125 years of buses
Omnibus Magazine

125 years of buses

Connecting nonstop. Since 1895. Heading into the future.

For 125 years Mercedes-Benz has been a major influence and driving force in the development of buses and bus technologies. From the very beginning, when Carl Benz invented the bus in 1895, to the introduction this year of the new fully electric articulated city bus, the eCitaro G.

In 1895, the first motorised bus in the world connected the town of Siegen with the villages of Netphen and Deuz, a distance of around 15 kilometres. On 18 March 1895 at 6.26 am precisely, the bus built by Carl Benz travelled this route for the first time. With its 5 hp single-cylinder petrol engine, the bus completed its trip in one hour and 20 minutes. Eight passengers were on board and at the steepest point they all had to get out and push.

Later, new routes were drawn up and from 1898 vehicles made by Gottlieb Daimler were also being deployed. At the end of 1899 a company in Speyer, not far from the Benz home town of Mannheim, offered a bus service along four routes. In the first continuously operating service in Germany, five Daimler vehicles were used. In the following years large numbers of bus routes came into being in Germany and Europe up to the time of the First World War.

The Post Office played a key role in sales in Germany from 1905. In 1905, it opened its first cross-country route using motor vehicles from Bad Tölz to Lenggries in Upper Bavaria. The Post Office used the Daimler, a bus with a very respectable 28 hp engine. Passengers could enjoy the views through large windows. Just six years later, the Bavarian Post Office was operating 53 permanent Motor Car routes with another 19 that only ran in the summer. 164 buses were in use, the majority made by Daimler.

125 years of buses

1895: The Landau – the world’s first bus.

1905 also saw the arrival of the first buses from the Süddeutsche Automobilfabrik (SAF) in Gaggenau, Baden, which was soon trading as the Gaggenau Benzwerke after being acquired by Benz. The SAG buses operated on eight routes in Berlin and Vienna.

125 years of buses

1905: The Post Office drives a Daimler.

In 1925 the evolution of bus and truck technologies began to follow separate paths. Prior to this, bus bodies had always been mounted on the existing truck chassis with a continuous frame. It meant passengers had to climb a high step on entry. The “Low Bus” manufactured in Gaggenau by Benz from 1925 introduced a new era with far more convenient access for passengers. It had a floor that was only 670 millimetres above the carriageway.

Début of a legendary trademark: following the merger of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) and Benz & Cie into Daimler Benz AG in 1926, a trademark was created that highlighted the common ground of both companies. The laurel wreath came from Benz, the three-pointed star from DMG.

125 years of buses

1928: Daimler-Benz series-production bus with diesel engine.

In the spring of 1927, the company launched its joint range of buses. In 1928, Daimler-Benz sent its first series-production bus on a promotional journey – the three-axle N 56. In the 1930s, the new “autobahn” motorways prompted the design of streamlined high-speed buses. And at the same time, large cities saw their first double-deckers, which tended to be built on the three-axle O 10,000 chassis.

“In the 1930s, the new “autobahn” motorways prompted the design of streamlined high-speed buses.”

In the 1930s, the new “autobahn” highways prompted the design of streamlined high-speed buses for long-distance routes and holiday transport. Comfort was key: comfortable reclining seats and extensive heating and ventilation systems were introduced. By 1934, Daimler-Benz was supplying a sleek, almost teardrop-shaped bus on a LoP 3100 chassis. A 95 hp diesel engine powered the medium-sized 22-seater touring coach to speeds of 115 km/h. The vehicle had front-wheel steering and the driver’s seat was placed up front to the side of the engine in what was known as the Pullman layout.

At the same time, the first double-deckers arrived in the cities during the 1930s. They were built on the tough three-axle Mercedes-Benz O 10 000 chassis, already the choice for single-deckers used for urban, cross-country and tourist transport.

125 years of buses

1934: Sleek: the streamlined LoP 3100.

125 years of buses

1937: Mercedes-Benz type O 10 000 trolley bus.

After the war, resources were scarce and the factories in ruins. Yet by March 1948, Daimler-Benz had redesigned the Mercedes-Benz O 4500. This vehicle had the traditional bonnet nose. Its elegant appearance gave no hint that the design originally went back to the war years: the company had already launched this bus back in 1941. From 1943 to 1944/45, 300 units rolled off the production line at the Gaggenau plant.

125 years of buses

1948: Form creates function. The O 4500.

