Video: Euro 6 Scania K 320 Review
Steve Skinner takes a closer look at the Euro 6 Scania K 320
It’s not surprising that Canberra’s public bus operator ordered the first batch of Euro 6 diesels in Australia.
After all, the same operator ordered the fi rst diesel bus in Australia, way back in the 1930s. ACTION Buses is owned by the ACT Government and its name stands for Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network.
ACTION has a long history of innovation in the Australian bus industry.
As far as it knows it operated the first bus in Australia with air bag suspension, in 1960; in 1965 the company was first to evaluate an electronic ticketing system; in 1976 it bought the first articulated bus, a MAN; and in 1978 ACTION operated the first buses with retarders.
Which brings us to the latest innovation: ordering the first Euro 6 buses, a contract for 77 of them to be delivered over four years, years before the higher emissions control standard will be mandated.
IN WITH THE NEW
The first batch of 17 buses has been on the road since July, after being ordered last year. They are Scania K 320 UB 4x2 ultra-low-floor city buses with 5-cylinder, 9-litre engines.
The ‘320’ stands for horsepower, which is transmitted through a 6-speed ZF Ecolife automatic gearbox.
The stainless steel-framed bodies were manufactured by Custom Coaches, the first few from Custom’s Adelaide plant, but with its closure, the rest are being built in Sydney.
So far ACTION is very happy with its new purchases. "For us they’ve been a very easy bus to introduce," Glenn Dougall, assets and infrastructure manager with ACT public transport, says.
"The drivers love them and mechanically they’ve been very reliable."
The Scanias are replacing old 9-litre Renaults badged as ‘Macks’, which arrived in the nation’s capital in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and have no emissions control equipment on them at all.
The Renaults were on the nose when brand new, because of the French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Luckily for ACTION, Renault had taken over the American Bulldog brand so it was convenient to badge them as ‘Macks’, but the French manufacturer’s diamond logo is still a dead giveaway.
"They’ve been a very good, reliable bus for us, but it’s now time for them to go," Dougall says.
"Parts, reliability, environmental aspects, they were designed to be operated for between 15 and 20 years, and we’re now past that."
Not to mention the fact the old Renaults are not air-conditioned and don’t have the structural safety of new buses. Mind you, that means they are also lighter and therefore use less fuel than ACTION’s Euro 5 and 6 buses.
LARGE DIVERSE FLEET
Dougall has worked his way up through the ranks since beginning with ACTION as an apprentice mechanic before the Renaults arrived, and spending 18 years "on the tools".
He’s worked on the old Mercedes-Benz, Volvos and Leylands that used to be in ACTION’s fleet.
These days ACTION has more than 400 buses, including over 150 of the old Renaults, 25 Dennis Dart midi-buses, 26 Euro 5 Scania 14.5m steerable tag axle units, 30-plus Euro 5 articulated Scanias, and about 90 Euro 5 MANs.
There are also 70 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, most of them Scanias. However, CNG wasn’t on the shopping list when it came to the latest tender, and Dougall is in no hurry to revisit the green alternative fuel.
"CNG has certainly given us some things to think about," he says.
"One of the things we didn’t factor in early in the piece is the altitude of Canberra, which has made a significant difference to operating CNG buses in heat.
"In the winter time the altitude doesn’t really affect the operation but once you get temperature over 30C it definitely has an effect on power output, simply because the air is thinner, and the hotter it gets, the thinner it gets, and they lose power."
However, a more recent trial CNG Scania bus "was quite reliable when it was here".
The current Euro 5 emission standards are, of course, very strict, but with Euro 6 the levels of particulates and oxides of nitrogen are infi nitesimal.
We all know that, but there are a couple of things about ACTION’s Euro 6 commitment that may surprise operators.
The first is Scania won the tender against competition from suppliers of Euro 5 chassis.
"For us it was an easy decision," Dougall says.
"The reliability of the vehicles that they had seen in Europe and the environmental benefi ts were all there.
It ticked all the boxes for us."
That leads to the second surprise, which is that these Euro 6 buses are actually using less fuel than ACTION’s other Euro 5 buses, which of course also adds to their environmental credentials.
"There was an expectation that there may have been some weight issues, but with the Scania buses that hasn’t been the case," Dougall says.
He attributes that Euro 6 weight advantage to the extra load of the cooling gear fitted to the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) engines on the Euro 5 buses; and the relatively light-weight Euro 6 body (more on that later).
"For ACTION it was a move to SCR [selective catalytic reduction]. We didn’t have buses with that feature before," Dougall says.
"At some point we would have had to do that anyway, so it was part of the process of bringing Euro 6 vehicles into the fleet.
"We’re in the process of installing an AdBlue dispensing system at both of our depots at the moment.
The current 17 buses that we have operating are running on a temporary system."
As everyone knows, Canberra can be freezing cold in winter, and boiling hot in summer. That can be a problem for AdBlue: below minus 10C, and above the mid-40s.
Fortunately, both extremes are rare in Canberra and Dougall says so far, so good.
"We haven’t seen any negatives with AdBlue at this stage," he says. Mind you, the buses haven’t been through a summer yet, but Dougall is not aware of major heat problems with buses using AdBlue elsewhere in Australia.
Not only is Dougall impressed with the Scania chassis, he’s rapt with the bodies as well.
"The Custom Coaches bodies have been very good, probably the best Custom Coaches body that we’ve had delivered to us," he says.
"The CB 80 is a very nice design, but it’s also very functional … the cabin space for the driver, the amenities for the customers, and certainly with the Euro 6 build we’ve seen a signifi cant reduction in weight in the construction methodology which has been used by Custom Coaches, and that’s really helped with reduction in fuel use."
An interesting feature of the body is that Scania wanted no welds past the rear axle. The body is cantilevered out over the rear of the chassis.
"That’s meant that Custom Coaches has had to come up with some innovative ways of attaching its body to the rear of the bus, but the design of that has been quite successful," Dougall says.
The bodies are wheelchair-friendly, of course, and they have Canberra’s two-bike fold-down bicycle racks on the front, which can take up an extra metre of space but make a handy bullbar.
We took a Euro 6 Scania for a spin from ACTION’s Tuggeranong depot onto one of the many urban motorways that serve Canberra, involving of course numerous roundabouts.
ACTION buses have an average speed of more than 30km/h, and are speed limited to 80km/h.
We found the unit to be a very nice bus to drive — apart, that is, from an annoying rattle in the manual door locks.
There’s a spacious driver’s area with good vision; comfortable Isri seat; responsive steering and good handling.
Again, perhaps surprisingly for Euro 6, there’s plenty of power.
The bus answers promptly when you put your foot on the throttle.
The ZF transmission is smooth; and a five-stage transmission retarder that operates off the brake pedal works very well, whether you want to just ease to a stop or stop sharply.
The brakes are discs all around with ABS and an electronic stability program (ESP).
All up, we agree with its operator that this Euro 6 Scania/Custom Coaches combination is a very impressive piece of technology.
MAKE/MODEL: Euro 6 Scania K 320 UB 4x2 LB
ENGINE: 5-cylinder, 9.3-litre diesel
EMISSIONS CONTROL: SCR only, with diesel particulate filter (DPF)
OUTPUTS: 235kW (320hp); 1,600Nm of torque @ 1,050rpm to 1,300rpm
TRANSMISSION: Push-button 6-speed ZF Ecolife fully automatic, with retarder
BODY: Custom Coaches CB 80
SEATS: McConnell, Holdsworth fabric. 48 seated passengers, 18 standees
DIMENSIONS: Length 12.5m; height 3.3m near Thermo King air-conditioner
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