Mercedes-Benz at the GPTS in Montreal: Solutions to the traffic problems of today and tomorrow: broad product range, the birthday of an international best-seller and a glimpse into the future

  • Full-range supplier of everything from minibuses to large-capacity buses and chassis
  • Birthday of an international best-seller: 20 years of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro
  • Citaro G of the current generation in right-hand drive
  • The surprising manoeuvrable large-capacity CapaCity
  • Already being tested: the all-electric-powered Citaro is due in 2018
  • New: e-mobility consulting – comprehensive advice on the introduction of e-mobility as a solution for fleets
  • A glimpse into the future. The Future Bus with CityPilot, based on the Citaro

When several thousand experts from transport operating companies on every continent sit down to discuss the local public transport of the future, Mercedes-Benz will be among them: From 15 to 17 May, the International Association of Public Transport, UITP, will be holding its Global Public Transport Summit (GPTS) in Montreal, Canada. The event will focus on issues that affect transport companies all over the world: energy-efficient mobility, digitalisation and the redefinition of urban passenger transport. All of which are points that are also being vigorously pursued by Mercedes-Benz, so ensuring that the brand's presence in Montreal will see it addressing a whole range of topics: the Citaro as the world's best-selling urban bus will be celebrating a "round" birthday, even as the introduction of new variants adds further to its appeal. The large-capacity articulated bus CapaCity L will be joined by a more compact brother. Mercedes-Benz will also be offering a glimpse into the fascinating future of autonomous city driving with the Future Bus with CityPilot. And finally, the experts from the BRT team will be demonstrating to visitors how intelligent bus transport systems can offer a fast and affordable way to solve the traffic problems of today and tomorrow.

Full-range supplier of everything from minibuses to large-capacity buses and chassis

As a leading brand for buses and coaches with global reach, Mercedes-Benz is able to offer transport operators a full range of bus and coach products.The portfolio of its complete buses from Europe ranges from a minibus based on the Sprinter and the international best-seller Citaro in all its many variants, through to the Conecto, the large-capacity buses CapaCity and CapaCity L, and various inter-city buses. Mercedes-Benz also supplies bodybuilders all over the world with chassis, for example with robust chassis with front-mounted engine or low-entry chassis for low-floor buses with rear-mounted engine. The portfolio is rounded off by a range of specialities such as fully assembled school buses manufactured in India, and Brazilian-built articulated bus chassis for ultra-long city buses, up to 24 metres in length.

The focus this year is on one urban regular-service bus in particular: the international best-seller Citaro is 20 years old. The Citaro's headlamps are still firmly directed on the road ahead: in the coming year Mercedes-Benz will be presenting a locally emission-free bus, in the form of the all-electric-powered Citaro. The Citaro also provides the platform for the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot, a decisive step on the way to autonomous driving in an urban setting.

Birthday of an international best-seller: 20 years of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro

The international best-seller among urban regular-service buses is celebrating a birthday: the Mercedes-Benz Citaro is 20 years old. The GPTS in Montreal is a particularly significant event for the Citaro: only a very recent development at the time, the low-floor bus made its debut at a previous UITP Congress in Stuttgart in 1997. Mercedes-Benz took advantage back then of the end of standardisation for urban regular-service buses in Germany as the impetus for an unprecedented drive for innovation. With eye-catching design, state-of-the-art technology and its passenger-friendly interior, the Citaro revolutionised the urban bus sector. Continuing further development has ensured that it has not only maintained this lead right to the present day, but has actually extended it.

The Citaro has long been a familiar sight in virtually all major European cities and continues to ply its trade all over the world. Passengers will come across it in Mexico, Istanbul and the United Arab Emirates, in Singapore, Japan and even on the Ile de la Réunion in the Indian Ocean. A very special milestone will also be passed in this anniversary year for the Citaro: in the autumn of 2017, the 50 000th Citaro will roll off the production line at the Mannheim bus plant. This spectacular figure serves to reinforce the position of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro as the world's most-produced urban regular service bus.

