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10 Years of the Solaris Urbino *
11.11.2009 - 01:00

German version

10 Years of the Solaris Urbino
The Solaris Urbino celebrates its birthday: at its premiere ten years ago, it gained the admiration of the industry with its innovative construction and unmistakable design. Since then, it has been an uninterrupted story of success – thanks to the continued improvements made to the Solaris flagship.


Presentation of the first Solaris Urbino

Expectant faces look at the blue curtain – twelve metres long, more than two and a half metres wide –, waiting for it to lift. It is noon on 26 May 1999. At the Poznań International Motor Show, it is time for the world premiere of the Solaris Urbino and Solaris founders Krzysztof and Solange Olszewscy will personally take the honour of unveiling the new bus.

Ten years later, the Solaris Urbino is part of everyday life throughout Europe, but in 1999 this new bus was a small revolution in itself. As the first independently developed Polish low-floor city bus, it broke new ground by bringing together western European standards of quality, reliability and design with the sort of robustness valued by central European customers. Led by Krzysztof Olszewski, the development was achieved in close cooperation with Polish bus operators. The result was a bus tailored so exactly and comprehensively to the demanding requirements of city transport that it proved to be a hallmark far beyond its home country – in terms of visual design as much as in technical solutions such as the excellent ease of maintenance achieved by accessible component placement.


Solaris Urbino 12 - year of construction 1999

When first presented, the Solaris Urbino was the successor to the Neoplan low-floor buses that had been built under license in the Solaris factory at Bolechowo since 1996. The phenomenal success of these buses had opened up the path for the widespread introduction of low-floor technology in Polish cities. But at the same time, the delicate German design had proved to come with a number of weaknesses when subjected to the hard daily reality on central European roads. Road surfaces were not always in perfect condition and as a result, drivers and passengers alike tended to feel a bit shaken – while the large amounts of de-icing salt applied in winter caused excessive corrosion.

Based on these experiences, the Solaris Urbino was from the start designed to be particularly robust. Its frame uses nothing but stainless steel and together with aluminium, the same material is used for side panelling. Any stress caused by the road quality is countered by the robust design of the underlying frame – the rounded corners of the roof line used to show this particular strength to the world until a new visual look came to give the Urbino its current character.


Solaris Urbino 15 – year of construction 2005

The first Solaris Urbino was built to the standard length of twelve metres, but it was always understood to be an integral part of a much larger product range. The Urbino made Europe’s streets its own with midibuses as much as 15-metre rigids and articulated buses. From the very beginning, the Urbino has been a modular vehicle concept that adapts itself to the requirements of its operation. And it has been just as adaptable when it comes to alternative power sources. As early as 2001, the first Solaris trolleybuses took to the streets – despite being called Trollino, their mechanical side is closely related to the Urbino –, followed shortly afterwards by CNG buses and in 2006 by Europe’s first city bus using volume-production hybrid technology.


Solaris Trollino 12 – year of construction 2005 [/CENTER]
But back to the first steps: the green dachshund has been a part of the Urbino from the very start. Then as now, it embodies the core features of the Solaris Urbino – eco-friendliness, loyalty and a small appetite. But in 1999, it was a novel idea to have a mascot for a bus, especially a city bus. The European bus industry had long been dominated by the expression of technical aspects. Solaris’s present-day CEO, Solange Olszewska, who already occupied leading positions in the company at the time, developed the brand identity and came up with the green dachshund as the symbol of the new low-floor city bus. Since then, the dachshund has been at the core of the identity of Solaris city buses – and thanks to its charms, the Urbino continues to win over hearts as well as minds.


The mascot, the green dachshund

This love was not long limited to Poland. A futuristic and elegant Solaris Urbino in silver and black was the bus to take the Solaris flagship to the international show floor at IAA Commercial Vehicles exhibition in the autumn of 2000. As a “newcomer”, it was of course subjected to the critical eye of the show’s visitors, but soon the Solaris Urbino was to be able to prove its abilities on western European streets. The first order from western Europe came from no less a metropolis than the German capital Berlin, where the first Solaris Urbino started their work in 2001. The expansion on the German market has since been one of the most successful and important chapters of the Solaris story. In the same year, an order from the Czech Republic kick-started export sales to central European countries. Since then, the friendly face of the Urbino has found friends in 20 nations – from Norway to Greece and even beyond the European continent: since 2008, Solaris buses have been running in Dubai.


Solaris Urbino 10 for the BVG Berlin - year of construction 2005

In technical terms, the Solaris Urbino has not stood still, either. The ten successful years since the premiere have been characterised by continuous improvement, making sure that the Urbino still is one of the leading vehicles of its kind. In 2001, the first design was superseded by the second generation of the Solaris Urbino, but this change was in technology and therefore happened internally. Using the experience gained in the first period of operation, these improvements confirmed the Urbino as the extremely competitive vehicle it has remained ever since. The somewhat more far-reaching switch to the third generation happened in autumn 2004, giving a new look to Solaris’s leading success. A few curves disappeared, but the design which has been the order of the day ever since remains at the height of fashion and is a clear accessory to any cityscape.


Solaris Urbino III - 12 - year of construction 2005

Ten years after the first Urbino, there is no end in sight to this success story. Quite on the contrary: surpassing an annual production of 1,000 buses for the first time in 2008, the Urbino family of low-floor buses still manages to rise to new heights. It will therefore hardly come as a surprise that the recently delivered 5,000th bus built at Solaris’s Bolechowo factory was a standard-length Urbino 12 – just like the very first showstopper ten years ago.


The 5000th Solaris Urbino - year of construction 2009

In terms of technology, design and comfort, the Solaris Urbino continues to be a cutting edge choice for operators. The drive for ever greater perfection nevertheless will go on and Solaris’s engineers at the Bolechowo-based Research and Development office are working on their first ideas for a fourth generation of the Urbino family – making sure that the Urbino will be able to celebrate many more milestones and jubilees in its time.


Solaris Urbino 18 Hybrid - year of construction 2009

By the way, the original Urbino that had all eyes on itself at the 1999 Poznań International Motor Show still is going strong. After finishing its test and demonstration duties, it took to the hard work of routine service. Together with nine sister vehicles, it continues to provide valuable work for Wrocław-based operator Polbus-PKS.


Solaris InterUrbino 12 - year of construction 2009



Photos, video-clip and text:
Solaris Bus & Coach S.A.


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