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Modular Lightweight Sandwich Bus Concept

Multimaterial technology (sandwich and/or hybrid materials) is becoming increasingly important in new vehicle design. Public service vehicles (buses and coaches) are regarded as primary targets for application of sandwich construction and multimaterials, which play a major role in the transportation industry of both industrialised and developing countries. The proposed project will be focused on the development of a novel technology to manufacture bus/coach bodies using multimaterial sandwich panels.

Tags: Road


Bus manufacturing is a niche market compared with the car market. It is estimated that there are more than 500 000 buses in circulation in EU countries alone. The bus industry uses extensively welded fabrication, which is labour intensive in nature. In order to stay competitive and maintain employment, bus/rail manufacturers will have to produce more attractive products and reduce production costs, thus new concept designs, materials and assembly methods will have to be developed and applied. Currently there are no buses/coaches or rail rolling stock in the market using the design concepts and composite sandwich materials to be developed within this project.

The project aims to explore the potential benefits offered by integrated composite sandwich material in passenger buses/coaches as a case study for other potential applications in trains, ships, trucks, cars, vans, etc.

The new vehicle concept will be benchmarked with current steel vehicles through a life cycle analysis (LCA) in order to implement the new Integrated Product Policy (IPP) principles, leading to a more environmentally friendly vehicle.


The main overall objectives of the project are:

  • to solve the problem of reducing weight and production costs of land transport vehicles through the development of a technology of modular bus/coach construction, using ‘all composite’ multimaterial sandwich panels instead of a steel/aluminium spaceframe lined with sheets of different materials (metallic or non-metallic)
  • to devise design methodologies that decrease production lead time through reducing the number of components and functional integration, and allowing for dismantling, easy repair and recycling
  • to develop high quality urban transport
  • to contribute to the shifting of balance between modes of transport
  • to contribute to improved road safety
  • to contribute to improved quality in the road transport sector.

Description of work

The work plan is divided into several tasks that will cover the development of a novel modular architecture of a bus structure based on composite sandwich materials. The following aspects will be researched:

  • develop new vehicle architecture, based on modularity guidelines
  • study concepts of sandwich materials available in the market or produced in other EU-funded projects; compare their properties with requirements of stiffness, crashworthiness and manufacturability for bus and rail; study the possible processing methods and select the most applicable processes for large structural components
  • provide a validated and safe design technology for joining sandwich panels, fibre-reinforced composite sheets and metallic inserts
  • develop numerical models based on FEM to analyse the static, dynamic and modal behaviour of the body of the vehicle in order to guarantee that the ‘all composite body-in-white’ of the vehicle has the same flexural and torsional stiffness and modal behaviour of state-of-the-art metallic bodies
  • demonstrate the crashworthiness of the concept vehicle and ensure that the bus structure meets the requirements of the European Directives and regulations (rollover, seat and belt anchorages)
  • develop lifetime prediction techniques for the sandwich structural concepts developed in the project
  • produce a design which minimises the total whole-life cost of the vehicle
  • validate the concepts developed experimentally through the testing of a bodywork cell section.


The following results are expected at the end of the project:

  • novel concept of a vehicle structure based on composite sandwich materials with a higher functional integration
  • database of sandwich material properties and manufacturing processes, process simulation, material constitutive equations suitable for vehicle manufacturing
  • development and test of a fibre-optic health monitoring system
  • database on structural adhesive properties suitable for bonding composite sandwich structures and concepts for load introduction/transfer
  • collapse behaviour of the sandwich concept material and body-in-white
  • physical models of the static and dynamic behaviour of sandwich structures
  • analysis of life cycle costs.