By Andy Sambidge www.arabianbusiness.com
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the UAE rallying champion, has backed plans to use an electric-powered superbus to ferry passengers from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.
Sulayem, who is also vice president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said he believes the cross-over between a bus and a limousine could be the shape of things to come.
Capable of carrying 23 passengers at 250 km per hour, the Dutch transport concept is as an environmentally friendly idea to reduce traffic congestion and road accidents.
Sulayem was invited to test drive the Superbus at Dubai Autodrome on Thursday by its chief designer Antonia Terzi, the Italian former chief aerodynamicist of the BMW-Williams Formula 1 team.
Sulayem said: “I had heard a lot about this project and the concept interested me. It’s an electrically powered vehicle which uses rechargeable batteries and can actually run on solar energy. At the same time it’s very lightweight and has an aerodynamic design so has low energy consumption.
“I also like it because it can help ease traffic congestion and reduce the number of accidents. Anything that can make our roads better and safer to drive on has to be a good thing.”
It would cut the commute time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to 30 minutes, backers say.
Earlier this week, a senior transport official said that a second motorway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai would be built within four years as part of a strategy to reduce congestion and improve road safety.
The Holland-based design team behind Superbus see it as an extension of this strategy in which a fleet of Superbuses would run on a dedicated two-lane highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and leave the “speed track” in urban areas to drop off passengers at agreed locations.
The first prototype version of the Superbus made its Middle East debut earlier this month at the UITP Mobility and City Transport Expo in Dubai.
The Superbus will be flown back to Holland next week where it will undergo further tests under the scrutiny of the Dutch transport authorities.
The design team hopes that by the end of the year these will lead to the prototype being registered and issued with a licence plate, allowing it to be driven on public roads for the first time.
“We came here to show the authorities in the UAE that the Superbus is as practical and drivable as it is beautiful,” said Terzi. “It tackles the challenges of mobility, spatial planning, service detail and environmental demands all in one.”
She added: “We were delighted when Mohammed accepted our invitation to test drive the Superbus. He understands and appreciates the concept and is very enthusiastic about our project.”
Sulayem is the first Arab vice president of the FIA (The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).
Superbus is the brainchild of a design team at TU Delft University of Technology in Holland who have brought the prototype to the UAE after an exploratory initial visit earlier in the year.
Powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, the 530bhp carbon fibre vehicle is similar in length and width to a public bus, but with the height of a conventional SUV.
The Superbus, which uses rear wheel steering, boasts high maneuverability, formidable breaking power and safety based on the use of advanced radar and electronic obstacle detection systems.
The Superbus project is backed by the Dutch government as well as 10 sponsors and 56 suppliers.
The first Superbus road tests took place in Holland last September.