From solo bus to a complete model family

Just one year after the premiere of the all-new Citaro in 1997, series production began of the 12-metre-long solo, or rigid, bus and of the Citaro G articulated bus. The range was expanded in that same year by the addition of the three-axle long variant, Citaro L. A particularly elegant inter-city variant, the Citaro Ü (for the German, 'Überlandbus'), with a high windscreen and single-wing forward door, was added to the portfolio at around the same time. Together they formed a diversified initial range as the basis for an international career.

The middle of the next decade saw Mercedes-Benz expand the range once again with the Citaro LE of 2005, which combined a low-floor front section with a raised-floor area at the rear. This had the advantage of excellent ride comfort, thanks to a rear axle adopted from the touring coaches, and a high seating capacity with well-spaced seats in the rear. The Citaro LE as a new model anticipated the general facelift applied to the Citaro in 2006. As well as its fresh, new look, one of the most impressive features of the Citaro from this point on was its independent wheel suspension for the front axle - which brought clear benefits in terms of ride comfort and handling. 2005 also saw the premiere of the sensational large-capacity CapaCity bus, derived from the Citaro. This 19.5 metre giant, with a two-axle rear section, was based on the Citaro's modular system and proved to be remarkably manoeuvrable. It was also supplied by Mercedes-Benz, upon request, in a special Metro design.

At the other end of the scale was the compact Citaro K, launched by Mercedes-Benz three years later. This 10.5-metre-long midibus with shortened wheelbase was likewise a direct outcome of the modular system and used the same suspension and drive system components as the large models.

The Citaro underwent its first full model change in 2011, when Mercedes-Benz redesigned it completely from the headlamps through to the tail lights. Since then it has once again set the benchmark in terms of its cockpit and passenger compartment, as well as its lightweight construction, economy and safety. In the same process, Mercedes-Benz also restructured its model range, which now comprised the Citaro, Citaro G, Citaro K and Citaro Ü/GÜ. In conjunction with the conversion to the Euro VI emission standard a year later, the Citaro was given a new rear end, while the new-generation Citaro LE joined the line-up at the same time.

In 2014 Mercedes-Benz once again launched a spectacular large-capacity bus based on the Citaro. The four-axle articulated CapaCity L model is 21 metres long, thus offering even more space than its predecessor. Since the autumn of 2016, the gap between the Citaro G and the CapaCity L has been plugged by the new, 19.7-metre-long four-axle CapaCity.

In its anniversary year, 2017, the Citaro is thus able to offer a vehicle to suit every need. With the Citaro, Citaro G, Citaro K, Citaro LE/Ü, Citaro Ü and Citaro GÜ , as well as the derived models CapaCity and CapaCity L, this low-floor bus offers the full panoply of full-size and large-capacity buses with low-floor technology.

Engine and powertrain: cleaner and more efficient than ever

Over the course of its career, the Citaro has experienced pretty well all exhaust emission standards – in most cases as one of the first to meet them and to trigger new developments. At the time of its launch in 1997, the Citaro needed to meet the Euro II emission standard. Four years later and the benchmark was Euro III. The Citaro caused a sensation in 2004 with the introduction of SCR technology with AdBlue injection – cleaner and at the same time more fuel-efficient was something new, but a winning combination that was maintained two years later when the once again more stringent Euro V emission standard was introduced. In 2012 the Citaro then forged ahead to become the world's first city bus to be Euro VI compliant as standard.

Over the course of the two decades, the engines have of course always played an important part. At its launch in 1997 the Citaro continued the tradition of the large-displacement, horizontally mounted six-cylinder in-line engines of its legendary predecessors, the Mercedes-Benz O 405 and O 305. A range of horizontally mounted compact diesel engines was a new addition. Just two years later the range was expanded with a selection of engines in a vertical tower design – vital if a full-length low floor with an additional door behind the rear axle was to be accommodated. 2000 saw the first model with natural gas drive, which in 2002 became the first bus to win "Blue Angel" environmental certification.

From 2003 onwards, a fleet of 36 Citaro powered by fuel cells took part in a large-scale trial to demonstrate the exciting possibilities offered by electric drive systems in a real-life context. The Citaro FuelCell spent several years operating successfully in ten European cities, in the Australian city of Perth and in Beijing, China. With the subsequent development phase Citaro FuelCell Hybrid, from 2009, the consumption of hydrogen fell significantly. Alongside this work, the issue of reducing fuel consumption and hence emissions for the diesel remained a priority. From 2007 on, the Citaro G BlueTec Hybrid showed what is technically possible – it could travel up to ten kilometres at a go in all-electric mode on one battery charge.

