Optare: The future (and is there one?)

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LOL The Irony

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I think to survive, Optare should focus on bodying buses but still offer some integrals, I'll say the Solo & Metrocity. They should also finally make the Rapta as it still looks modern 12 years later.
 

Andyh82

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I think its a shame the Olympus died a death without a massive number being built. Why didn't many operators take to it?
 

CN04NRJ

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I think its a shame the Olympus died a death without a massive number being built. Why didn't many operators take to it?
Build quality is horrendous. When I worked at Cardiff Bus they described the framework as being like Swiss cheese, rotting from the inside out.
 

tramboy

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Optare still have a good product in the Solo - the issue being now that the price of a Solo is expensive for what you get, and there are other comparable vehicles (e.g. the smallest e200) on the market. As much as we know ADL produce bodywork that can be rattly at times, generally the overall build quality is better to start with.

As an example, I remember boarding one of the W-reg batch of Barton excel2s on their first day in service, only to be turfed off at the following stop as the wipers had fallen off!

Turn then to the delays in them building anything to what would be considered a good delivery schedule over the last few years, and you do begin to wonder where their future lies.

I would suggest their recent export orders (the middle East for Solos and New Zealand for Metrocities) has perhaps distracted them from attempting to sell products to the UK market when those were putting pressure on for an on-time delivery...it's a long wait if you miss the boat from Southampton!

If they can prove their worth with the revised electric models that have just started to enter service, then it may be that they can corner the market as the "home" manufacturer of integral electrics.
 

richw

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Just looking through SR pics On Facebook groups and every single one appears to be a slimline, do they not sell many full width SR?
(easiest giveaway in pics being the 1/3, 2/3 door)
 

cnjb8

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I think to survive, Optare should focus on bodying buses but still offer some integrals, I'll say the Solo & Metrocity. They should also finally make the Rapta as it still looks modern 12 years later.
I disagree. Volvo and Scania sales have decreased significantly because they are heavyweights, and Optare Tempo SR sales were frankly pathetic, sorry Optare. Operators want lightweights, Optares whole range is, so they should focus on improving their existing integral range.
 
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TheGrandWazoo

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I disagree. Volvo and Scania sales have decreased significantly because they are heavyweights, and Optare Tempo SR sales were frankly pathetic, sorry Optare. Operators want lightweights, Optares whole range is, so they should focus on improving their existing integral range.
The problem has been there have been too many issues with too many models in terms of reliability. Versas were certainly flakey at the beginning, and the Tempo SRs had all manner of well documented build issues.

It's a tricky ask - to do something that looks like a decent facelift but also sorting out the inherent issues with various models. Oh, and have reasonable delivery lead times.
 

Jordan Adam

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I don't think an entire refresh is needed, but a front end facelift to sort the issues regarding blind spots would be good as it's one of the things drivers dislike most about Optares, specifically with the Versa. The other issue being the outdated cab. I've never found build quality to be that bad, buses are going to rattle over time regardless of how well they're built, although questions should be raised when a months old bus is rattling more than something 10+ years old. I think the issue is not that they don't see the need to update their range, but more that funds are limited. I fear they've wasted far too much time on white elephants like the Metrodecker that their core products have been left behind.

People are suggesting that Optare could find a niche in the market for electric vehicles, perhaps 5 years ago i would've agreed but not so now. The BYD/E200 combo is archiving far better range, reliability and sales than the equivalent Optare products. I've also seen it mentioned that operators would be more likely to buy a "home grown" product from Optare than a BYD/ADL combo, but it's also disagree there. Operators will go with whatever product is most cost effective, suits their needs and has good backup. ADL were wise to team up with BYD as it meant when they launched their product they were using technology that has already been tried and tested. Wright don't really have much in the way of electric products at the moment, yes they have the Streetair but it's kind of a non-factor particularly the door forward examples. Wright's focus has been more towards Hydrogen, although strangely as of yet they have no single deck product. ADL also offer a Hydrogen E400MMC but it lacks the the testing and proof of concept that Wright have developed with the Streetdeck-FCEV over the last 4-5 years.
 

