Mellor Coachcraft is to launch what it is describing as the ‘world’s first’ fully low floor electric minibus, the Orion E. To be introduced to the industry at this year’s CV Show (25 to 27 April 2017) at the NEC in Birmingham, the vehicle is designed to offer a nominal 100 mile range and can accommodate 16 seated passengers or up to four wheelchairs. It uses an electric front wheel drive system to achieve an adaptable, single step entry, fully low floor passenger saloon. The vehicle uses conventional Li-Ion batteries and has a drive system developed in conjunction with a leading European EV integrator. The power electronics are provided by what Mellor calls a class leading European manufacturer, which supplies many of the electric drive components bound for the car and bus industry. Orion E is visually identical to its conventional sister, Orion, but the chassis cab, on which the Orion model is based now sports an electric drive and gearbox in the engine bay. The low floor, coach built body accommodates its battery packs in several locations to achieve the best weight distribution possible.
The Orion E has been through prolonged simulated test cycles, achieving compliance with all European regulations. It is now being developed as a left hand drive vehicle for mainland Europe and other markets. Mellor also sees potential in the base vehicle for inner-city parcel and freight deliveries, particularly as the low floor allows it to avoid many manual handling issues associated with lift platforms and steps. The first Orion E minibuses are expected to be delivered to customers in July.
MD of Mellor Coachcraft, John Randerson, said, ‘The project has taken us two years to complete. We looked at a number of different electromotive suppliers and products, with the aim of ensuring we could have absolute confidence in the product and drive train. We are extremely proud to be bringing the world’s first electric low floor minibus to market, in a 12 month period during which Mellor has already launched no fewer than three new models. Our decision to develop this vehicle has been validated by the immediate interest shown by our customers.’