IS it a bus? Is it a campervan? Is it a pick-up truck? And can one vehicle possibly answer yes to all these questions?
Diverse as the above forms of transport may be, there is indeed one company whose innovative approach to vehicle design means that its answer is firmly in the affirmative.
‘The secret to Ebussy’s versatility lies in its modular approach to construction,’ explains Derek Warwick Honda managing director Miles Jude. ‘The company has devised two chassis – the second designed for off-road use – onto which you can create anything from a pick-up truck to a campervan, just by changing the module.’
It was this flexibility, combined with the brand’s eco-friendly credentials, which appealed to the Longueville-based business, which will retain the Honda franchise while becoming sole Jersey agents for Ebussy.
‘Ebussy stands for electric bus system and the entire range is fully electric,’ Miles added. ‘However, the manufacturer, Electric Brands, has taken this one step further and, in a first for the motor industry, it has included solar panels, as standard, on the cab of each vehicle. There is also an option to install additional solar panels to the roof of the vans and buses which, on a sunny day, would extend a vehicle’s range to up to 600km.’
And this is not the only first which the German company, which has a background in making electric bikes and scooters, is bringing to the market.
‘This is the first time that a vehicle has been built using a modular design,’ explained Miles. ‘While we expect that most people will buy the one vehicle that suits their day-to-day needs, others may need a van for their working life but want a campervan module for holidays and occasional use. There is nothing to stop people from having three or four different modules, which they can swap and change as they wish.’
With Ebussy offering so much diversity, Miles expects it to appeal to a wide cross-section of the community.
‘The vehicles are perfect for the Island as they are relatively small and their range is ideal for local journeys. As standard, each Ebussy vehicle comes with 10kWh of battery power which gives a 200km range but the batteries can be upgraded to 20kWh or 30kWh versions to extend the range to 600km.
‘There are nine different models to choose from, starting with flat-bed trucks, pick-up trucks, tipper trucks, open buses, full buses, vans, cabrios with an opening roof, box vans and camper vans,’ he said.
‘The range is also perfectly suited to commercial delivery operators and comes at a fraction of the price of existing commercial electric vehicles. Plus you have the added benefit of the solar-charging capacity, which makes them even more cost-effective to run.
‘Because of their eco credentials, competitive price point – prices are expected to start from about £16,000 – and funky designs, I also expect them to appeal to the younger generation.’
With each model currently at the prototype stage, Ebussy is due to launch officially in Germany on 7 July.
‘They still have to go through crash testing and homologation before they can go into production, but we are expecting to receive the first demonstrator vehicles in September or October. They will then start producing customer vehicles in March 2022,’ Miles said.
And it is not only vehicle production on which Electric Brands is focusing, with further innovations already in the pipeline.
‘One of Electric Brands’ plans is to set up battery-exchange stations across Europe, enabling drivers to pull into an exchange station, take your battery out of the vehicle, slot it into the facility to be charged and take a fully charged version with you to continue your journey,’ Miles said.
‘Linked with this, they are also developing a cockpit that slides from left to right so that you can turn your vehicle into a left-hand-drive or right-hand-drive car, depending on where you are using it. By using fly-by-wire controls instead of conventional manual throttle cables, you can use a lever on the dashboard to slide everything across.’
While the team at Derek Warwick Honda is initially focusing on sales, Miles said that there was the potential to offer a hire system in the future.
‘We are looking into the possibility to stocking a certain number of modules which people could then hire if, for example, they were going over to the continent for a fortnight’s holiday and wanted a camper van,’ he added.
Having already received considerable interest in the Ebussy range, Electric Brands is now taking early-bird reservations.
‘There is no obligation to purchase and no deposit required but, if you register your interest now, you will get a £1,000 discount on the purchase price,’ Miles said. ‘Derek Warwick Honda is also offering two years’ free servicing on any early-bird reservations.’
nAnyone interested in learning more about Ebussy is invited to watch the brand’s global launch event, which will be broadcast on Youtube at 7.07pm on 7 July.