Charging, Polishing and Artificial Heavy Shower: How They Assemble E-Buses in Moscow

July 25

In April, the Sokolniki Car Repair and Construction Plant (SVARZ) commissioned an enterprise of the future. Now the workshop built before the Revolution is assembling electric motors-driven buses – e-buses. Today this is the most up-to-date electric transport plant in Russia. See the report to find out how eco-friendly production is arranged and what prospects this type of transport has.

A Base for Innovation

Eco-friendly transport is very promising, so the capital city will gradually replace the entire diesel bus fleet (or most of it) with electric ones. And so it was logical to open an assembly plant right in Moscow. It made it possible to reduce the time of assembly, delivery and save on logistics and operating costs.

To launch the assembly line, the plant workshops having an area of seven thousand square metres were completely modernised. During the repair operations, they replaced the roof, windows, floors, lighting, heating, water supply, and ventilation systems. A comfortable temperature is easily maintained in the workshop even in the 30-degree heat.

The modernisation has resulted in 100 hi-tech jobs at the plant. The new production facilities are designed for the assembly of up to 500 electric buses per year. In order to successfully compete in the market, the plant has ensured comfortable conditions not only for the assembly of electric buses but also for the staff. Showers, meal rooms, office premises were restored, while classrooms and relaxation areas were created. The approach has fully justified itself – today the plant employs young promising specialists who are interested in their profession.

“Almost 60 electric buses have already been assembled at the innovative plant, 200 more eco-friendly vehicles will be assembled by late 2021 – this is more than 60 percent of the total supply of electric buses in 2021. Opening this plant in Moscow makes it possible to quickly and efficiently develop its transport, setting a trend for other Russian and foreign cities. In addition, the plant provides the city with new hi-tech jobs,” said Maksim Liksutov, Deputy Moscow Mayor, Head of the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development.

Cleanliness is of Prime Importance

Capital city’s electric bus assembly begins when the so-called glider, that is, a body and chassis, are delivered to the plant. The glider is assembled at the NEFAZ plant, a subsidiary of KAMAZ PJSC in Bashkiria. And although it is already on wheels, it can’t go on its own yet: it has no appliances, no electrics, no motor elements. Therefore, it is brought to SVARZ on special low roaders.

However, the body does not get to the assembly shop immediately, it is thoroughly washed preliminary. It is not just about employees’ love for cleanliness: because of the deposit formed during the delivery process, the bus may subsequently work incorrectly. And even after cleaning, the work piece of the future electric bus first goes to the transfer zone for incoming control. Workers check whether all the components are delivered and whether there are any defects on the body.

Then the vehicle enters the territory of the workshop. It is almost like on the border: close attention to minor details and a need to pass several checkpoints.

“At the first station, they assemble traction equipment, that is, everything that sets the electric bus going. These are lithium-ion batteries, switching units, wiring, current collector, control units,” explained Marsel Mingaliev, Director of Electric Transport Production at NEFAZ PJSC.

Marsel Mingaliev, Director of Electric Transport Production, NEFAZ PJSC. Photo by Maxim Denisov,

After the first station on the shop floor, the electric bus is already running on its own, but so far it is light – there is nothing inside, even passenger seats.

The bus gets its “filling” just at the second and third stations. Specialists install seats, handrails, glass fences, validators, media panels, driver notification buttons, wiring electrics, USB connectors for charging smartphones. In addition, at these stages, side mirrors, headlights, as well as front and rear “masks,” that is, hoods, are installed.

The fourth station is one of the key points. Here, they diagnose and calibrate navigation, video surveillance cameras and ensure general synchronisation of the electronics, for example, adjust the position of the doors and bus suspender. Specialists connect to the electric bus via laptops and use special software to test the performance of all electronic systems.

After passing the fourth station, the electric bus is 100 percent ready from the point of view of its assembly. The only thing missing is seat upholstery. In order not to stain the fabric, it is provided a little later.

