Significant petrol savings, longer service life, lighter tare weight and reduced maintenance costs are just a few features of Australia's first stainless steel bus.
Two prototype buses with grade 304 stainless steel body shells are being manufactured by Gold Coast-based company, Bus Tech Pty Ltd for Volvo Australia.
Stainless steel buses are used extensively in Europe and the United States of America to guard against corrosion caused by icy, salted roads. Corrosion of buses is also a problem in Australia with vehicles subject to regular frame inspections and refurbishment costs. Corrosion in buses results not only from exposure to marine environments, but also from humidity and condensation and recycled water used for cleaning.
Bus Tech Manager, Frank Reardon, said the stainless steel bus had many advantages including corrosion resistance, reduced maintenance and operating costs.
"What will be extremely advantageous for operators is tat they can keep the stainless steel buses on the road for 10 to 15 years without having to constantly address corrosion issues common with carbon steel buses," Mr Reardon said.
A 700 kilogram reduction in tare weight of the bus has been achieved by using stainless steel, resulting in a $2 per kilometre saving in petrol and the ability for each vehicle to carry an additional nine passengers.
"With the increasing price of fuel, we were pushed by our clients to find a way to reduce the tare weight of the bus," Mr Reardon said.
"Using stainless steel has allowed us to provide this extra benefit."
A 15% reduction in production time has also been a feature of the stainless steel bus project.
Each bus is being constructed from 200 metre of square hollow sections (SHS) and 600 kilograms of stainless steel sheet, all grade 304 with a 2B finish.
The exterior and interior of the buses are attached to the stainless steel shell with a polyurethane adhesive, providing a bond line to keep out water and dust.
Fabrication of the stainless steel components was undertaken by Brisbane fabricators Metal Tech Industries and BJR Metal Rolling & Pressing, then delivered to Bus Tech for assembly. Stainless steel for the buses was supplied by ASSDA member Austral Wright Metals.
ASSDA provided literature and an in-house stainless steel seminar during the planning stages of the project.
The buses will be delivered to companies in Liverpool, New South Wales and the Gold Coast.
Mr Reardon said Bus Tech was pleased with the project and hopes to adopt stainless steel as a standard for their buses.
This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 18, May 2001.