In 2021 Industria Italiana Autobus ranked first in the Italian city bus market. The company, backed by the Italian State, has a portfolio ranging on different technologies, with a focus on CNG and LNG alternative drive buses. In November 2021 IIA launched its first battery-electric bus, the IIA Citymood 12e. In February this year the first order was achieved: four vehicles are headed to ATVO’s fleet, in north east Italy.
Anyhow, IIA’s strategy is now looking out of Italian borders. The manufacturer is indeed targeting foreign markets, as Danilo Martelli, IIA Director International Operations, explains in this interview with Sustainable Bus.
Danilo Martelli, IIA: we are setting activities to become international
Industria Italiana Autobus is an established brand in Italy, where it scored market leader in the city bus segment in 2021. May you give us a picture of your group?
«Our group is controlled by the Italian State as the major shareholders are Leonardo and Invitalia, accounting for 72% of the company’s shares. IIA has been always developing its activity across the Italian territory leading the city bus segment, and a couple years ago decided to set in motion a proper activity in order to become international, crossing the national borders towards neighbouring countries».
Which are your plans on a European-wide level? Are you targeting any specific market with the gas-powered and electric bus range?
«We have decided strategically to set up collaborations with local partners and so far we have clinched agreement in Greece, Spain, Germany and Morocco. The German Area includes also Austria, Switzerland and Benelux. The aim is to be present in those markets, proposing our whole range from 8/9 mt to the articulated of 18 mt, widening all the motorizations we are working with: diesel, gas, electric and hydrogen in the future».
Which is the share of alternative drive buses on the total sales volume of your group?
«At the moment, the majority of our production is focused on traditional engine, diesel and CNG. We have a significant percentage of liquid gas bus (LNG) already provided to italian customers and, in regard to electrics, we are just at the beginning, as we launched our 12 mt electric at the end of last year.
Of course, we are expecting to grow remarkably in this specific segment and, as far as the fuel cells bus are concerned, we are in process of developing a new product».
We believe that hydrogen will be the arrival point of an evolution process started with hybrid, passing through full electric and ending with hydrogen technology.Danilo Martelli, IIA Director International Operations
IIA Citymood 12e: the first 12m e-bus made in Italy
Last year you launched the Citymood 12e, which is actually the first 12-meter battery-electric bus made in Italy. May you underline which are the main features of this model?
«Our Citymood 12e is the only 12 mt electric bus entirely designed and built in Italy. It’s equipped with a Siemens central motor and Akasol NMC batteries, ZF axles, with independent wheel suspensions. The batteries are housed on the roof and made of ten modules of 33 kWh each, for a total of 330 kWh.
From the beginning of 2023, the vehicle will be provided with the third Akasol generation, which means a package composed of 5 modules of 98kWh each, for a total of 490kWh. Despite this almost 50% increase in capacity, the weight of the battery will only increase of 200 kg. In addition, electronically controlled shock absorbers (ZF CDC) are introduced to further increase driving comfort»
We have decided strategically to set up collaborations with local partners and so far we have clinched agreement in Greece, Spain, Germany and Morocco. The German Area includes also Austria, Switzerland and Benelux. The aim is to be present in those markets, proposing our whole range from 8/9 mt to the articulated of 18 mt, widening all the motorizations we are working with: diesel, gas, electric and hydrogen in the future.Danilo Martelli, IA Director International Operations
May you outline which is IIA’s philosophy concerning charging technology? Are you opting for depot-based plug-in charging only? Which are the options regarding battery capacity?
«We want to gradually cover all the options in regard to charging technology. At the moment, we have exclusively the plug-in overnight recharge, but we are working in order to develop opportunity charging by the end of the year and in 2023 in-motion charging».
IIA, a digital ecosystem to maximize vehicles’ uptime
Your vehicles are accompanied by the MooVE integrated service platform. Which are the features of this platform?
«MOOVE is an integrated ecosystem created to maximize vehicles uptime. It’ based on a highly technological collaborative web platform that allows the use of documents, videos and 3D renders even on the move.
With MOOVE we have made a sustainable choice transforming manuals, abandoning paper and using original 3D drawings to create videos that replicate repairs step-by-step. It’s a brand new training model based on easy and intuitive visual instructions that breakdown all cultural and linguistic barriers and are ready for immersive experiences of Virtual Reality (VR) or Virtual Tour 360°.
In addition to that, MOOVE offers a new contact channel with Customers and Service Network and is able to cancel the physical distance thanks to Real Time Assistance (RTA) which allows to provide remote technical support even with a standard tablet/smartphone.
We are also developing a range of fleet services to support local public transport companies. Throughout MOOVE CONNECT module, we can exploit telemetry as game changer transforming maintenance from standard to predictive».
How is IIA organized on foreign markets, in terms of organization and structure? Are you already prepared to respond to calls for tender in foreign markets?
«As a corporate policy, we have decided to go abroad setting up a network of local agents, already established in the market and willing to have a commercial partnership with us. Together with them, we are developing a program of demonstrations to potential customers, and, at the same time, we started already attending some tender we reckon as strategic (Greece, Morocco)».
We want to gradually cover all the options in regard to charging technology. At the moment, we have exclusively the plug-in overnight recharge, but we are working in order to develop opportunity charging by the end of the year and in 2023 in-motion charging.Danilo Martelli, IIA Director International Operations
IIA: hydrogen is the future of buses
At the unveiling ceremony of the Citymood 12e, IIA Chairman and CEO Antonio Liguori anticipated that 2023 could be the year of hydrogen, saying: “We are studying to see what the best solution is. At the same time we are waiting for the infrastructure to be built”. Do you have any further details to share regarding your company’s plans on fuel cell technology? How do you see the future ‘relation’ between fuel cell buses and battery-electric buses?
«At the moment what I can say is that we are working on fuel cells technology, in order to develop a specific vehicle together with a partner. I can’t add any further information. We also believe that hydrogen will be the arrival point of an evolution process started with hybrid, passing through full electric and ending with hydrogen technology. How long is going to take this process, it’s difficult to say. Possibly, not too long looking at the funds in process to be made available by the European governments».
In the city and intercity bus segment your company has so far been focusing also on LNG buses, a technology which is gaining some shares in Italy. Are you getting any feedbacks from other markets on this technology?
«It seems Italy to be the most advanced country in Europe in regard to this specific technology. We all know that for trucks LNG represents an important option all over Europe. For buses there are more difficulties likely linked to the infrastructure involved, even though there are many customers interested. However, we believe that, at least in Italy, the segment is in development».