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Setra: The new family of low-entry buses

Setra S 515 LE city bus | © Daimler Truck AG

Setra, originally once the own bus brand of the bus manufacturer Kässbohrer and today – besides Mercedes-Benz – one of the two companies of the bus manufacturer “Daimler Buses”, recently presented its new family of low-entry buses within its “MultiClass”. The range of types on offer has become considerably larger, in particular a short variant of the low-entry bus has been added. And there is something else that is new: some time ago, Setra said goodbye to the construction of buses that were intended primarily for city routes, i.e. buses with a double-width door at the front of the driver’s seat. But with the new low-entry bus family, such a version of the low-entry bus is coming back by Setra.

EvoBus is dead, long live Daimler Buses

Setra was founded in 1951 by “Karosserie Kässbohrer” (itself founded in 1911) in Ulm. In contrast to the name Kässbohrer, which was responsible for bodies on chassis of other bus manufacturers (not least on those of MAN (and here gladly trolleybuses) and Mercedes-Benz), self-supporting buses built completely in-house were offered under the name “Setra”, which simply no longer needed external chassis. When looking for a brand name for the new buses, Kässbohrer brother and veteran Otto Kässbohrer had the clever idea of simply taking the short form “Setra” of the long-winded word “self-supporting” as the brand name – with decidedly good success.

Note: Even if Setra liked to tell it like it is, the depiction that Setra (Kässbohrer) invented the self-supporting bus in 1951 is not quite correct. As early as 1929, HAWA (Hannoversche Waggonbau) delivered a self-supporting bus to Hanover’s ÜSTRA. And whether it was the first self-supporting bus in the world is by no means undisputed. There is said to have been a self-supporting bus in the USA before 1929 … In short: the idea was clever – and extremely good, but no longer entirely new.

In 1995, Kässbohrer’s bus manufacturing was taken over by Mercedes. The reason was economic problems. Since then, Kässbohrer has only produced semi-trailers for trucks, and has had nothing to do with bus construction since 1995. Setra has belonged to the Mercedes Group since that year.

The joint umbrella brand for the group’s buses (Mercedes and Setra) was found to be “EvoBus” (“Evo” as in Evolution.) And currently the name “EvoBus” is being buried: in future the joint umbrella brand for Mercedes and Setra buses will be “Daimler Buses”. The idea, they say, is to use the good name “Daimler” for their buses.

Setra S 8, the self-supporting first of Kässbohrer, Ulm – preserved in Flensburg | © Christian Marquordt

Setra’s first buses were touring coaches. The first Setra S 8 (8 = eight rows of seats) became famous.

In Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Theodor Pekol ran a city transport company, and for this city bus operation he designed and built himself a city bus – already in the 1950s with double-track entry at the front of the driver’s seat. Soon Pekol and Setra agreed to build this bus at Setra as a Setra city bus. It was given the type designation “Setra SP”, whereby “SP” stood for “Setra-Pekol”.

The successor to the “SP” was the Setra ST 110. ST for “city”, the 110 indicated the number of possible passengers. The bus weighed only 6,000 kg empty, but had a payload of 7,500 kg – a ratio ‘of empty weight to payload that has not yet been achieved again. The ST 110’s origin from the Pekol bus was still clearly visible. Nevertheless, a Setra ST 110 is still enjoying its life in the Setra factory museum, actually a bus of the Zweibrücken public transport company, but made up as a bus of the German Bundesbahn (the Federal Railways).

Preserved in the Setra works museum: Setra ST 110, originally a bus of the Zweibrücken public utility company, in the look of the Deutsche Bundesbahn | © Christian Marquordt
Setra S 125 of 1966 vintage, here a bus of the Verkehrsbetriebe Bachstein, Hornburg | © Christian Marquordt

The ST 110 was followed by the S 125, so called because it could vehiclery 125 passengers when properly “stripped out”, which is truly respectable for a 12-metre bus.

Its successor was the “Setra S 130 S”, a – in the author’s opinion – very handsome vehicle. It was developed from the Setra bus construction kit, and above all it was supposed to be Setra’s answer to the “standard bus”. Visually, it did not correspond to this at all, but central requirements of the specifications – such as the central electrical compartment – had been dutifully adopted by Setra for its S 130 S. The type designation could be read: 13(0) = number of rows of seats (exactly like the standard bus), S = city. Parallel to the S 130 S, there was also the intercity version “S 140 ES”, whose dimensions also corresponded to the specifications for the “standard intercity bus” (StÜLB), and it was very successful on the market.

