Tuesday, September 13, 2011

at 1:26 PM

The Dutch-built Superbus was shown to the media at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi a few days ago. Fully electric and designed to be capable of 250 kph while carrying 23 passengers, it is being pitched as the next-generation solution to the Dubai-Abu Dhabi commute.
From what we saw, the Superbus is far from ready for primetime. All we got to see was the Superbus doing 25 kph on deserted roads, as we rode alongside in a minivan, because no one was allowed to ride it yet due to insurance limitations. Still under testing, the best speed the prototype has managed so far is 140 kph, and the practicality of the design also has much to be desired. Aside from the thin carbon-fibre doors that seem to have no sound insulation, look at the cramped space through which passengers would have to stumble in and out at stops. Even by the Dutch outfit’s own admission, the Superbus is still four years away from being road-ready, let alone in service.
The original idea is sound, however. Apparently there is a second highway planned between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to reduce congestion. This highway could integrate a special high-speed lane to accomodate the 250 kph Superbus, which would cut down the commute to 30 minutes for businessmen willing to pay, while also dropping them off at designated bus stops around the cities.
It is also potentially environmentally-friendly, as the Superbus was charged in Masdar City using energy from their own solar-panel farm. Indeed, Masdar City was the real surprise of the day. Designed to be a “green” city within Abu Dhabi , all the street lamps there were solar-powered, while we were ferried around partly in Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars. The city, as well the environmental institute within it, are still under construction.
The Superbus also made an appearance at the Dubai Autodrome where Mohammed Ben Sulayem apparently “drove” it around the track in a publicity stunt. We didn’t attend after the speeds we saw in Abu Dhabi , but if the Superbus does reach the roads of the UAE by 2015, only drivers of his calibre would be able to pilot it.


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