As the first new design since the Second World War, the compact long-nosed Mercedes-Benz O 3250 was revealed in May 1949. At the end of the year it entered series production as the O 3500, already followed by the large long-nosed O 6600 in 1950.

In 1951, Mercedes-Benz presented the O 6600 H, featuring a technical design that is still around today: the future had arrived in the form of a rear-mounted engine and front-wheel steering. With this step, the bus now had to have its own chassis, different from that of a truck. Another milestone was achieved with the electrically operated gearshift system in the O 6600 H.

125 years of buses

1951–1958: Mercedes-Benz O 6600 H and O 320 H touring coach.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz O 6600 cross-country bus (O 304).

125 years of buses

1954: A true all-rounder. O 321 H.

“The O 321 H was the most popular bus of its day, with over 30,000 units sold.”

The next key development came in 1954, as the Mercedes-Benz O 321 H incorporated a semi-integrated design. The harmonious bodywork featured a distinctive grille in the style of the legendary 300 SL sports car. The O 321 H was the most popular bus of its day, with over 30,000 units sold. It was built at the Mannheim plant, which shortly beforehand had assumed the mantle of being the Group’s only bus factory.

In 1956, the Mercedes-Benz O 319 entered series production on the base of the L 319 van, to become the forerunner of today’s minibuses. The four-cylinder engine was installed at the front of the cabin, saving space. The versatile bus offered between ten and eighteen seats. It was available as a regular-service bus and as a coach with roof-edge windows.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz L - O 319 (1962–1967).

The mid-sixties saw the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz O 302 touring coach. It typically came in a large variety of length variants and technical specifications. It set a new record with over 32,000 units manufactured. The O 302 was the last generalist in the classic mould. The motto that best described the Mercedes-Benz O 302 was “one for all”. Urban service bus, inter-city or touring coach – this bus was a true all-rounder, the last of its kind before specialisation led to clear differentiation. It made a grand appearance towards the end of its distinguished career at the 1974 football World Cup in Germany: 72 buses of this popular model were used to transport players and officials.

In 1967, Daimler-Benz launched the O 305 urban regular-service bus. This was a highly specialised, standardised bus built to specifications laid down by the association of public transport operators. It was accompanied by the likewise standardised O 307 cross-country bus. The arrival of the O 305 articulated pusher bus in 1977 brought with it a technical advancement. The engine in the rear of the trailer powered the third axle – a technical revolution and the model for articulated buses right up to today. The O 305 family achieved highly respectable sales of 24,000 units up to 1987.

125 years of buses

1965: O 302 The last all-rounder.

125 years of buses

1967: Début at the IAA: the O 305 urban regular-service bus.

125 years of buses

1974: The world record holder: O 303.

In 1974, the Paris Motor Show served as a very suitable backdrop for the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz O 303 touring coach. It followed in the style of its predecessor, the O 302, albeit with a more modern design. In addition to being incredibly robust in terms of technology, it was also distinguished by its almost unbelievably large number of variants. The unique range included up to seven lengths and various heights along with equipment and door variants. The next step up to premium class luxury coach was achieved from 1979, with the O 303 long-distance high decker. Ongoing modernisation ensured the O 303 remained up to date, e.g. with ABS anti-lock braking system, acceleration skid control (ASR) and electro-pneumatic gearshifting (ESP) with a joystick as a forerunner of fully automated transmission. Around 38,000 units of the O 303 were built up to 1992.

The next urban regular-service bus to bear the three-pointed star was the O 405 in 1984, also developed according to vehicle specifications. It was characterised by a cube-shaped body with a much lower floor to allow more convenient access.

In 1989 the O 405 N urban regular-service bus with a low floor extending to the rear axle heralded a new era in city bus design.

125 years of buses

1983: O 405 The quick-change artist.

125 years of buses

1989: The O 405 N low-floor urban regular-service bus.

The launch of the Mercedes-Benz O 404 in 1991 produced a very different kind of successor to the O 303. Along with a lavish heating and ventilation system, it set further high standards with pressed sheet metal parts for the body and a complex chassis with independent wheel suspension on the front axle and disc brakes all round. The O 404 was primarily at home in the luxury segment. Numerous innovative features included a cathodic-dip priming process (KTL) to provide superlative protection against corrosion.

125 years of buses

1992: The future of coach travel. The O 404.

The touring coach range was rounded off in 1992 by the O 340, the precursor to the Tourismo of today. It was available as a high-deck coach with a length of 12 metres and largely standardised equipment. 1994 saw the launch of the Mercedes-Benz O 350 Tourismo. The high-deck coach with its dynamic design lines was soon topping the sales charts.