Private operator Betzen from Bonn drove this Setra S 130 S Linie on behalf of the Stadtwerke Bonn | © Christian Marquordt
Betzen was also operating the successor Setra S 215 SL on behalf of SWB | © Christian Marquordt

The S 130 S was followed by the S 215 SL (for city traffic, SL = Stadt-Linie), the S 140 ES was followed by the S 215 ÜL (ÜL = Überland-Linie).

Setra had a brief interlude in the nineties with the S 300 NC (NC = low-floor city) city bus. It was full of fantastic ideas – and full of teething troubles. This was actually quite a pity, because the construction included a lot of fresh ideas.

In the meantime, Setra was taken over by Mercedes group, and at the same time the production of the Setra S 300 NC came to an end. However, Mercedes was aware of the many good ideas in this vehicle design. They let the designer who had created the S 300 NC participate in the development of their successful Citaro model. Today, more than 60,000 Citaro have been successfully sold? The design ideas can’t have been that wrong!

Actually it was rather rare, in Bonn it ran in several copies on behalf of the SWB: here a S 300 NC of company Welker from Neuwied | © Christian Marquordt
Setra with Citaro genes, bus 8 of Stadtwerke Bingen, an S 415 NF with double entrance at the front | © Christian Marquordt

Setra still had the Setra S 315 NF and its successor S 415 NF. Both were real low-floor buses. The latter was actually just a slightly modified Citaro with “Setra” written on the front and rear. The Bingen public utility company had three of this type, as quite normal city buses with double doors at the front.

Yes, and then Setra cut back a bit on its involvement in the public bus sector. The only offering in this field was the “Setra S 415 LE business”, a low-entry bus with a low-floor front (including the centre door), and then steps up to the high-floor rear. The advantage of this design above all: as a rear axle (drive axle) there is no need for a low-floor portal axle, a very simple, straight-through axle, as every bus has, is sufficient, and yet the bus has a generous low-floor area in the front of the bus for passengers who need it. (Note: the Setra S 415 LE business is the first Setra bus to be built in Turkey, at the Mercedes factory in Hosdere near Istanbul).

Setra MultiClass 500 LE, S 510 LE, S 515 LE | © Daimler Truck AG

Setra’s new-generation low-entry buses

Enough of the historical review, let’s take a look at the new generation of low-entry buses from the house of Setra, which is now coming onto the market and will celebrate its premiere at the “Busworld” trade fair in Brussels in October.

The new Setra low-entry bus is available in four basic versions as a

  • – Setra S 510 LE
  • – Setra S 515 LE
  • – Setra S 516 LE
  • – Setra S 518 LE

Notable among these is not only the new short S 510 LE model, but also the return of a version with double track access at the front for urban and suburban services. All of Setra’s new low-entry buses feature a low-floor front vehicleriage and a high-floor rear vehicleriage up to and including the centre door, which is accessed from the low-floor area by three flat steps with a height of 159 mm to 170 mm.

The new Setra can be registered to both Class 1 (city bus) and Class 2 (interurban bus).

All of Setra’s new low-entry buses have a front overhang of 2,710 mm and a rear overhang of 3,300 mm. The only differences are the distance between the axles and the number of axles – the S 518 LE with its length of 14,520 mm is a three-axle bus. The bus is available with several door variants, whereby the position of the centre door is the same for all designs: 1,540 mm in front of the drive axle. This is where the identical “construction kit” becomes noticeable. The operator can choose between three cockpit versions … Setra emphasises that the new models are designed for both city routes and long-distance intercity transport.

The new series is available with OM 936 and OM 470 engines (both from Mercedes, of course) with different power outputs, and the customer can choose from several transmissions.

A new feature is that the new generation can also be ordered with a hybrid module and recuperation. Daimler Buses emphasises that this equipment significantly reduces fuel consumption.

All buses of the new series can be equipped with a single-width door or a double-width door at the front or in the middle. While the door in the middle always measures 1,150 mm in the single-width version and 1,380 mm in the double-width version, the single-width front door is optionally available with a width of 900 or 1,150 mm. The double door at this position of the trolley also measures 1,380 mm. The doors can be designed as internal swing doors, external swing doors or as swing-slide doors.

