The seat frames that equip buses in the UK have always been made out of mild steel. But this has changed, thanks to Hydro innovative solutions. And the potential is high for a first player on this large and dynamic market.
The safety tests for buses with up to 35 seats, which is the M2 class bus, are very stringent and have been so far the main hurdle for aluminum seat frames. The M2 class safety regulations stipulate that an M2 class seat frame must also pass a safety test for buses with up to 60 seats, which is the M3 class bus. Obviously this bears a considerable significance in terms of market size. Hydro seat frames were designed first and foremost to pass these safety tests, which they successfully did, thus making exciting new opportunities available for aluminum products.
Weight issues overcome
One of the challenges that the bus industry is facing nowadays is weight. New legislation on carbon emissions require buses to be fitted with new engines. However these engines are considerably heavier than the existing ones. In order to save weight elsewhere so as to save energy as well as minimize carbon footprint, Hydro came up with a simple and effective solution. The existing mild steel frames weigh up to 12.5kg, and the aluminum frames designed by Hydro only weigh 8.2kg. This represents a 47%, or 250kg weight saving for a bus fitted with up to 35 seats.
The devil is in the details
Many apparently minor but significant features have sealed the case for aluminum vs. mild steel frames. Because they’re lighter than mild steel, aluminum seat frames contribute to lower running costs for buses, and are also easier to install. In addition, because of the specific quality of Hydro aluminum, the frames do not require finish such as paint, which further saves time and money. Last but not least, aluminum seat frames are 100% recyclable, so they still hold value after the bus is out of service, which helps protecting the environment.
Great new opportunities
Being first to enter this market, Hydo holds a solid advantage. Since the product launch in October 2008, the response from clients has been excellent. Expectations are running high as this market holds potential for up to 600 frames a week. And Hydro has now been invited to tender on an even larger market of up to 100 thousand seat frames a year, on the M3 class buses with up to 60 seats. Therefore at this stage the total potential value of this market is still unknown, but the Hydro aluminum seat frame has made an impressive entry and is bound to keep on growing.