It’s the coolest bus in the world because it’s shaped like an old tram car, because it has three windshield wipers, one for each windshield, because it has its entire factory designation GTQ612BEVB printed in a golden font on the front, sides, and rear, because it has a huge single LED lamp in the middle, and because it is called the Dang-Dang.
Dang (铛) is one of those brilliant Chinese characters that convey a sound. Dang means “the sound of metal,” like clank, clang, or deng. The name is meant to evoke the sounds an old tram car bouncing over the rails; dang dang, clang clang.
The Dang-Dang GTQ612BEVB is developed and marketed as a normal city bus, but with tourism in mind. A few examples are already in service near a scenic area in the city of Jinan, and some are conducting trials near Tiananmen in Beijing.
The tram-like bus is manufactured by a company called Guangtong Electric Bus, which is a subsidiary of Guangtong Automobile, which owned by the Yintong Group, a large green-energy company based in Zhuhai City.
The market for electric buses is growing fast. In 2015 there were about 10,000 fully electric city buses in China; that will grow to 20,000 in 2016, and double again in 2017. There are about 500,000 city buses in China.
Growth of the number of electric buses will likely continue as the government increasingly seeks to replace the old and dirty diesel powered buses with cleaner electrical ones in a bid to reduce air pollution. This will be especially important in Beijing in the run-up to the 2022 Winter Olympics. The winter is traditionally the most polluted season when winds are slow and coal heaters set to maximum power.
Yintong wants a piece of that market and the Guangtong Dang-Dang GTQ612BEVB is one of their offerings. Staff told me they hope to sell about 200 units in 2017.
Power comes from a heavy 300Ah/576V lithium ion battery pack. Range is 150 kilometers and top speed is 69 kilometers per hour. It is exactly 12 meters long and can take a maximum of 76 passengers, with 24 standing and 46 seated.
The tram-theme continues inside, with everything covered in faux-wood panels, old-fashioned dark red-colored faux-leather seats, yellow curtains, and a linoleum “wood” floor. The eye for detail is impressive, even the handrails and the garbage can look like they were made of wood. The only modernity is the flat screen on the back for showing… commercials. Of course.
Even the driver’s seat is surrounded by wood colored panels. The dash itself is not very spectacular; a big black piece of plastic with cheap looking switches typical for Chinese busses. They should have put a bit more work in that.
Old trams always had an extra control panel in the back for maneuvering the carriage around the station or any other busy place. The Dang-Dang GTQ612BEVB has just such a panel, complete with pressure meters. It doesn’t work, it is just for fun, but it again shows how far the company was prepared to go create the tram feeling.
Another big LED light on the back, but sadly no wipers. Rear wheel is nicely hidden. Yellow roof matches with yellow floor mat on the door step. Price for all this pretty, depending on exact configuration, starts around 1.2 million yuan or $170,000. Not much for a vintage “tram” with a 69 km/h top speed…