|Optare Solo & Optare Solo SR|
Arriva North West Optare Solo interior
2012–present (Solo SR)
|Body and chassis|
|Doors||1 door or 2 doors|
|Floor type||Low floor|
Siemens (hybrid electric)
Enova Systems (fully electric)
The Optare Solo is a low-floor midibus with 1 door or 2 doors manufactured by Optare in the United Kingdom since 1998. The Solo name is a play on the low-floor status of the midibus, the manufacturer believing its vehicle having an entrance that is "so low" from the floor, namely 200 mm with kneeling suspension. In January 2012 Optare announced the end of production for the original Solo design with a modified Solo SR taking over.
The original innovative design, featuring a front axle ahead of the entrance door, gained a Millennium product award, along with a Queen's Award for Enterprise. Over 3,800 original model Solos were built. As at March 2016, over 1,000 Solo SRs have been built.
The Solo is an integral midibus (as opposed to a separate chassis and body) built in a modular design, with steel frame and GRP panels. It is powered by a Mercedes-Benz OM904LA engine, which produces 122 bhp (91 kW) or 147 bhp (110 kW) according to specification, and it is typically mated to an Allison 2000 automatic gearbox. Later, options of Cummins ISBe 6-cylinder 185 bhp (138 kW) and MAN engine became available. There was also the option of a 4-speed Allison AT545 gearbox. In 2005 a hybrid Solo was constructed, using a small diesel unit and an Eneco (now known as Traction Technology) battery propulsion unit.
The Optare Solo is available in various lengths, 7.8 m, 8.5 m, 9.2 m, and 9.9 m, all at 2.5 m width. The chassis type code of the Solo carried the length - M780 corresponds to 7.8 m, M850 to 8.5 m, and so forth. Cummins-powered Solos required extra rear bodywork to accommodate the larger engine, which increased the overall length by 0.3 m. However, this is not reflected in the chassis code, so a Cummins-powered M990 Solo is in fact 10.2 m in length.
Along with the launch of the 9.9 m model, the Solo was also first offered with LED-type rear lights, as opposed to the standard rectangular clusters. Seating capacities ranged from 25 for an M780, 29 for an M850, 33 for M920 and 37 for an M990.
A narrow-bodied version named the "Slimline" was launched in 2004 with the first examples entering service in August. It is 2.33 m wide, and identifiable by small wheelarch extensions mounted to the rear. Available across all lengths except the M990, the Slimline is identified by having an SL-suffix in the chassis code, e.g. M780SL for a 7.8 m long version.
The compact size of an M780SL, with its 25 seating capacity, has seen it being a popular choice for replacing ageing vehicles from the minibus era, such as MCW Metrorider/Optare MetroRider, and other van-based buses, not manufactured by Optare or Alexander Dennis.
In June 2006, Optare announced the arrival of another Solo model - the Solo SE. At just 7.1 m in length, it is the shortest Solo offered, and is capable of seating 23. It also utilises a single-piece entrance door as an option. This is a variant of the Slimline - hence it is 2.33m in width, but noticeably the rear track has been reduced compared to previous Slimline models, eliminating the need for wheelarch extensions on the rear of the bus. Optare also plan to produce the SE in the 7.8 m length.
In March 2009, Optare launched the all electric version of the Solo, the Solo EV. Vehicle top speed is limited to 90 km/h (56 mph), since the summer of 2013, this vehicle uses a high-efficiency MAGTEC P180 Permanent Magnet Motor-Gearbox rated at 150 kW and powered by two banks of Valence Lithium-ion phosphate batteries. The two packs work in parallel and provide 307V with a total capacity of 92 kWh.
In October 2007 Optare unveiled the Solo SR at the Coach & Bus Show. It is a completely restyled version of the Solo drawing styling features from the Versa, such as the curved side windows and sweeping roof (with the destination screen and air conditioning unit underneath). Some features of the Solo such as the curved front windscreen and the unusual chassis layout, with the front wheels ahead of the doorway, were retained. Another new unusual feature to the Solo SR is the lack of a destination box on the standard model. However, Optare do offer this as an option to individual customer specification.