For the destination signage, the operator can choose between the products of several manufacturers.

In the low-floor front vehicleriage, the operator can also opt for seats on platforms, if he so wishes, either on both sides or only on the right or left. The seats can be anchored either on the floor of the vehicle or in the side wall, as known from the city bus. The latter makes it easier to clean the vehicle. Trays can be installed for passengers’ luggage.

The buses have a powerful heating system, and two different air-conditioning systems are available.   

In short: the possibilities to configure the bus individually are countless.  

Cruise control and driver assistance systems

Setra’s new low-entry buses are available with cruise control, which in turn can be combined with the Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) assistant. Based on stored map material, PPC determines whether, for example, a downhill stretch is imminent or a traffic light is on red, and thus ensures that the bus drives more smoothly into the stretch of road immediately ahead instead of driving at full power until the last second and then braking hard. This, says Daimler Buses, saves a not inconsiderable amount of fuel.

The new generation of low-entry buses can be equipped with the “Driver Score” assistance system. It evaluates the driving style of the man or woman at the wheel on the basis of various criteria and immediately provides feedback to the driver on how to drive more economically.

Other assistance systems are the electronic stability control (ESP), the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which prevents the wheels from locking under heavy braking and thus ensures that the bus remains steerable in such a situation, and the Preventive Break Assist, which warns the driver of obstacles and initiates braking if necessary.

Preparations are underway for the “Side Guard Assist” to also be available in the buses of the new low-entry generation. When turning, it will protect cyclists and pedestrians who are in the blind spot next to the bus.         

The external design

Setra emphasises that the two bus sections at different heights inevitably lead to a “jump” in the side window line. The buses of the new series deliberately take up this jump in the exterior design as well; Setra speaks of a “visual division into parquet and box”.

The front section deliberately adopts the elements of the entire 500 series, i.e. the buses, as they have appeared since the latest redesign.

Start of deliveries

Like the predecessor series S 400 LE business wid, Setra’s new generation of low-entry buses will be built in the European part of Turkey, namely at the Hosdere plant near Istanbul. The two two-axle versions, the S 515 LE and S 516 LE, are to be delivered from autumn – roughly in parallel with the “Busworld” trade fair in Brussels. For the short S 510 LE and the three-axle S 518 LE, Daimler Buses plans to hand over the first vehicles to customers in early 2024.

The new short version from Setra, the SW 510 LE | © Daimler Truck AG

Technical data

Setra S 510 LE                                                           

  • Length: 10,519 mm                                                     
  • Width: 2,550 mm                                                        
  • Height: 3,315 mm                                                       
  • Wheelbase: 4,500 mm
  • Turning circle: 17,318 mm
  • Maximum 39 seats
  • Front axle: ZF RL 82 EC, independent suspension
  • Drive axle: RO 440
  • Engine: Mercedes OM 936 (Euro 6 E), 220 kW (299 hp)
  • Gross vehicle weight: 19,500 kg 

Setra S 515 LE

  • Length: 12,210 mm
  • Width: 2,550 mm
  • Height: 3,315 mm
  • Wheelbase: 6,200 mm
  • Turning circle: 21,776 mm
  • maximum 51 seats
  • Front axle: ZF RL 82 EC, independent suspension
  • Drive axle: RO 440
  • Engine: Mercedes OM 936 (Euro 6 E), 260 kW (354 hp)
  • Gross vehicle weight: 19,500 kg

Setra S 516 LE

  • Length: 12,920 mm
  • Width: 2,550 mm
  • Height: 3,315 mm
  • Wheelbase 7,450 mm
  • maximum 55 seats
  • Engine: Mercedes OM 936 (Euro 6 E), 260 kW (354 hp)
  • Gross vehicle weight: 19,500 kg

Setra S 518 LE

  • Length: 14,520 mm
  • Width: 2,550 mm
  • height: 3,315 mm
  • maximum 63 seats
  • Engine: Mercedes OM 470 (Euro 6 E), 290 kW (394 hp)
Setra MultiClass 500 LE, S 510 LE, S 515 LE | © Daimler Truck AG
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10 months ago

Schöne Ansichten von noch schöneren Bussen