Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


LITEBUS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 31321
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: Portugal

The lightweight sandwich for guaranteed weight loss

Bus design and manufacture has had a radical overhaul. The bus of the future will be cheaper to run and maintain, lighter, stronger, safer and cause less pollution.
The lightweight sandwich for guaranteed weight loss
Despite all the warning signs such as global warming, the car transport mode is still increasing more than environmentalists and relevant government authorities recommend. The figures speak for themselves – car use is increasing steadily at 2 % every year, while the bus has seen a very modest increase in passengers just short of 1 %.

To help redress these worrying trends, the 'Modular lightweight sandwich bus concept' (Litebus) project drew up ambitious plans directed at improving bus construction. Objectives also had to include the development of high quality, safe public transport. Reducing weight as well as production and repair costs will make the establishment of bus fleets more financially attractive for both private and public operators.

Buses and coaches are normally constructed from a steel/aluminium space frame lined with sheets of different materials. A new radical concept that emerged in vehicle architecture presents a modular bus constructed with sandwich multi-material panels aiming to reduce total unladen weight of the bus by up to 15 %. The new bus also meets tough design criteria, including passenger safety and reduced harm to pedestrians in accidents with the bus, adequate acoustics and ease of repair.

Project partners developed a new structural sandwich material with fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) reinforcements using pultrusion (a continuous process for the manufacture of composite materials with constant cross-section). What's more, the new polymer has a high stiffness rating and energy absorption conferring safety for a surface transport vehicle.

Manufacturing processes were also put under the microscope. Lead time production costs and tooling and jigging expenses were both reduced by 30 %. The use of fewer components which are easier to assemble also brought about cost reduction. Sandwich panel production is less expensive than welded construction necessary for a steel frame.

Overall, the design and manufacture of public service vehicles such as the bus and coach have seen a major facelift. Moreover, the materials, conceptual design methodologies, design philosophy and assembly methods can be applied to other industry sectors, in particular train rolling stock, ships/boats and trucks, as well as self-supported refrigerated containers.

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