Mercedes-Benz is at the forefront for development of alternate propulsion public transport in the form of battery electric eCitaro city buses in service since 2018 and the hydrogen fuel cell powered electric buses expected from 2022 onward. However, the ubiquitous IC engine powered conventional buses that these electric buses aim to replace were the alternate propulsion buses introduce by Mercedes 125 years ago. At that time, they replaced the conventional steam powered or horse powered buses of the day.

On 12 Mar 1895, Mannheim based manufacturer, Benz & Cie delivered the first IC engine bus to Rheinische Gasmotoren Fabrik. This bus was deployed by Netphener Omnibus-Gesellschaft on the Siegen-Netphen-Deuz route on 18 Mar 1895. Soon the company ordered a second bus which was delivered on 26 Jun 1895.

Picture Courtesy Mercedes Benz Museum

The bus was based on the Benz Landauer, which was the largest car offered by Benz & Cie. This car was in turn based on the four-wheeled Benz models Victoria. The bus was powered by a 2.9 litre single cylinder horizontal engine with a standing flywheel. It used an automatic intake valve and controlled exhaust valve for breathing and generated 5 HP. The engine was cooled using evaporative cooling and used a battery powered high-voltage buzzer ignition system to ignite the petrol fuel. The bus could seat a total of eight people, compare that to 191 passengers that a modern Mercedes-Benz CapaCity L articulated bus can carry.

Benz & Cie provided the bus with lattice roof for luggage. It had  “Siegen-Netphen-Deuz” painted on the sides while the seats were numbered. For tackling the rough and uneven roads of the time, the bus carried solid rubber spare tyres for the rear wheels and one front wheel. However, the buses were not capable of handling the winters and the service had to be stopped in the winter of 1895-96. Notwithstanding, the people had tasted the IC engine powered bus and had taken a decision to change over to this more convenient and efficient mode of alternate propulsion.