In spite of such sensational developments in the field of alternative drive systems, the effort in those first 20 years always centred on diesel engines as the drive system. Example: with the advent of the Euro VI emission standard in 2012 a completely new generation of engines emerged, made up of compact six-cylinder in-line units with displacements of 7.7 l and 10.7 l. These were clean, smooth-running, reliable and extremely efficient.

In the interests of maximising fuel efficiency, the development engineers introduced a veritable firework display of technical features to complement these: controlled auxiliary assemblies, recuperation module as an interim electricity storage device, lowered entrances to reduce the consumption of compressed air during 'kneeling' - just three of many examples of work undertaken to maximise efficiency. In the Record Run of 2012, the Citaro Euro VI showed just what it was made of: a reduction of 8.5 percent in fuel consumption compared with its already efficient predecessor - yet another milestone in the history of the Citaro.

'Safety first' is a maxim that applies just as much to city buses at Mercedes-Benz

The Citaro has also been setting standards for the last 20 years in terms of safety. At its launch in 1997, it already offered a compelling array of highly sophisticated active and passive safety features. Disc brakes all round and the Electronic Braking System EBS were as much an innovation for city buses as the high-strength annular frame structure protecting the passenger compartment in a collision.

The Citaro delivered further surprises when the model change came in 2011: the rigid bus was the first city bus in the world to be equipped with the Electronic Stability Programme ESP. Bi-xenon headlamps signified another premiere. Since that date a crash element in the front section has protected the driver in the event of an accident, while the roll-over protection system according to ECE R 66/02 is there to protect all occupants. The handling safety of all Mercedes-Benz articulated buses has been enhanced by yet another development: the Articulation Turntable Controller (ATC) electronic anti-jackknifing system, which has been fitted as standard since 2015. ATC achieves almost the same protective effect as ESP but without braking intervention – once again a world premiere. A further technical highlight for the Citaro was the introduction of LED main headlamps as an option in 2015: with a light colour resembling daylight, they are less tiring on the eyes. The LEDs are both bright and long-lasting.

Exemplary comfort in passenger compartment and cockpit

The Citaro is clean, efficient, safe and, since the very beginning, passenger- and driver-friendly to an exemplary degree. The cantilevered seating, whereby no chair legs obtrude into the passenger compartment, was a world premiere upon its introduction in 1997 - and brought distinct advantages for cleaning staff, too. Curved grab rails made the space more inviting for passengers boarding, while a full roof-duct ventilation system ensured a high level of climate comfort. Wide, fast-opening swivelling doors speeded up the flow of passengers, while the driver enjoyed a spacious and ergonomically friendly cockpit.

From 2006 on, the introduction of independent front wheel suspension served to enhance ride comfort and optimise handling. In parallel, Mercedes-Benz also introduced its own lightweight, practical and comfortable City Star Eco seating variant.

In conjunction with the model change effected in 2011, both the exterior and the interior design were once again given a makeover. Since then the entrances have been lowered and LED entry/exit lights have been provided to help passengers, while new ergonomically comfortable roof-mounted grab rails in an oval design have been introduced. Companies wishing to offer their passengers that little bit extra may well opt for the elegant ambience lighting system. The driver benefits from a workplace that has once again been upgraded, with a new cockpit that is somewhat higher, features attractive instruments and is characterised by further improved visibility. From 2014 on, Mercedes-Benz gradually introduced the new B2E electronics structure. Quite apart from the technical benefits this brings, it also provides a platform for new instruments and buttons, as well as for the multifunction steering wheel and future innovative assistance systems.

Mercedes-Benz Citaro: acclaimed in every respect

So, as you can see, the Citaro has constantly been able to reinvent itself over the years and build on its strengths. It has been frequently honoured for this, for example with both generations named as "Bus of the Year" and so far with 17 "Best Commercial Vehicle" awards in the category for urban regular-service buses. It was named the "Best City Bus", won the "Grand Award" at the Busworld Kortrijk show, the Dekra "Environmental Award" and the "Golden Oil Drop", to name but a few of the many awards it has received.

