As part of the CDG-NUS Smart & Sustainable Mobility Living Lab that is being set up, an electric coach has come to NUS for a trial of unspecified duration. The bus in question is a BYD C9 (CK6120LLEV) registered as PC8313P, and it made its debut to little fanfare on 19 July 2021 alongside the New ISB Network. This coach will be operating on various ISB services in the coming months during the trial period.
The electric coach provides mobility-related data that supports various research projects under the CDG-NUS Living Lab, and the trial also provides OCA with useful insights about electric vehicle operations as OCA is looking to electrify the ISB fleet in future.
I had the honour of helping out behind the scenes as a photographer for this electric coach; the photo you see in the poster below was taken by yours truly. Alas, as the phototaking session took place inside a ComfortDelGro compound, I am not at liberty to publish the original photo, or any of the other great shots I got that day!
The BYD C9, aka the CK6120LLEV, has been described as a long-range over-the-road electric coach that is also suitable for urban operation – it has a range of about 250 km. According to the specifications sheet, the C9 comes with a 324 kWh battery and a full charge takes 4 to 5 hours. As we do not have a charging station for the coach on campus just yet, it bus has to charge somewhere outside at night – the charging point for it is somewhere near Bendemeer Centre.
The coach is environmentally friendly as it produces zero emissions at the tailpipe, and it is quiet as well. (You can see how hard I had to try not to sound like I was writing a Mitsubishi Electric Starmex advertisement when I was doing the poster…)
During trial runs before the coach started service, we recorded readings of less than 70 decibels inside regardless of whether the coach was stationary or moving. In contrast, one of our Volvo B9Ls can generate readings of 75 to 80 decibels on the move.
This particular BYD C9 that is being trialled is not in fact the first electric bus to run in the NUS campus – that honour goes to the EasyMile EZ10, branded as the NUSmart Shuttle, that ran from 2019 to 2021 on Service AV1. In some way, this feels like coming back to where I started. Two years ago in July 2019, my first-ever part-time job with OCA involved helping out for the NUSmart Shuttle launch.
Interestingly, however, this unit is not even the first BYD C9 to run in our campus – another BYD C9 unit in Singapore was chartered for an enthusiasts’ tour, and part of the tour route involved driving through NUS from YIH to PGP before driving through the “99 Bends” of South Buona Vista Road.
That vehicle, PC6284C, is the only other C9 in Singapore that I know of. It was Singapore’s first 100% electric coach, and originally worked as a school bus for GEMS Academy in 2017. It was later deployed to the Downtown East Free Lunchtime Shuttle. There, it was joined by a BYD K9, PC6264K, formerly operated as a public bus registered SG4001J.
Back to our C9, though. This unit, PC8313P, has a seating capacity of 41, eight seats less than the standard 49 for C9s including PC6284C. As a result, it has some of the best legroom I have seen in any coach. It is also uniquely equipped with BYD rim covers.
The coach is painted white, but carries a wrap promoting the CDG-NUS Living Lab. The words “electric bus” are prominently displayed on the windows.
At launch, PC8313P was not equipped with an EDS display, so a set of laminated paper route boards was printed for the front, side and rear.
The rear of PC8313P features an advertisement for ComfortConnect, a chartered bus booking platform run by ComfortDelGro.
On the inside, the coach does not feature grabpoles so standing passengers are not allowed. It is, however, equipped with passenger bell pushes. A chime sounds when the bells are pressed, but there was no “Bus Stopping” visual indicator when the bus debuted on A1, only a “Stopping Bell” that lit red only at the moment when the bell was pushed.
A visual indicator light that remained on after the bell was pushed was fitted later below the red light.
Later on, when the coach was fitted with EDS, an interior next-stop display was fitted as well.
The seats in PC8313P, as with many other C9s, are supplied by Vega Seat of Hong Kong; as mentioned, the reduction of eight seats from the standard seating capacity amounts to two rows of space distributed across the bus.
The legroom is about double that of a normal coach, particularly on the nearside.
The seats are even equipped with tables that fold down.
As mentioned, PC8313P will be deployed to various ISB services during its time at NUS. On 19 July, it was deployed to the new Service A1, with layovers at Kent Ridge Bus Terminal.
The sight of a coach roaming the NUS campus with a white-on-red A1 sign certainly brought back memories for those who were around in the NUS campus before 2015, although OCA has clarified that there are no plans to make coaches on ISB services a thing in the long run. The electric coach will be replaced with an electric citybus in future.
The bus operated outside of the regular schedule, so it added on to the existing fleet of ISBs. It will continue to do so as it is deployed to different bus services through the rest of its trial period. As such, it will not show up in the NUS NextBus app during the trial.
I managed to catch the coach for two rounds in the morning before starting work. The driver was not a member of the existing ISB team, but a driver attached to the electric coach for the trial. While he did not have much experience driving the ISB routes, he proactively and enthusiastically learned the new routes and easily navigated around campus on the A1 route.
Unfortunately for bus enthusiasts who want to try out PC8313P, boarding is restricted to NUS staff and students only, as with all other ISBs. Again, despite being new to NUS, the friendly driver very quickly learnt how to identify the passes, so the checking of passes is enforced.
PC8313P was just as quiet as when we had done the testing, and being an electric vehicle, it had lots of torque which was immediately noticeable whenever we exited a bus stop. The coach also easily climbed the slopes at YIH, BIZ 2 and PGP with no complaint.
From my understanding, the electric coach will operate throughout the week, including Sundays and Public Holidays. This is of course subject to change in the event of teething issues, but the first day of operations proceeded fine. Here’s wishing NUS all the best for the trial!