In January 2012, Optare announced that the facelifted Solo SR would replace the standard Solo, with the standard design being withdrawn from sale.
In November 2008 the 'new' Optare unveiled the Solo+ - a completely restyled variant to celebrate ten years of the Solo and was launched at the Euro Bus Expo 2008. It shared the same styling with the Rapta, which was launched at the same show. It sees the return of the flat side windows and roof as well as a steeper front end with an integral destination box. Proposed options include a full electric drive.
However, the plan of producing the Solo+ was dropped afterwards. The new product met with a poor market response and has never made it beyond the prototype stage. The further development required to make the product an improvement on previous models was possibly deemed to be too great (and costly), the plans being shelved.
The 2012 Solo SR was introduced in 2012 with the original Solo design retired. It is available in of 7.1m, 7.8m, 8.9m and 9.6m variants, all available in the Slimline (2.35m wide) version. 8.9m and 9.6m models are available in the wider 2.5m body width. All 2012 Solo SRs feature curved side glazing and high specification interiors allowing up to 37 seats in the longest derivative.
Some of the bodywork components had been redesigned to take advantage of the benefits achieved on the recently released Tempo SR design which reduced both weight and cost and further improve fuel economy.
The diesel-electric hybrid medium single-decker bus with room for 53 passengers; its configuration can be changed to provide seating for up to 34 passengers plus one wheelchair with additional standing room. Its peak power demands are met by batteries that are recharged on-board by the diesel generator.
The first Optare Solos entered service in 1998 with Wilts & Dorset. Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead Group and Stagecoach Group all have all operated large fleets. It has been operated by Transport for London operators Arriva London, Quality Line and Travel London. Most of them have 1 door, only the front entrance.
Netherlands operator Syntus purchased 25 Solos in 2010. In 2015, Solo EVs were delivered to Karlstad in Sweden. Optare Solos are operated in Northern Ireland by Translink Ulsterbus and in the Republic of Ireland by Bus Éireann.
In the United States, a left hand drive version of the Solo was sold from 2003 to 2005 by North American Bus Industries (which at the time owned Optare) as the 30-LFN. Major purchasers were American Eagle Airlines and Miami-Dade Transit. NABI's sale of Optare coupled with poor sales led to its demise in the US market. And it is optional with 1 door, only the front entrance and 2 doors, front entrance and the rear entrance.
In New Zealand Reesby Buses imported nine Solo M880s to operate in Rotorua. In Australia, Solos have been purchased by Skybus Super Shuttle, Transdev Melbourne and Hamilton Island.
Retirement of original design
In January 2012, Optare announced the end of production of the original Solo design after 14 years. The Optare Solo was retired in favour of the new look 2012 Optare Solo SR for both UK and export markets.
- Optare Awards Optare
- Optare Solo Bus Lists on the Web
- Optare Solo SR Bus Lists on the Web
- MAN-powered Solo for M&H Bus & Coach Professional 3 August 2007
- Optare's Solo EV - Britain's first practical electric bus
- Optare Solo gets a new look and electric power Bus World 4 November 2008
- Delivering on the promise Bus & Coach Professional 22 January 2009
- Oprate wins major Dutch order Bus & Coach Professional 9 July 2010
- Electric Optares to go into operation in Sweden Bus & Coach Professional 1 July 2015
- Israel goes Solo Bus & Coach Professional 15 February 2010
- Optares for Cape Town BRT Optare 25 November 2011
- Optare confirms £18 million South African contract Optare 20 December 2011
- African Solo deliveries start Bus & Coach Professional 21 June 2012
- Antipodean Solo Bus & Coach Professional 2 August 2010
- Reesby Buses Australian Bus Fleet Lists
- Skybus Australian Bus Fleet Lists
- Transdev Melbourne Australian Bus Fleet Lists
- Optare Solo for Hamilton Island, Australia Optare 18 September 2015
- Optare to retire original Solo; new look Solo SR its successor Optare 3 January 2012
Media related to Optare Solo at Wikimedia Commons