“The Moscow Government has a clear plan to replace diesel buses with eco-friendly transport. The new plant covers 40% of all assembly operations. These are hi-tech and the most expensive operations – from the installation of doors and interior trim to electric bus “brain” – the central software. The unique feature of the plant is the absence of toxic emissions – the production is completely eco-friendly,” said Maksin Liksutov.

Artificial Heavy Shower and Urban Test Run

After computer diagnostics, electric buses see the light for the first time. They go to the charging station in the courtyard to continue their journey with renewed vigour and go out on the city streets. At full load, an assembled electric bus can roll off the assembly line every 3.5 hours.

“Electric bus batteries are delivered charged by about 30 percent from a Moscow supplier – this is enough to go through the full assembly cycle. After that, 5-10% remains, so the electric bus is put on ultra-fast charge. It is fully charged in 20 minutes,” said Marsel Mingaliev.

Thus, the designed driving distance of the bus with a fully charged battery is 70 kilometres. Taking into account the operation of all systems and electric bus movement in a queuing traffic with stops, traffic lights, it will definitely overcome 45-50 kilometres.

After a full charge, the electric bus returns to the workshop to the control station where its brake system is checked and adjusted. At this stage, it can already travel on public roads, but it is still not ready to transport passengers. According to the production process, the vehicle must perform a 40-kilometre test run. In field conditions, experts check the assembly of all components of the electric bus and the operation of its internal systems. If there are no comments, the bus returns to the plant and begins to be tested in the sprinkler chamber.

“This special device simulates a heavy shower, and from all sides at once: from below, from above, from the side. Since very serious electronic devices are installed inside the electric bus, we check not only body tightness but also the correct location of its contact sections and connectors. Lighting equipment, air conditioners – all the devices in the system are tested in extreme conditions, and all the defects are revealed right here,” added the expert.

Eco-Friendly Future

After a successful “rainy” test, the electric bus is being prepared for handing over to Mosgortrans. The body is washed and polished, a complete dry cleaning is carried out in the cabin. The final flourish is when the seats get upholstery.

Then the specialists of the Mosgortrans quality service perform their own inspection. They repeat some road tests, for example, an emergency braking test.

When the final exam is successfully passed, the electric bus goes to the park where new buses begin their career in the big city. Thus, the first 10 electric buses assembled at the plant already appeared on the city streets in May – they carry Beskudnikovo District residents.

Almost 60 electric buses have been assembled since the launch of the workshop in Sokolniki. According to the plan, the plant will produce about 200 more buses by late 2021.

Replacing just one diesel bus with an electric bus reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the environment by 60.7 tons per year. The development of the electric bus network already reduced the amount of emissions into the atmosphere by 40 thousand tons in 2020. And by 2022, the amount of emissions will be halved to reduce by 86 thousand tons annually.

“The electric bus is fully designed according to the city authorities’ terms of reference. It is made exclusively for Moscow and takes into account all the features of the big city. In terms of content, electricity is eco-friendlier and much cheaper than fuel,” said the Director of Electric Transport Production.

He also adds that the electric bus is almost silent, it has no exhaust, it does not need a network on a permanent basis – an ultra-fast charging station will be enough. In addition, thanks to its design features, it is a lower-rider vehicle, which is more convenient for passengers.

According to the Head of the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development, the Moscow electric bus is one of the best vehicles in the world market in terms of technical and operational characteristics, but it is 30 percent cheaper than models from other manufacturers, for example, Polish and German. To date, there are already more than 650 eco-friendly buses operating in Moscow on 52 routes of the city.

“In this time, electric buses have proved that they can work smoothly in any weather conditions: abnormal heat or cold does not affect the quality of innovative transport. Today, the electric bus fleet in Moscow is the largest one among European capital cities, and we continue to maintain this level. By 2030, all the routes of the city will be served by “green” transport,” said Maksim Liksutov.

By 2025, all Moscow transport within the Garden Ring will be electric, but Moscow will not stop there. The capital city plans to start testing an innovative bus that uses hydrogen as fuel.


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