Another project with ARP E-Vehicles – new electric bus PILEA 12E

Cooperation with ARP E-Vehicles – we develop electric buses together.

During the pandemic period, we established intensive cooperation with ARP E-Vehicles, a company which is now part of the Industrial Development Agency S.A. group. It was formed on the foundation of the former Rafako Ebus – company, which carried out research and conceptual work aimed at creating a Polish electric bus. ARP’s acquisition of control of the company in 2020, significantly accelerated development, and in 2021 the first electric bus, 8.6metres in length, was sold to KM Konin under the PILEA brand.

Our company played a major part in the development of the first PILEA bus. Our solutions such as: DANA/TM 4 electric drive of the SUMO MD series, which consists of an electric motor, inverter and Neuro 200 controller, the FAP+ driver’s workstation with a 12. inch MultiViu Professional display and 6 USB chargers, were used in this electric bus. Some time has passed since the launch of the first ARP electric bus. During this period, mutual cooperation between our companies has continued to develop, and we could witness its effect at Transexpo in Kielce. The latest electric bus PILEA 12E had its world premiere there.

For the new 12 m. electric bus we offered many more solutions, as in the case of PILEA 8,5m. After consultations with our client, systems such as: DANA/TM4 electric motors, the advanced controller ready for Functional Safety – M580, the multiplex system Kibes 5, the driver’s workspace mFAP – equipped with a 12. inch liquid crystal display, the system of full view around the vehicle – ProViu 360 II generation, the steering assistant AAS 4.0, the system of control and measurement of tyre pressure and temperature – CPC, and the independent controller supervising the charging process of electric vehicles- OpenECU Pi-EVCC, were applied in the new bus.

In this bus, we did not only provided the above solutions, but in particular, we performed the whole vehicle integration, implemented the Kibes 5 multiplex system, programmed and parameterised the electric motors. We also did not forget about safety, equipping the bus with systems that increase its level – such as left turn assistant, and a full overview around the vehicle system.

Michał Sitek – HQ Managing Director, Research & Development Department Director in Drabpol

Our company has 40 years of experience in the Automotive industry, focusing on research and development activities using the latest solutions from world leaders, providing solutions for Heavy Duty vehicles.

This enabled top-of-the-range solutions to be applied to the PILEA 12 E bus, which attracted great attention at Transexpo, such as:

DANA/TM4 – maintenance-free, quiet, reliable motors with the highest efficiency.

Open ECU M580 – advanced controller ready for Functional Safety

KIBES 5 – multiplex system, which is the heart and nervous system of the bus.

mFAP – a modern, ergonomic driver’s workstation with a 12-inch liquid crystal display

ProViu II generation – new generation of the ProViu 360 surround view system, and looking through the prism of safety, strictly related to the turn assistant.

Wullhorst – AAS 4.0 – turning assistant – a device which warns the driver of pedestrians and other traffic users such as cyclists, in the vehicle’s blind spot.

CPC – a sensor system that tests the temperature and pressure of the tyres, reporting their condition in real time.

USB – a set of chargers for mobile devices, in the passenger area of the vehicle, equipped with the latest generations of charging technology, such as Quick Charge 3 and inductive charging.

OpenECU Pi-EVCC– an independent controller to supervise the charging process of electric vehicles, compatible with ISO 15118, SAE J1772, DIN 70121 standards with support for both AC and DC fast charging.

The bus project is prepared not only for today, but also for tomorrow. It will enable both the implementation of hydrogen, a step towards vehicle autonomy, or meeting the requirements resulting from changes in regulations related to the safety of passengers and other road users.

We’re ready for it.

Michał Sitek – HQ Managing Director, Research & Development Department Director in Drabpol
Advanced Integration done on the deck of Pilea by the R&D Departament

The premiere of the new PILEA 12E electric bus echoed throughout the industry, and beyond. It was also an opportunity for a conversation between Michał Sitek, HQ Managing Director and Research & Development Department Director in our company, and Piotr Śladowski, Member of Management Board in ARP E-Vehicles, on the development of the company, the latest project, as well as our cooperation to date.

M.S.: PILEA, where did the idea for this brand name come from?

P.S.: The answer is multi-faceted and complex. We wanted our bus to be associated with something ecological and economical at the same time. This led us to PILEA. PILEA is a plant that, because of the shape of its leaves, is colloquially known as a “money plant”. PILEA is identified with savings and this is the perfect combination for our bus brand, ecology and economy, which is exactly what our buses are, besides being zero-emission, ecological and very economical. PILEA is also a district of Greek Thessaloniki, which is close to us. The hills there offer a beautiful view of the entire Gulf of Thessaloniki. The name PILEA connotes well in the local markets. In addition, the name PILEA can be easily deciphered, in Polish as well as in English, as Polish, Innovative, Light, Electric, Bus. We found this to be an ideal brand name for electrics ‘made in Poland’.

MS: What happened next? The year 2022 came and brought only surprises: the war in Ukraine, problems with supply chains. Did these factors influence the development of the company?

