In Lithuania, one company, UAB “Vėjo Projektai” has created what it believes will spur a new generation super lightweight electric city buses made with composites. The company calls the project a “visionary approach to automotive industry, which seeks to integrate original bus design concept, new technological materials and wind power usage in public transport sphere.” Each bus model, known as the Dancer, starts as an old “Škoda TR14” trolley-bus and is transformed into to a modern transport unit with ability to disconnect it from power grid.
According to the Dancer bus website, “The conversion is sought through lightening the existing trolley-bus, extending its possibilities, using new materials, creating transparent and interactive exterior.” Specifically, engineers reduced the weight of the bus by replacing the bus’ skin, made of metal sheets, with vertical transparent panels created out of translucent composite materials. Using composites led to a 57 percent weight reduction.
After the materials were implemented, engineers integrated a more advanced powertrain system with engines in the wheels, and adjusted modern media technologies to create a fully developed interactive exterior of the bus. The bus’ composite panels allow for media to be projected during night time. This results in more naturally illuminated cabins that open up to wider city views.
Similar technology is also being developed in the United States. In the fall of 2015, California-based Proterra announced its 40-foot, zero-emission Catalyst XR electric bus can drive 258 miles on a single charge. Back in June, Fortune called the Catalyst XR the “Tesla Model S of electric buses.” The Catalyst XR bus is made with carbon fiber and other advanced composites, making it more durable than diesel and diesel-hybrid buses made of aluminum or steel. It also is more corrosion resistant and offers a greater power-to-weight ratio.
Check out the video below to see the Dancer in action.