MotCO

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I don't think an entire refresh is needed, but a front end facelift to sort the issues regarding blind spots would be good as it's one of the things drivers dislike most about Optares, specifically with the Versa. The other issue being the outdated cab. I've never found build quality to be that bad, buses are going to rattle over time regardless of how well they're built, although questions should be raised when a months old bus is rattling more than something 10+ years old. I think the issue is not that they don't see the need to update their range, but more that funds are limited. I fear they've wasted far too much time on white elephants like the Metrodecker that their core products have been left behind.

People are suggesting that Optare could find a niche in the market for electric vehicles, perhaps 5 years ago i would've agreed but not so now. The BYD/E200 combo is archiving far better range, reliability and sales than the equivalent Optare products. I've also seen it mentioned that operators would be more likely to buy a "home grown" product from Optare than a BYD/ADL combo, but it's also disagree there. Operators will go with whatever product is most cost effective, suits their needs and has good backup. ADL were wise to team up with BYD as it meant when they launched their product they were using technology that has already been tried and tested. Wright don't really have much in the way of electric products at the moment, yes they have the Streetair but it's kind of a non-factor particularly the door forward examples. Wright's focus has been more towards Hydrogen, although strangely as of yet they have no single deck product. ADL also offer a Hydrogen E400MMC but it lacks the the testing and proof of concept that Wright have developed with the Streetdeck-FCEV over the last 4-5 years.
I don't agree that they wasted too much time and money on developing the EV Metrodecker; when they started, there was no competitor, but they have taken so long, ADL/BYD have already developed a competitor and sold more EV double deckers than Optare. Optare's products are lighter, but are they so robust? If they are, then that is surely Optare's USP, and they should be pushing it for all it's worth.

Is the problem selling the products, or fulfilling orders? Whichever it is, surely it needs to be addressed. If it finds it difficult to sell the product, can they drop the price to attract orders and get some sqandron service on the roads, so that they become as commonplace as E400 EVs.

The problem could be if EV is not the way forward. If Hydrogen is the future, do Optare have any suitable products, if not they might suffer.
 

Jordan Adam

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Is the problem selling the products, or fulfilling orders? Whichever it is, surely it needs to be addressed. If it finds it difficult to sell the product, can they drop the price to attract orders and get some sqandron service on the roads, so that they become as commonplace as E400 EVs.

The problem could be if EV is not the way forward. If Hydrogen is the future, do Optare have any suitable products, if not they might suffer.
I think the problem is a bit of both.

I agree, any builder not developing a Hydrogen product is going to struggle in 10 years time as in reality (or my opinion...) EV isn't the way forward, it's merely a evolution or stepping stone away from diesel propulsion. The issue with Hydrogen is that it's not developed enough to a point where it came be rolled out on a big scale, whereas EV is. EV is fine for today, but for future generations of buses i fail to see it's place. However development for Hydrogen is finally gaining pace and the more Hydrogen vehicles (not just buses) that are on the road the faster it will evolve.

I'm not sure if any of Optares range are really suitable for Hydrogen propulsion at the moment. Optares niche at the moment is that their EV and Diesel power packs are easily removable so conversion of buses can be done in a matter of days, i highly doubt that's possible with Hydrogen vehicles.
 

borage

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The problem could be if EV is not the way forward. If Hydrogen is the future, do Optare have any suitable products, if not they might suffer.
They made an announcement about hydrogen a few months ago: http://www.optare.com/news/2020/4/2...partner-to-launch-a-fuel-cell-double-deck-bus
Optare is pleased to announce the launch of a hydrogen fuel cell double deck bus in partnership with Arcola Energy. With both bus and power system built in the UK, the first Metrodecker FCEV buses are scheduled to enter service in 2021.

Hydrogen fuel cell buses offer a zero-emission "drop-in" replacement for diesel buses. They are especially suited to long-distance inter-urban routes and complement the use of battery electric buses on urban & suburban routes.

The Metrodecker H2 hydrogen bus product is built on the proven Optare Metrodecker battery electric platform. It incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell powerpack developed by Arcola Energy as a direct replacement for the battery powerpack in the Metrodecker EV. It can carry more than 90 passengers and offers a range of between 200 and 250 miles depending on specification and route.

