Over that last few years I have been reading about the “Dubai Superbus” which in reality should be called the “Dutch Superbus” because of where it was designed and the prototype built.
The idea was conceived by a Dutch astronaut and physicist, Dr Wubbo Ockels whilst travelling between two cities in Europe. His side became the Superbus, a 23 seater slimline and aerodynamic transport system. The plan was to create special lanes so that the bus could travel intercity without disruption at speeds up to 250km/h (approx. 155mph) via electric power. In Europe and other northern hemisphere countries there was an idea to have a geothermal system laid into these special lanes to keeping them from icing up!
The vehicle was originally financed by the Dutch Government with a local transport company, Connexxion, also providing some cash. Further cash was provided by Dow Chemicals (presumably for the materials used) and by a Saudi company, Sabic, with other smaller partners involved for specific components. The facilities at the University of Technology in Delft, near The Hague were used for the incubation.
After local presentations, the Superbus was shown in Dubai – with Dr Ockels and his team suggesting that it would be perfect for the Dubai – Abu Dhabi run. Clearly he was thinking about more funding and future sales!
The technology that underpins the Superbus is mostly carbon. An ex Ferrari and Williams F1 aerodynamicist, Antonia Terzi, designed the super sleek body with 8 gullwing doors. The body and chassis are made of carbon fibre, the brakes are carbon ceramic (needed if the vehicle is going to reach the higher speeds anticipated) and the wheels are carbon magnesium for lightness.
Overall weight for the vehicle is 10 tonnes fully loaded despite the materials used with a 49 foot (15 metre) length. From the reports and the video below, the vehicle has 6 wheel steering to help with the size of the vehicle.
Power is via electric motor(s) – I couldn’t find out how many however one could assume that there are six with one powering each wheel. Power output is rated at 400Kw and the energy source are lithium polymer batteries with a regenerative braking system. The vehicle can be driven by a human, however once on its special lane, an autopilot takes over.
In 2011 there were reports that the vehicle that was presented in Dubai was never shipped back to The Netherlands, being bought by a local Sheikh for his personal use, however only one prototype appears to have been built and was given a road registration plate by The Netherlands Government in 2012 and presented to the media in Europe afterwards. The vehicle appears to be at the development centre in Europe.
The original plan was to have the Superbus running by 2016 with 100s of them in use by 2026. This plan was disrupted by the untimely death of Dr Ockels in 2014. He had been ill for some time with heart and cancer issues.
Having viewed their website, it is clear that the project has stalled – there has been no update since Dr Ockels death.