Demand has also exceeded all records. In April 2005, seven years after production began, the 10 000th Citaro was handed over to the Spanish transport operator Alsa. Bus number 20 000 went to the company Pflieger in Tübingen/Germany three years later in February 2008. Public transport operator Linz Linien in Austria took delivery of Citaro number 30 000 in August 2011, with Citaro number 40 000 going quite soon afterwards, in April 2014, to the company Voyages Emile Weber in Luxembourg. It remains to be seen where Mercedes-Benz will be delivering the 50 000th Citaro to this coming autumn.

The Citaro is a true cosmopolitan: 60 percent of its production has gone outside Germany, and it is to be found in 40 countries all over the world. But this unique success story does not mean that this is the end of the line for the Citaro – on the contrary, the Citaro is on its way to tomorrow.

New: Citaro G of the current generation in right-hand drive

New in this closely graduated range is a right-hand drive variant of the Citaro G from the latest Euro VI-compliant model generation. It completes the comprehensive right-hand-drive line-up of the best-seller, which now comprises Citaro, Citaro G and Citaro K. Mercedes-Benz supplies the 18.1-metre-long articulated bus as a three-door model and with numerous different seating options. Powering it from the rear is a six-cylinder in-line Mercedes-Benz OM 470 engine of the latest generation with a displacement of 10.7 l, giving it even better fuel efficiency and improved robustness. The vertically installed engine is available in two output categories: 265 kW (360 hp) with torque of 1700 Nm, and 290 kW (394 hp) with 1900 Nm. Power is transferred via a torque converter automatic transmission, with variants from Voith or ZF available.

New: the surprisingly manoeuvrable large-capacity CapaCity

Between the Citaro G articulated bus and the large-capacity CapaCity L, Mercedes-Benz has now introduced the four-axle CapaCity, with a length of 19.73 metres. In tried-and-tested customer-friendly fashion, this is derived from a modular system: it differs from the larger 21-metre CapaCity L simply by the omission of one bodywork section each side of the articulation joint. The CapaCity comes as standard with four double-width doors to guarantee a fast flow of passengers as they board and alight at stops. In its standard configuration, the new CapaCity, which can accommodate 181 passengers (44 seats and 137 standing spaces), can hold the same number of passengers as a large-capacity bus.

In view of growing customer numbers, the CapaCity is the ideal solution for many cities where the capacity of conventional articulated buses has reached its limits. At the same time, both the CapaCity and the larger CapaCity L are suitable for BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), which, as a highly efficient bus transport system, is enjoying increasing popularity around the world.

With a turning circle of just 22.93 metres, the CapaCity is almost as easy to manage as an articulated bus. The surprising manoeuvrability of the CapaCity is attributable to its electrohydraulically steered fourth axle, which originates from the CapaCity L and features independent wheel suspension for unrivalled comfort and handling. Safety is in any case one of the key attributes of the new CapaCity, which, like all articulated buses in this big family, is equipped as standard with an ATC (Articulation Turntable Controller). ATC has roughly the same effect as the Electronic Stability Programme ESP, thereby raising the road safety of articulated and large-capacity buses to a new level. At the same time, its steering is on a par with that of a rigid bus.

Already undergoing testing: the all-electric-powered Citaro is due in 2018

In parallel with the optimisation of the diesel drive system, Mercedes-Benz is working hard on the all-electric-powered and locally emission-free city bus. The all-electric Citaro is due to go into series production in the coming year – prototypes are already undergoing testing on the roads. The electrically powered Citaro will open up a new chapter in electric mobility, because Mercedes-Benz is not looking at the city bus in isolation, but as an integral part of a highly efficient transport system.

New: e-mobility consulting – comprehensive advice on the introduction of e-mobility as a solution for fleets

Daimler Buses therefore now offers a comprehensive consultancy service for transport operators, aimed at supporting them in the development of reliable e-mobility concepts viable for fleet use. To help customers achieve the right balance between the conflicting demands of range, charging infrastructure, payload and costs, experts from the recently established Mobility Solutions unit of Daimler Buses provide advice on their specific questions about e-mobility. The systematic approach taken by this e-mobility consulting team, supported by intelligent data systems, ensures that each vehicle is optimally configured for the purposes intended and for the topography of a city or region where the bus will be used.

