The first all-electric sweepers are hitting the UK's streets as local authorities continue their drive to become carbon neutral. Bunce UK powered by Boschung was the first to deliver its Urban Sweeper to Nottingham. LAPV visited the Boschung facility in Payerne, Switzerland, to find out more. Ann-Marie Knegt reports

Bunce UK has more than 100 years' experience of custom-building cleaning and clearing machines and attachments for municipalities, highway authorities, and airports. Now the company is part of the Swiss manufacturer Marcel Boschung's, which specialises in surface condition management.

The acquisition has allowed Bunce to introduce a completely new range of high-tech products to its range, including the all-electric Urban Sweeper S2.0. Nottingham was the first city in the UK to take delivery of this innovative new machine at the beginning of 2019. Now the City of London has also received its first delivery of the sweepers.

LAPV visited the brand new factory of the Boschung Group in Payerne, Switzerland. The Boschung Technology Center is an architectural masterpiece. The facility opened in September 2018 and the company's latest products for airports, highway and roads, and towns and municipalities are displayed there. Equally impressive is the production facility where the machines are built, which is light and airy and kitted out with the highest specification manufacturing equipment.

The windows look out over a military airfield now open to commercial flights where Boschung, through its Airport Division, is able to test its extensive product range on its own private runway.

All in all, there is a distinct family ethos about the company, which takes pride in taking good care of its employees, and it is obvious that the Boschung workforce is happy to work for an organisation that is clearly at the forefront of innovation.

Patrick Fringeli, MD of Bunce UK powered by Boschung, is a Swiss native and recently relocated to the UK to oversee Bunce's operations. He explains that Boschung has several subsidiaries all over the world that still manufacture their own products. Bunce UK is still manufacturing its own-brand snowploughs and winter maintenance attachments as well as producing attachments for the Urban Sweeper S2.0 scrubber decks, and the Boschung product range has now been integrated into the company's offerings to the UK.

Patrick explains that the first range of Boschung products to be sold in the UK is the Urban Sweeper range, and other product lines will follow in the future.

So, how does he see the UK market developing for sweepers?

‘Sweepers work longer hours in the UK compared to Germany and Switzerland, where doing a double swift is quite rare. In the UK, they are often used all day, which means that they have to be replaced from an operational perspective after four or five years. Compared to Switzerland, they have a much shorter life cycle. This makes the marketplace in the UK very large.'

Patrick puts this down to differences in fleet management, cleansing practices, and infrastructure across Europe. However, European municipalities are united in their need to cut emissions, and he explains that the company developed the electric Urban Sweeper S2.0 as part of a general move towards producing electric vehicles.

‘We decided that we needed a vehicle that would fit into modern city centres and the current philosophy of local authorities. Municipalities have emissions reduction targets to meet and ultra-low emission zones are coming into force. We developed the all-electric Urban Sweeper S2.0 as a result of this trend, and the first units have already been delivered to Nottingham and the City of London.'

The main advantage of the electric Urban Sweeper is that it has a capacity of 2m3, but it only weighs 3.5 tonnes with a 1.2-tonne payload, which means it can be operated with a regular driving licence.

‘Most compact sweepers weigh more than 4.5 tonnes, so the driver needs the Driver CPC licence. The Urban Sweeper delivers a great advantage to fleet managers with regards to employing drivers because it is one of the lightest electric sweepers on the market. Most of our competitors' electric machines weigh between four and five tonnes, but we have used very light construction materials, including aluminium, to achieve a much lighter weight machine that only requires a normal driving licence.'

Another advantage of the Urban Sweeper is its suction power. ‘We have the data to prove this, but driver testimonials work better,' says Patrick. ‘During our demonstration in Nottingham, for instance, we demonstrated the machine during the night outside Burger King and McDonald's outlets, so there was a lot of packaging and food waste on the streets. The driver was ecstatic because he normally gets lots of blockages in this type of situation, but during the demonstration, he didn't have to get out of the cab once to unblock. He said he felt a lot less vulnerable at night.'

The Urban Sweeper S2.0 is both articulated and narrow so the brushes don't need to be adjusted. With four-wheel steering, drivers need to be careful that not everything is drawn into the suction box.

Patrick admits that some drivers need time to adjust to driving an articulated sweeper, but that, once mastered, the operation is really quite simple. There is no need to be careful about hitting kerb corners or edges, for example, because the back always follows the front.

The first diesel-powered Urban Sweeper range was launched in 2013, and the City of Berlin purchased more than 40 sweepers. It now has an electric S2.0 in operation following the launch last year. Four units were recently delivered to the City of London, and several diesel versions of the Urban Sweeper S2.0 are running in a Veolia contract in Westminster.

Patrick believes that other authorities are waiting to see how successful the City of London's bid to become carbon neutral is. ‘I expect that other boroughs will follow their lead with the electric sweeper soon, however, the diesel version of the Urban Sweeper is also extremely economical. It is up to 50% more fuel-efficient than conventional compacts, as it consumes only four litres per hour rather than seven to eight.'

He adds: ‘Nottingham was very smart in obtaining funding from different sources, so the council actually ended up achieving a significant discount on the initial purchase cost. And it made savings on top of this, and not just on fuel costs. The council has also saved on maintenance because every electric component is maintenance-free ' we are using brushless motors. With hydraulics, you need to change filters and hoses, but that isn't the case with this machine.'

Patrick argues that it all adds up to a significant competitive advantage. ‘What we are trying to do is establish a brand in an already competitive market. The electric Urban Sweeper 2.0 is opening doors with councils that are looking to the future. This sweeper is especially suited to use in city centres with ultra-low emission zones. I am convinced that we have a very competitive product, but we invite potential customers to come and test out the machine for themselves to see if they agree.'

Urban-Sweeper S2.0 specifications

Urban-Sweeper S2.0 is the first Boschung-engineered sweeper fully powered by electricity. It is a multifunctional work tool that releases zero emissions.

The battery has a new intelligent management system. The custom-made battery includes 12 modules and a total of 4,320 cells. 24 temperature sensors continuously monitor the battery, which automatically heats up when needed and cools off when it is too hot. It also features an overcharging protection circuit.

This battery provides power to all vehicle systems including the turbine, the brooms, the heater and air conditioning system, and the powertrain engines.