In February 1995, 100 years after Carl Benz invented the bus, the Group merged its bus product line with Kässbohrer’s Setra bus division to form the EvoBus GmbH subsidiary. The Mercedes-Benz and Setra brands continue to be marketed as individual brands.

125 years of buses

1992: The O 340 touring coach.

125 years of buses

1994: The Tourismo.

125 years of buses

NEBUS stands for New Electric Bus.

In 1997, a Mercedes-Benz O 405 featuring the world’s first-ever fuel cell drive system for a regular-service bus was named the NEBUS (New Electric Bus). The fuel-cell stacks delivering up to 250 kW converted hydrogen into electrical energy for powering the city bus. The NEBUS did not emit any pollutants: the only thing coming out of the exhaust pipe was water vapour.

The 1997 UITP Conference and Exhibition in Stuttgart saw the world premiere of the new generation of regular-service buses from Mercedes-Benz: the Citaro low-floor bus revolutionised the world of city buses. The elegant shape with its expansive windows was impressive, as was the welcoming interior with arched grab bars in a rail system and the innovative cantilevered seating attach to the side wall and the ceiling. The bodywork was mounted on a framework featuring a circumferential ring frame which was both lightweight and stable. This design concept was to be repeated in all subsequent large buses made by Mercedes-Benz. Innovations included on-board electrics with a CAN data bus system which precluded the need for kilometres of cabling and connections susceptible to faults.

“In 1998, EvoBus entered the minibus market, investing in a company specialising in this vehicle segment. It paved the way for the subsequent formation of Minibus GmbH.”

Launched in 1999, the new Mercedes-Benz Travego high-deck touring coach was impressively spacious and featured a new driver’s seat with an easy-to-use joystick replacing the traditional gearshift lever. Disc brakes all round and the electronic brake system (EBS) increased safety levels. One year after its introduction, Mercedes-Benz gave its “safety innovations leader” new assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control (ART), Lane Assist (SPA) and the continuous brake limiter (DBL), as well as the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®). In the years that followed, these all became available as standard features or as options.

125 years of buses

Travego, ESP 2000, IAA 2000.

125 years of buses

2010: Coach of the Year 2010 - Travego.

With its design as a four-axle, four-door articulated bus with a single articulation joint and Euro 4 engine, the 19.54 m CapaCity opened a new chapter in the story of high-capacity urban regular-service buses in 2005. Despite its 19.54 m length and single articulation, the Mercedes-Benz CapaCity made its way through the traffic as easily as a conventional articulated bus with a length of 18 metres thanks to its four axles, two of which were steering axles. The new Mercedes-Benz CapaCity was a showcase for the appeal and efficiency of the bus as a means of transport. As a high-capacity bus it combined advantages of the bus, such as great versatility and high efficiency, with the characteristics of the tram – e.g. a high passenger-carrying capacity.

125 years of buses

2005: The CapaCity. Size matters.

In 2006, the Travego Safety Coach caused a stir: based on the second generation of the high-deck coach which had been launched the year before, it brought together all the safety technologies available at the time. And in the years to come, the Travego continued to underline its position as a technology leader. Some examples among many: in 2008, the Travego premièred Active Brake Assist, the world’s first automatic emergency braking system for buses. It underwent ongoing further development in the years to follow. In 2012, the Travego Edition 1 was the first touring coach to comply with the Euro VI emissions standard. In 2014, the Travego saw the introduction of the Predictive Powertrain Control cruise control system.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Travego L touring coach.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Travego Edition 1 Euro VI.

The all-new Tourismo was launched in 2006 as the successor to Europe’s most successful high-deck touring coach of recent years. The new Tourismo used the platform of the Travego whilst remaining within the segment of highly economical buses. With four high-deckers in three lengths plus two and three-axle variants it covered a broad segment. The pleasing no-frills design fitted seamlessly into the model range of the brand with the star, with the equipment now being individualised according to the model.

2006 also saw production of Mercedes-Benz minibuses take off. Now occupying a plant in Dortmund, Minibus GmbH used the model change of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as an opportunity to launch a completely new range. With the Sprinter Transfer all-rounder, the Sprinter Travel tourer, the Sprinter City urban bus and the Sprinter Mobility for passengers with restricted mobility, the minibuses all set new standards in their class.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Tourismo: the side walls have a decidedly smooth finish.