P.S.:To some extent, yes, but for us 2022 was a really successful year. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of the entire staff, we fulfilled all orders. We delivered PILEA 10E buses for Platerów and Zdun and two PILEA 8E vehicles for the Municipality of Bełchatów, we also produced a demonstration unit of the facelifted PILEA 10E and the new PILEA 12E. We also started to receive further orders after winning tenders, and the second half of the year was fantastic in this respect. Sales success is not our only achievement, as at the same time we prepared and showed a new model of 12-metre bus at the Kielce trade fair. The PILEA 12E was fantastically received by the participants, who sighed with delight at the vehicle and the presentation itself, conducted by Tomasz Kammel. We were a partner of the prestigious Toure de Pologne race. We presented ourselves in Europe and, technically, we implemented several more new and innovative solutions. 2022 is also a year of major internal changes in our Company, which cannot be seen from the outside, but which must be implemented so that we can continue to grow.

M.S.: You have not been idle, indeed. And how do PILEA buses stand out against the competition? what distinguishes PILEA buses from other brands on the Polish market?

P.S.: First of all, our project involves placing the batteries under the floor. This solution lowers the centre of gravity, significantly improves track stability, and there is no need for additional stabilisers. Our cars do not lean as much in corners as vehicles with batteries on the roof, and the structure itself can be lighter, as it does not carry as much weight. Drivers recounting their impressions after test drives emphasise that they feel as if they are driving a tram rather than an electric bus. In addition, PILEA buses are low-floor all the way from the beginning to the end, which makes it significantly easier to move around inside and is definitely safer, especially in urban conditions, where a large number of passengers do, after all, travel standing up. Thanks to the lightweight construction, our vehicles have low energy consumption and a higher passenger capacity. For instance, our 10-metre bus takes on board the same number of passengers as a standard 12-metre competitor’s bus, yet has 30% less energy consumption. Most importantly for those ordering our buses, we make them from components from recognised, top European and American manufacturers, so our solutions guarantee reliability and excellent performance, and we have access to extensive technical support.

M.S.: TRANSEXPO in Kielce is undoubtedly the largest trade fair dedicated to the industry in Poland. You have made quite a stir at the latest edition of the fair. Please tell us what was it?  The echoes of your participation in TRANSEXPO 2022 are still visible.

P.S.: As I mentioned earlier, 2022 was a very successful year for us. In addition to the release of the refreshed PILEA 10E model, in Kielce, we did the premiere show of a 12-metre bus – the PILEA 12E. When the host of our event Tomasz Kammel uttered the notable words “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have it ………!!!” and a burgundy-coloured bus emerged from under a white curtain, there was no end to the flashes of journalists and words of admiration. I have the irresistible impression that, at that moment, most of the participants of the fair were concentrated around our stand. The presentation, by the way, received an award from the trade fair organisers.

M.S.: Was it just the stunning appearance of the new PILEA that impressed everyone?

P.S.: Of course not. Twelve metres in length, a flat floor, a modern interior, a capacity of more than 100 passengers and, most importantly, a possible range of up to 600 km on a single charge, this probably speaks for itself. The car is packed with technical innovations that could be talked about for hours. I can confidently say that the presentation of this model was a turning point in the history of our young company. We have shown that in a few years we are able to compete with the biggest players in the market and create a modern and innovative electric bus. Of course, this success would not have been possible without the support of the companies cooperating with us in the development of this vehicle, including DRABPOL – supplier of the bus system software. We are also strong thanks to the know-how of our suppliers, this is a very important part of our strategy – we are making our Polish electric buses, together with many Polish companies.

M.S.: Which will soon conquer the Polish electric bus market?

P.S.: The Polish market is our natural customer and this is where we direct our sales efforts, but we are also beginning to focus on foreign markets. Last year, we presented our buses at trade fairs in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where they attracted a lot of interest and from where we also brought awards for product innovation. Greece in particular seems to be an interesting destination for our exports. The short electric bus, thanks to its modern technology and small size, will be perfect for the winding and narrow streets of Greek cities and the dozens of Greek islands. However, our plans this year are not only about new markets. At the beginning of the year, we signed a lease agreement for a new production hall and office building in the Industrial Park in Bydgoszcz, and this means a change of premises and moving the entire plant. In order to meet the growing number of orders, but also our ambitious plans for the company’s development, we are forced to significantly expand the production department, and in fact all departments. The new location includes more than 5000 m2 of production halls and 600 m2 of office space.

M.S.: Is this another turning point in the company’s development?

P.S.: Yes, definitely. We are very ambitious and I think our achievements so far have shown that with determination and hard work you can achieve success. Our plan is to produce more than 100 buses per year in the coming years. In the new premises, we want to gradually increase employment and start linear production. We are also going to open a design office in Poznan, where constructors will develop new technological solutions for our buses. Work on the next new generation of PILEA is also an important part of our development. We want to constantly develop our products so that they work better and more efficiently than before, and provide more comfort for our passengers. The technological race is natural in this industry.

M.S.: These are extremely ambitious plans. Will 2023 mean an “upgrade” of the entire company?

P.S.: This is our goal. In addition to the fact that our bus models will undergo a transformation to the 2.0 version, the way the entire organisation is managed will also change. In the near future, we are going to create and implement our own dedicated IT system, to automate certain processes and thereby streamline the work of many people. We are pursuing a permanent multi-faceted development of the company – this is what the current year and the next years will look like.

M.S.: Thank you for the interview, our cooperation so far, and I wish you continued success.