As part of the preparation for the efficient and reliable introduction of the forthcoming fully electrically powered Citaro, the experts undertake a detailed consultancy process that looks not just at the vehicle itself, but also at the charging infrastructure, energy supply, operating plans and IT requirements in the bus depots, as well as at suitable service concepts. The result is an individual plan with defined milestones that will allow the implementation of electric mobility in daily fleet operations in a way that minimises the operational as well as the economic risks.

For the multifaceted ecosystem that the introduction of the electric city bus necessitates, Daimler Buses is able to take advantage of the high level of expertise available within the Daimler Group in relation to such factors as charging infrastructure and stationary energy storage, as for instance offered by Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH. For operators of urban bus services in particular, storage units of this nature can be an important way of meeting the high energy requirements of their vehicles as economically as possible. In early March, Daimler also announced that it would be investing in US charging station provider ChargePoint. With more than 33 000 charging spots, ChargePoint is the market leader in this area in the USA and has significant expertise in relation to both hardware and software, from which Daimler Buses and its customers will also be able to benefit.

A glimpse into the future: the Future Bus with CityPilot, based on the Citaro

Whether we are talking about the combustion engine powered by diesel fuel or natural gas, electric mobility or autonomous driving, Mercedes-Benz continues its systematic drive to maintain its technological leadership. One outstanding example of this work is the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot: last year, it undertook its first autonomous drive in city traffic over a 20-kilometre route in Amsterdam. In this trial, the Future Bus with CityPilot travelled at speeds of up to 70 km/h, stopped with centimetre accuracy at stops and traffic lights, pulled away automatically, passed through tunnels, braked for obstacles as well as pedestrians on the roadway, and communicated with signalling systems.

There is still a driver on board monitoring the system, but the strain on the driver is considerably reduced. The CityPilot encompasses both current assistance systems and additional systems. The technical equipment includes both long-range and short-range radars, numerous cameras and the satellite-controlled positioning system GPS. The intelligent networking of the cameras and sensors also gives us a taste of things to come. Together, they provide a precise picture of the surroundings and exact position of the bus.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot significantly enhances safety in city traffic. Thanks to its anticipatory style of driving, it improves efficiency, is more sparing on components and reduces both fuel consumption and emissions. With its smooth and even travel, it also enhances the comfort of its passengers.

For the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, the team at Daimler Buses has developed a specific and attractive vision for urban public transport which breaks with many conventions. The design of the rigid bus based on the internationally best-selling Citaro, some twelve metres long, ventures into new territory, for example with the striking asymmetrical and very contemporary design of its exterior. The interior is open and light-flooded. The Future Bus, which is designed with a low floor throughout, is divided into three areas. At the front, near the driver, is the "service" area. In the middle, near the door, is the "express" area for short journeys, designed for standing passengers who need to get on and off quickly. The "lounge" at the back of the bus is intended for passengers who stay on board for longer journeys. The completely redesigned cockpit is an integral element of the space. The driver receives information of relevance to him/her on a large screen with an innovative display.

BRT lines are ideal for autonomous driving

Because the buses run on separate tracks and are separated from the rest of the traffic, BRT lines (Bus Rapid Transit) are absolutely ideal for autonomous travel. It was for this very reason that the world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot was celebrated on a section of the longest BRT line in Europe, in Amsterdam. With the help of the CityPilot technology, the bus mastered the route with effortless ease.

The advantage of BRT systems: they are quick to set up, inexpensive and flexible. They reduce traffic density, lower exhaust and noise emissions, increase travelling speeds and generally improve the quality of life. Daimler Buses has long been one of the pioneers of such BRT systems, of which, according to the experts, there are now more than 185 around the world, on every continent. These alone carry around 35 million passengers each day.

New BRT routes are constantly being planned and designed, whereby cities all over the world are receiving advice and support from the traffic experts at Daimler Buses, in a service that is unique for this sector. The core team at Daimler Buses is made up of experienced traffic planners, backed up by the Daimler BRT community of contacts in Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia, giving the experts a truly global perspective. They have a detailed familiarity with many different BRT systems and can help establish contacts with traffic planning consultants, banks and other non-governmental organisations, thus facilitating the provision of comprehensive support at every phase of planning, from analysis and development through to implementation.