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London Bus Design Competition Spawns New Freight/Passenger Concept

Rendering of the Freight*BUS with side elevation drawing showing one possible configuration. Click to enlarge.

Earlier in the year, Transport for London (TfL) staged an open design contest for new buses for London. The contest generated more than 700 entries from five continents.

Two whole bus designs—from Aston Martin and Foster + Partners; and Capoco Design Ltd—shared first place. The first design proposed a “zero-emissions ready” powertrain, the second a series hybrid powertrain. Both of these designs, as well as the runners-up and merit award designs, took a conventional, passengers-only view of the bus. One of the submissions to the contest, however, took a different approach, proposing flexibly combining passenger and freight transport in the same vehicle: the Freight*BUS.

The Freight*BUS, designed by a team led by Hugh Frost, is one element in the larger proposed On-Route transportation system, derived from the London Construction Consolidation Centre concept. On-Route envisions a network of consolidation centers and cross-docks for freight movement, and hubs for passenger and freight delivery and collection.

We quickly realised that there are opportunities to improve bus routing & linking with other transport services and modes using consolidation principals, but there is an even bigger opportunity to use the London Bus for freight as well as passenger movement that would reduce the numbers of goods vehicles on city roads (especially Light goods vans) dramatically, perhaps by 50%. The idea is that between peak hours when bus-passenger utilisation is low, the bus can also be used for freight. Further, we propose to use buses to carry freight in the evening and overnight, maximising utilisation of these vehicles getting maximum Return on Investment (ROI) and substantially increased revenue from the vehicles.

—The New London Bus

For the powertrain, the Freight*BUS also envisions using an all-electric (battery or fuel cell) or series hybrid system, combined with distributed wheel motors. The ability to turn in its own length and ‘crab steer’ provides optimal handling for tight fit bus stops and maneuvering in bus stations or consolidation centers. To support its vision of flexible passenger/freight transport, it features new inventions such as ceiling-suspended seating enabling rapid reconfiguration and a patent-protected pallet-less lifting and handling device.

In their contest submission document, the Future*BUS designers heavily reference the e-Traction bus powertrain design used in the Whisper buses—a series hybrid bus with wheel motors using a Li-ion pack from Valence Technology. The Future*BUS designers propose using Li-ion batteries from Altairnano for their fast-charge capability and greater energy density.

The new Altairnano batteries offer 3x the power density and delivery of standard Li-ion batteries used in the Whisper bus. This means that we would need only 120 kg of Altairnano batteries to provide the power for 1 hour of emission free motoring-fully laden (no generator running) and only 480 kg to run for 4 hours (1/2 a shift). That’s around 380 litres of battery volume, or about 10% of the available space in the main deck under-floor area.

More significantly, that’s much less weight than the generator set and fuel tank. So it makes sense to get rid of the generator set, and have a full 4 hour or even 8 hour battery range, and be permanently emission free at the point of use. Remember these batteries can be 80% recharged in 1 minute. 100% recharged in a few more.

Given our preferred option of the P.M.L. Motor technology (subject to development) the performance is likely to be a further 40% more efficient.

—The New London Bus

Although not a winner of the TfL contest, the On-Route team is looking for OEM partners to further the concept.




Passengers ride in hammocks and low cost shipping for anyone that needs to ship from one bus stop to another.
“For those of you who need to make connections, the longshoremen thank you for your patience while contract negotiations are arranged before the freight is unloaded”.
Small wonder they were not a winner of the TfL contest.


Using very quick charge Altairnano batteries or ESStor (coming) ESSUs, city e-buses could run 24/7 with a few quick charges at auto-connect facilities installed at selected normal bus stops.

All wheel drive & steering would give them more maneuvrability to negotiate tight corners.

Roof top mounted PVs could supply most of the energy required for onboard HVAC.

Small on-board CNG generator could be very useful in extended traffic jams and would allow the use of smaller battery packs..

Pure city e-buses would require much less maintenance, emit almost no GHG and air pollution, lot less noise pollution.

London seems to be the city to show the way ounce again.



Do you still believe in this vaporwar of EESTOR, are you aware that Ian Clifford the CEO of Zenn Motorcar recently said that the introduction of their next model of car was not tight to the release of EESTOR product (contrary to their initial plan). Ian Clifford was so enthusiastic of EESTOR that he lost his comon sense, claiming that EESTOr was 'THE" solution while he had never tested or even seen a cell. It seems like this scam starts to unravel to me



GCC comes up on a blocked access list due to its affiliation with, and other malware-survey sites. The perception is GCC has tracking software attached to it. Not good.

You might want to address this issue.


As for the bus design - they're on the right track. More attention needs to be given to Harvey's suggestion: in-route recharge points using overhead contacts. Which lets even a two hour pack function well.

And the idea of a small NG genset is good, or they could convert their diesels to NG and add an electric drivetrain or wheel motors. The new Altairs are perfect for this application considering weight and energy density.

Getting buses converted to low/zero emissions would dramatically change city transport.



Esstor or something similar will come out in the next 5 to 10 years.

Altairnano is almost half way there already.

Much more Advanced ESSU R & D funding is required followed by appropriate incentives to build large fully automated batttery pack factories to capture the market and lower cost.

By 2020 we could have quick charge ESSUs with 500 Wh/Kg, 15 000+ life cycles, @ less than $300/ KWh

Extended e-range PHEVs could reduce liquid fuel consumption to a level sustainable by bio and agro fuel production.

A post 2020 mix of PHEVs and BEVs could even do better.

Whoever is still around in 2020 will have the opportunity to chose among 50+ available affordable PHEV and BEV. V-8 and V-6 ICE machines may be hard to find.



"Esstor or something similar will come out in the next 5 to 10 yeas"

How can you be so sure ? incentive to make better battery has always been strong even without electric car since there is many industrial, consumer and military application that need them. It is not because you pour tons of money in the research for battery that progress will be necessarily much faster. You need time, again as I said before investigating and qualifying new family of material is inhently time consuming, and again a vehicle like Aptera with an ICE can return 100MPG, using 2nd generation biofuel and your oil import will be zero and EV will be postponed for another 30 years my friend.

The problem of EV is that it requires huge investment in R&D (though counterbalenced by the fact that EV are easier to build than ICE based vehicle. In a time of depressed economic environement improvment of efficiency will be cheaper than introducing disruptive technology.


EEStor is irrelevant to this concept.  AltairNano's technology is demonstrated and proven, and no more is needed.  Ideally, a 4-hour battery with charging at bus stops would allow the system to operate flexibly and continue to run even if power is rationed or interrupted for substantial periods.

The concept of using the bus as a freight vehicle is excellent (makes better use of capital), but I wonder if loading and unloading would cost too much time.  It may make sense to include trailers, either as carriers for containers or as units which can be picked up and dropped.

fred schumacher

Buses are linear transport, and as such are perfectly adaptable to mains electric power supply. What needs to be changed is not the bus but the bus pathway.

Make all bus routes on paired one-way streets. Place the bus lane next to the curb on one side, with nose-in parking on the other to make up for lost parking space. The bus now travels straight, not weaving in and out of traffic, and accelerates smoothly and quietly with its electric motors, providing a much more appealing lightrail-like ride.

Do not combine passenger and freight service. They do not have a symbiotic relationship. Their time needs are very different. If I were to change buses, it would be to make them lower, not taller, to reduce step up height and body sway.

The advantage of automobiles is that they are schedule-free transportation. The way to achieve this in buses is to increase their frequency: small buses going more often.

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