Volvo Buses


Volvo ready to service the full electric buses

With the impending introduction of fully electric buses, Volvo Buses Singapore is gearing up to rolling out this new type of vehicle in the city state. A lot of preparation goes behind the scenes into introduction of a new technology product together with ComfortDelGro Engineering, the sole authorized distributor for Volvo Buses parts and services in Singapore. the Swedish brand is putting resources in place to make it a smooth transition from internal combustion engines. In our exclusive interview, Achuth Das, Senior Manager Commercial Sales and Marcus Mak, Senior Manager Technical Service, Volvo Buses APAC Central Region share their experiences about this new technology and the partnership with ComfortDelGro Engineering (CDGE).
Marcus Mak

When it comes to electric vehicles, being a new technology, there is of course an increased need for technical training. “Especially with the electric highvoltage systems, technical knowhow and safety are a focus,” said Mak. In terms of the actual, complete product though, it is Volvo’s approach to use a modular system, he explained. As such systems and components outside the drive train will be either identical or very similar to what can be found in the previous generation of vehicles using internal combustion engines (ICE). “Currently CDGE is extremely well trained on ICE and hybrid vehicles which is having very similar high voltage system.” On top of this the input of the technicians is taken on a regular basis in feedback sessions. Mak said that “There are insights that can only be gained from actually working on the vehicle. These comments from the CDGE team will be analysed and funnelled to the body builder.”

Following the training administered by Volvo, CDGE leverages on 20 years of working on combustion engine vehicles. However, product related training is always an important aspect of a launch campaign and continuing on from the hybrid buses, CDGE technicians have undergone training to get ready for the new technology. To ensure that the best-in-class service team is in place, CDGE sends technicians to Sweden for training and a train-the-trainer programme is in place. Volvo vehicles are connected via “Volvo Connect”, which helps in remote tracking, monitoring and troubleshooting to ensure that the buses are performing at their very best at all times. Using such technology, operators can plan efficiently thus minimizing, if not eliminating, the need for standby vehicles. For any new vehicle or technology to perform efficiently, the bus captains play an important role. It is important for the bus captains to be acclimatized and trained on basic vehicle technology, features, telltales, handling and driving, to benefit from systems such as regenerative braking etc. Bus captains will need to be aware of the different behaviours of the buses when it comes to accelerating and braking as good driving behaviour can contribute positively in energy consumption. “In addition, CDGE has been very active in educating the general public on the new technology. Range anxiety has been one of the issues and there has been a lot of educating on these issues to remove this stigma.”

Said Mr Ang Soo Hock, Chief Executive Officer of CDGE “As a leading company in the automotive engineering industry in Singapore, CDGE is constantly evolving to ensure we are future-ready to support the Singapore Green Plan 2030, and one of it is to contribute towards Volvo’s electrification journey. In the area of electric bus maintenance, CDGE is not only getting our technicians trained and certified by Volvo, but we are also upskilling them at our CDGE academy through courses provided by TÜV SÜD PSB. This is to prepare them to better handle the demand as the adoption of EVs accelerates in years to come.”

Workshop readiness with specific tooling and infrastructure is another aspect that needs to be ready. Tools with insulation, special tools to be used on electric vehicles have to be made available. One crucial difference is the placement of the fuel, which in the case of electric vehicles is the battery pack, which can oftentimes be found on the roof of the vehicle. This necessitates the workshop to have platforms and hoists to access and manage the heavy weights of the batteries. Having to work at heights, technicians would need to be certified.

Mak also explained that electric vehicles have certain advantages over combustion engines. “First of all, there are fewer parts. Electric motors are maintenance-free and if there is a problem, one just changes the entire component to get the vehicle back onto the road.” Malfunctioning components would be swapped with new ones and the vehicle is sent back on road, the faulty parts will then be analysed and fixed. Thus, the vehicle downtime is reduced, maintenance cost cut and service time shortened. “It is always good to have data and to study the market. Every market has its peculiarities and we have been monitoring the Singaporean market in order to get ready for the roll-out of our electric buses,” Das explained about the need to customize the offer. “This is something that Volvo has typically done in the past by deploying one vehicle on the road and the same goes for electric vehicles.” According to Das, Volvo Buses is gearing up for the official introduction of the vehicle in the later part of 2022. 

To “re-fuel” electric buses, the vehicles would need access to sufficient charging stations. Certain bus depots in Singapore are equipped with depot chargers (CCS2). “As one is dealing with high-voltage, all chargers need to be certified according to the national EV charging standard, Technical Reference 25 (TR25), a regulation followed in Singapore,” Das said. He further said that it could be expected that Malaysia is likely to follow suit on the implementation of similar standards as cross-border transportation using electric vehicles is bound to happen in the very near future. “This is further supported by the global push to have industry wide standards that every OEM will use.” CCS-2 has since emerged as a global standard, which brings with it economies of scale aligned with the uptake in demand for electric vehicles. This also means that nowadays the vehicle manufacturers no longer need to provide the charging infrastructure. “ thereby simplifying the process of deployment of electric buses.

Parallel to the development of electric vehicles comes the push for autonomous vehicles. In Singapore, Volvo Buses has been trialing such full electric autonomous vehicles already in partnership with NTU. Das believes that these vehicles would eventually help address the resource crunch, however he is conservative about the timing and readiness of full autonomous deployment at a larger scale. “One important factor is the support from the governments for such technology, however, as mentioned, our products are modular, and it would certainly be possible to add the required components to make full autonomous a reality for daily operations.”

Going forward, the Volvo Buses team is confident that CDGE will be comfortable and competent in managing the maintenance and spare part needs for full electric vehicles when ready to be introduced in Singapore. “Looking back at a partnership spanning 23 years, we can comfortably say that we can only grow further, thanks to our partner here in Singapore,” Das concluded. Achuth Das, Senior Manager Commercial Sales.

Thanks to Asian Buses for the collaboration in developing this article”

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