Barely a month after electric Zhongtong N12 buses made their debut, a second electric citybus model has been confirmed for the ISB fleet – the BYD B12. Initially teased to multiple degrees via Campus Services publicity, bus fans and students alike have now gotten a chance to see this 3-door electric bus for themselves.
While the buses are still not ready for service at time of writing, NUS staff and students got the chance to check out the BYD B12 during a static display on 31 October and 1 November organised by the Campus Services team. As a three-door layout was touted as one of the features of the new electric fleet, the lack of a third door on the three Zhongtong N12 buses which entered service in late September raised some eyebrows. These concerns have since been addressed, with the three-door BYD B12 displayed right in the centre of activity at UTown!
In fact, on 5 September 2022, both a three-door layout and the BYD B12 design had been (re)teased in a Campus Services post on Telegram, after having first appeared in a newsletter in Semester 2 of AY21/22. A competition was also launched to design a bus wrap for an electric ISB, and the template was clearly a BYD B12.
ComfortDelGro Bus purchased a total of 10 units of the BYD B12 for the NUS and NTU contracts, and it remains to be confirmed how many units will be allocated to each university. The sub-type purchased is the B12A03, which is BYD’s first bus equipped with its new Blade battery technology that addresses electric vehicle battery safety concerns.
Among right-hand-drive markets, KMB operates a fleet of 2-door B12s in Hong Kong, while TransJakarta and Mayasari Bakti operate B12s in Jakarta with a BRT configuration of 2 doors on the nearside and one on the offside. Thus, aside from being the first B12A03s, the BYD B12s ordered by CDGB are also the first with a truly “3-door” configuration. While the exterior styling is largely similar, other enthusiasts have noted that our BYDs have a shallower front bumper (closer to the China domestic B12 spec), possibly due to the presence of a radar sensor (the rectangle above the number plate).
If anyone was wondering about the different livery applied to electric ISBs with an extra orange shape interrupting the blue, the BYD B12 styling may provide some clues: the orange livery follows the shape of the body panels.
While the two-day static display only involved one bus, two buses were actually used in the static display to provide a fresh appearance on each day. The Monday vehicle (later registered PD722P) arrived fitted with a display number plate reading “B12”; as the bus arrived from an external location, it was displaying the BTC EDS which was immediately turned off to avoid confusion.
The BYD B12 that arrived on Tuesday (later registered PD564D) was unplated. Note the “Off Service” EDS with a red background; most CDGB drivers turn off the entire display on the Zhongtong N12 for reasons that should be obvious upon seeing the photo.
The rear of the bus has the EDS on the left, and the charging port in the middle of the rear.
On the interior, many specifications of the BYD B12 buses are common with the Zhongtongs, suggesting that this is a common set of specifications for all NUS electric buses. The entire ADAS suite, including 360-degree cameras and anti-fatigue systems, is installed in the BYD B12s. Seats are again the Ster 8MI with blue upholstery. Eight wireless charging pods by AirCharge are installed in the same position as in the Zhongtongs – albeit flushed directly into a body panel instead of being found in a black tray. USB charging ports are also provided, with a rubber cover similar to Gemilang-bodied public buses.
The PIDS, PIS and EDS are the same KABYM set, but I found the PIS of the BYD B12 way more readable than that of the Zhongtong. As it turns out, that’s because the BYD B12 uses clear glass for the PIS, while the Zhongtongs have the glass tinted orange. With colour-coded routes, that makes a big difference! Hopefully, the Zhongtongs could have the glass replaced, as it would significantly aid in readability.
There are other differences as well. The use of silver grabpoles with yellow areas around the bells, instead of matte grey in the Zhongtongs, and rounded corners on the window pillars give the BYD B12 a more premium feel. I also couldn’t help but notice that the ceiling inside the BYD B12 felt a lot higher and less claustrophobic – but not as high as the Volvo B9L, which is so high that standing passengers cannot reach the air-con ducts. However, unlike the bells in Zhongtong N12s which light up when pressed, the bells in the BYD B12 are a bit more basic.
For better interior shots, you can check out Land Transport Guru’s coverage here – I was busy hosting and didn’t have time to take my own photos!
Despite the third door, the BYD B12 has 22 seats (8 in front and 14 behind), which is only 1 fewer than the B9L’s 23. This is mainly because 4 seats are recovered with seating over the front wheel arch like the Zhongtongs, and because much of the space that would have been taken up by the third door was already taken up by the B9L’s engine.
The third door area is a full-width door; unlike in the Linkker LM312, the battery does not protrude into the doorway and a horizontal grabpole is provided. Hopefully, the third door really does encourage passengers to move all the way into the rear – during the static display, many Volvo B9Ls passed by with people packed to the front windscreen, but an empty aisle after the middle door.
While the exact debut date of the BYD B12 is still uncertain, given the readiness of the bus, we can probably expect it to begin service sooner or later. Footfall at the UTown static display was quite healthy with both prospective NUS passengers (staff and students) and bus enthusiasts among the turnout. Many who had not gotten a chance to ride the Zhongtong N12s were enthralled with the new features such as the PIDS and wireless charging, but nearly everyone was pleased with the third door.
Immediately after the display at NUS, another BYD B12 was displayed at the SITCE exhibition at Suntec City. This unit was not part of the 10 ordered by CDGB, but was brought in by BYD as a demonstrator with slightly different specifications.
This unit did draw some enthusiast crowds as well, especially among those who weren’t able to catch the NUS display on the two days prior.
But to everyone at NUS, as they say in show business, “you saw it here first!”