Comments on 'School Bus of the Future' Concept PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ryan Gray   
Friday, 28 September 2012 10:03

futurebus5School Transportation News solicited comments over the summer regarding a concept vehicle created by GK Design International, Inc., which was featured in the October magazine edition.

The article titled "Conversation Starter" did just that. Designers at the Los Angeles-based firm (part of the international GK Design Group based in Japan) tackled the school bus as part of a fun project presented by President Norman Kerechuk, who periodically prompts staff members to think outside of the box and refresh their skills by tackling a non-work project. In this instance, Kerechuk chose the yellow school bus, which appeared to have changed little since he was a kid.

The "E2" bus is not destined for production, and Kerechuk stressed that it was merely a "fun" project for his designers. Still, we wanted to gauge industry reaction.

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We asked Bruce Miles, chairman of the School Bus Manufacturer's Technical Council and engineering manager at Blue Bird, to share his thoughts on the design comps, which are posted in a gallery on the STN Facebook page. He said the concept is reminiscent of a city transit-style bus, though GK Design's is shorter and uses "modularization" that would allow different size configurations utilizing the same parts and processes.

"As currently presented there would need to be changes to both Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the National School Transportation Specifications as adopted by the National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) in order for this vehicle to be operated as a school bus," Miles commented in July.

He added that without more specific design details it is impossible to completely evaluate the bus but included some brief observations.

  • FMVSS 111 Rearview Mirrors: This standard requires that school buses be equipped with two outside rearview mirror systems (System A and System B). Miles said GK Design's explanation that rearview mirrors can create blind spots and bus would be equipped with cameras instead.
  • FMVSS 217 Bus Emergency Exits: Miles said the bus would need to be equipped with a left-side emergency door and emergency exit windows. Additionally, GK Design said its concept would be equipped with sealed windows. Miles pointed out that NCST Specifications also require that each side window provide an unobstructed opening of at least nine inches, so windows must be operational.
  • NCST Specifications require that buses be equipped with rubrails, entrance door to be a split-type, rear bumper to wrap around at least 12 inches on each side, etc. Miles said the concept, as shown, would not meet these type requirements.
  • The low-floor design would have limitations on where the bus could be operated. Many rural school bus routes require higher ground clearance. Miles said it would also need sufficient space for all the batteries required to operate an electric bus.

Thomas Built Buses also weighed in on the concept school bus. Kelley Platt, president and CEO at Thomas, said OEMs are continually striving to improve their designs, such as the company's redesigned rear-engine offering the EFX last year. The vehicle reduces parts inventories for customers and lowers costs through economies of scale by closely tying the design to the front-engine HDX.

"It is so important for the school bus industry to maintain its commitment to innovation, especially when funding remains challenging. So as a manufacturer, even in this difficult economic environment, we continue to explore new product development and to roll out updates to existing products," she said.

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The so-called "E2" bus is compact due to its electric drive train. It is also lower for increased stability, maneuverability and to facilitate easy boarding by children. Here you can a comparison to a transit-style bus.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 04 January 2013 17:45