The Metrodecker FCEV complements Optare's existing range of low and zero emission buses. Optare sees a significant export market for fuel cell buses to regions with high ambient temperatures, requiring high air-conditioning power.
Based on previous performance, maybe take "scheduled to enter service in 2021" with a pinch of salt, but it's something.
 

mbonwick

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I think Optare has a fairly secure future when viewed in the context of the wider Ashok Leyland empire.

As a standalone UK company it isn't doing particularly well, nor does it have a particularly great product line. But it's a tiny part of the AL business, and one that I'm sure they're basically exploiting as an R&D vehicle.
Every overseas joint venture/aquisition AL have been involved with has always been about technology transfer into India (just like Tata did with British Steel/Corus - but that's another story), and I'd bet Optare are their guinea pig for EV, lightweighting etc etc.
 

F Great Eastern

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East Lancs were for a long time the bodybuilder of choice for the smaller operator, or for operators who needed small batches of double decker buses. For a time the triaxle Olympus was popular with those needing a high capacity vehicle to do local coach work.
Beestons of Hadleigh in Suffolk have about 15-20 Omnidekkas on 2003-2006 plates, some of them were new, some ex demonstrators and some of them were bought second hand. They managed to convince Optare to build another Omnidekka in 2010 alongside an Olympus after a lot of Optare resistance initially, but both of these were quickly moved on in favour of more older versions which were build under East Lancs which were more reliable / better built.

They then dabbled in Scania Omnicity ex demo double decks but also had issues with the build quality of those and coupled with them not being as big fans of the N230/N270 Scania chassis, went back and bought yet more second hand N94 East Lancs Omnidekkas.

They're vehicle of choice is now Enviro 400 MMC and they're far from the only ones who have gone down that road. All this shows is that East Lancs before Optare took them over had a good niche. There's quite a few smaller operators who were fans of the Omnidekka and the similar bodies on other chassis and this is the kind of business that Optare could do with but basically abandoned.
 
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randyrippley

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I think Optare has a fairly secure future when viewed in the context of the wider Ashok Leyland empire.

As a standalone UK company it isn't doing particularly well, nor does it have a particularly great product line. But it's a tiny part of the AL business, and one that I'm sure they're basically exploiting as an R&D vehicle.
Every overseas joint venture/aquisition AL have been involved with has always been about technology transfer into India (just like Tata did with British Steel/Corus - but that's another story), and I'd bet Optare are their guinea pig for EV, lightweighting etc etc.
Not so sure about that......one thing that you wouldn't want on Indian roads is a lightweight bus. Body life would be measured in months not years.
 

Jordan Adam

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Regarding EVs it's interesting to note that the quoted range for Optare products is 95 miles, yet for the Enviro200EV it's 160 miles, examples in service have proven that the latter is very much possible. So surely if Optare want to broaden their market share they should focus on increasing range? Otherwise (and some would argue it's already the case) the E200EV is going to dominate the market.

I've been on the Optare Solo EVs with Stagecoach Inverness and they're pretty nice buses, however they can't manage a full day in service so need to come off to be recharged.
 

randyrippley

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Regarding EVs it's interesting to note that the quoted range for Optare products is 95 miles, yet for the Enviro200EV it's 160 miles, examples in service have proven that the latter is very much possible. So surely if Optare want to broaden their market share they should focus on increasing range? Otherwise (and some would argue it's already the case) the E200EV is going to dominate the market.

I've been on the Optare Solo EVs with Stagecoach Inverness and they're pretty nice buses, however they can't manage a full day in service so need to come off to be recharged.
which simply means the battery packs have to be redesigned to become demountable and easily exchanged
- unless the price of the battery exceeds the price of the rest of the bus, in which case the calculation may be different
 

carlberry

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which simply means the battery packs have to be redesigned to become demountable and easily exchanged
- unless the price of the battery exceeds the price of the rest of the bus, in which case the calculation may be different
The battery set is a significant part of the price, is a significant weight and they're often placed in difficult to get at places (to use the space where they can). Previously it's been less costly to have an additional vehicle available (higher purchase price but zero ongoing engineering costs) to solve the range problem.
 

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