How do composites help make buses better?
For many people buses are a daily part of commuting life. For others they may be more familiar with coaches from longer distance trips or vacation adventures. Regardless of how we take advantage of buses, the operators and manufacturers have a few common goals: save fuel and stay in operation. So how do composites help?
When we talk about composites for buses and coaches we are mainly focusing on larger panels – from exterior skirting, side panels, and roof corners to interior ceiling systems. Most commonly fiberglass is used, and large, straight panels (or profiles) are manufactured using pultrusion technology.
Composites, like fiberglass, are less dense than steel and aluminum, other materials used to make bus surfaces. Because they are lighter they help save fuel, especially when every kilogram counts towards more kilometers.
Composites also help with reducing manufacturing complexity. For example, a single pultruded profile can integrate in one solid product what would normally require multiple pieces joined together. The profiles can integrate features like hinges which provide bus designers with new ways of thinking about how to achieve their desired results with less materials and labor. Additionally, when you produce one single profile, you reduce the number of joins and seams for added water and weather protection over the life cycle of the bus.
Finally durability is a key benefit composite panels offer. Because the fiberglass has a bit of a “spring” in it, the panels are able to resist dings and dents over the life of the bus, helping to keep it looking great many years later. And because of our composites’ high surface quality, panels can easily be painted for a smooth, quality finish. Composites also provide excellent resistance to the harsh road conditions and weather. From salty air or salty roads, fiberglass is corrosion resistant. Because of the low thermal expansion properties of the materials they remain straight in high temperature environments or in the deep cold of winter.
If you are interested in learning more about composite solutions for buses, coaches, trains, or trams, feel free to contact Eric Moussiaux, located at our transportation center of excellence in Belgium.