation deployments in Belgium, Germany and Poland. The company secured full European certification in January 2013, and the national park of Schiermonnikoog in Friesland was the first Dutch province to replace the whole of its public bus fleet with BYD electric vehicles in April.
The 12 m (40 ft) long and 2.6 m (8.4 ft) wide BYD e-bus is shorter and narrower than the current petrol-powered airport buses, which should prove a better fit for Schiphol's airside infrastructure. An internal layout that normally has 27 permanent seats, plus four that fold upright to create more standing room and two wheelchair places, will be modified to meet the specific needs of the airport, though BYD is not releasing actual details at this time.
The vehicles supplied for the 10-year Schiphol operating contract will be of similar all-aluminum unibody design to those BYD already has on the road, which will also afford passengers some isolation from the sounds of the airport.
Two thirds of the front of the bus is given over to a huge windshield for optimum visibility. The vehicle features regenerative braking, electronically-controlled air suspension, four-wheel disc braking, and there are in-wheel hub motors to the rear. Not that it's particularly relevant in an airport situation, but the BYD e-bus on which the Schiphol fleet is based has a top speed of 100 km/h (62.1 mph).
The e-buses are powered by in-house iron-phosphate Fe batteries, which BYD says are are more fire-safe than competitor Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. They're made without caustic materials, toxic electrolytes or heavy metals, and can be safely recycled at the end of their operational lives.
Range is quoted as up to 250 km (155 miles) per charge, but recent evaluations in Poland showed the vehicle as capable of achieving 310 km (193 miles) on only a 60 percent charge. Recharge time is said to take five hours via the on-board AC charger.
In addition to expecting some improvements in the overall air quality at the airport, Schiphol is also counting on the operation of the new e-buses leading to savings on maintenance and management costs.