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Courtesy of Saietta

Clean Transport

Saietta Electric Powertrain Swap Plan For Buses Gains Momentum

This UK company has a plan to convert diesel buses to zero emissions electric powertrains.

If there’s one place I would not want to find myself, it is walking around underneath a bus that is sitting on jack stands 6 feet in the air. But that is exactly where many employees of Saietta Group spend their days as they remove stinky, smelly diesel engines from transit buses and replace them with smooth, quiet, and powerful fully electric powertrains.

Based in the UK, Saietta Group is an engineering business that specializes in the design, development, and supply of complete powertrains for electric vehicles, including scooters, buses, and boats. An expert in axial flux and radial flux technology, the company also designs the controllers and other components need to make a complete modular electric powertrain using either high or low voltage motors.

RetroMotion For Buses

The company’s says its RetroMotion division offers bus and coach operators effective and tailored propulsion solutions that can transform any fleet into an eco-friendly and sustainable mobility service. It uses state-of-the-art propulsion systems and software that offer fleet operators an economical and effective path to electrifying existing buses with a real world range of up to 350 kilometers.The strategy is part of Saietta’s mission to help densely populated cities become more sustainable.

“Saietta Group prides itself on being at the vanguard of e-mobility propulsion with the aim of democratizing clean sustainable transportation around the globe and within every sector, from two-wheel scooters to compact passenger cars and right through to bus, coach and heavy goods vehicles,” says CEO Wicher Kist.

“But we also understand that such important yet dramatic change — effectively replacing outdated internal combustion engines with new battery electric powertrains — can’t be successfully achieved overnight. That’s why we are stepping up the efforts of our RetroMotion engineering division. We want to give coach and bus operators an opportunity to transform their aging and polluting fleet into a green mobility service that’s modern and clean.

“RetroMotion’s services mean fleet operators don’t have to make sudden and huge outlays on all-new electric vehicles. These important investments can be done incrementally thanks to the possibility of upgrading and extending the lifespan of existing buses and coaches, in the process also meeting upcoming tough legislation.”

Delivery of the company’s first generation e-axles to customers began in 2009. Since then, RetroMotion has developed a second generation e-axle and e-powertrain solution. Both the first and second generation systems have completed 3.2 million kilometers of revenue service on European roads.

Seamless Operation

The retrofit process is a lot like the plan Magna has to allow pickup truck manufacturers to convert their vehicles to battery-electric power. The powertrain conversion replaces an aging diesel engine and all its associated components, including the gearbox, with an advanced e-propulsion system which adds in-wheel electric motors to the rear wheels. Critical systems such as the high power inverter and motor components like the stator and rotor with permanent magnets are all part of the transformation. The completed package has up to 20,000 Nm of peak torque and a real world efficiency of 94%. The lithium-iron phosphate battery pack is available in a range of power outputs, from 181 kWh to 422 kWh.

Completing the transformation from diesel power to electricity includes the addition of Saietta’s vehicle energy manager and body control module systems, Saietta’s high voltage power distribution unit, a battery management system, and a battery thermal management system along with auxiliaries such as air compressors and an electrically operated power steering system. The RetroMotion team also installs a charging communication ECU, a charging system, and a CCS charging port.

A new visually engaging driver display unit has also been designed to further facilitate the transformation to electric operation, providing the driver with clear and coherent data relating to the drivetrain, including real-time battery status. The driver unit is available as a 5-, 7-, or 10-inch display. Once the conversion is complete, the original chassis is returned to service, but with the reduced fuel and maintenance costs that fleet managers crave. The fact that passengers enjoy a quiet, pollution-free ride is an added bonus.

Why throw away a perfectly good bus chassis just because it is equipped with a last century propulsion system? RetroMotion can turn that old vehicle into a modern, efficient transportation device that makes transit companies and their customers happy.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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