125 years of buses

Citaro 2-door.

125 years of buses

Citaro Front Collision Guard (FCG), crash test.

“The new Citaro made its debut on the world stage in 2011.”

The new Citaro made its début on the world stage in 2011. In addition to its appealing appearance overall, the dynamics of the side section were particularly eye-catching. The city bus featured the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) for the first time, as well as the passive safety system, Front Collision Guard. A number of measures served to reduced fuel consumption and therefore also emissions. Just one year later, it became the first series-production city bus to be Euro VI compliant. Here too, Mercedes-Benz later added the CapaCity high-capacity bus to the range, as well as the even more spectacular 21-metre CapaCity L for innovative BRT (bus rapid transit) systems.

Mercedes-Benz consolidated its leading role in all areas of technology. In 2016, the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot became the first city bus in the world to undertake autonomous driving in real traffic situations. The bus, with its spectacular design, was based on the Citaro. The driver’s only role was to monitor the system.

125 years of buses

Citaro Future Bus.

125 years of buses

2017: The new Tourismo.

Maximum economy, safety, functionality and comfort were the features of the new Mercedes-Benz Tourismo high-deck touring coach in 2017 after sales of some 26,000 units. It was the new star in the business segment. With superlative aerodynamics and the latest engine generation with an efficiency package, Mercedes-Benz reduced fuel consumption and therefore also emissions once more. The high-deck concept retained its appeal: in 2019 Mercedes-Benz supplied its 30,000th Tourismo after 25 years of production.

Safety and Mercedes-Benz are inextricably bound together, as demonstrated by the world première of three new assistance systems in 2018. The new Active Brake Assist 4 system not only triggers emergency braking to avoid vehicles ahead and stationary obstacles, for the first time it can also warn the driver of the risk of a collision with a pedestrian and activates partial braking.

Turning into side-streets is one of the riskier manoeuvres for a driver in urban traffic. From 2018, Mercedes-Benz therefore offered the Sideguard Assist system with pedestrian recognition. It warns if pedestrians or static obstacles are detected, helping to prevent accidents. Mercedes‑Benz provides this functionality in all variants of their Citaro urban buses up to the CapaCity high-capacity bus and the Tourismo.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Safety Coach.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Safety Coach.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Citaro hybrid regular-service buses.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz Citaro hybrid regular-service buses.

With Preventive Brake Assist, Mercedes-Benz also introduced the first active brake assist system for regular-service city buses in 2018. It warns the driver of a possible collision with pedestrians as well as with stationary or moving objects, and in the case of an acute risk of collision, it automatically initiates a partial application of the brakes.

2018 saw the launch of a completely new generation of minibuses, based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Once again, the range was divided into the Sprinter City, Sprinter Transfer, Sprinter Mobility and Sprinter Travel models. The names refer to their operation as regular-service buses, as a versatile shuttle bus, for transporting passengers with restricted mobility and for tourist travel. With exclusive technology, the Sprinter City 75 and the Sprinter Travel 75 introduced a year later, both had key roles to play. They had an independent long wheelbase and a high-load rear axle.

125 years of buses

2018: Sprinter City 75 VS30.

125 years of buses

2019: Sprinter Travel.

125 years of buses

Mercedes-Benz eCitaro with fully-electric drive.

In mainland Europe, the focal point of 2018 was, above all, the fully-electric, locally emission-free Mercedes-Benz eCitaro. Its special features include an electric axle with wheel-hub motors, the modular power supply with a maximum of twelve battery packs and an intelligent thermal management system. This results in minimum energy consumption and maximum range.

“The eCitaro is part of the large Citaro family. It is a global hit: in 2019, Mercedes-Benz supplied its 55,555th bus.”

125 years of buses

Anniversary: 55,555 Citaro city buses.

The eCitaro sparked an innovation offensive in the world of electromobility. For 2020, plans are in place to move to the next generation of batteries with a greater capacity and increased range, the basis for the new eCitaro D articulated bus. As an alternative, the eCitaro G will also be available with solid-state batteries – a pioneering achievement not just in bus manufacture but in the entire field of automotive construction. The agenda for the anniversary year therefore contains a unique highlight among Mercedes-Benz buses.

Mercedes-Benz. The standard for buses. Ever since the invention of the bus by Carl Benz in 1895, the Mercedes-Benz brand has taken the lead around the world in terms of technology and sales, setting the benchmark in bus manufacture.

125 years of buses

2019: eCitaro G.