The Mercedes-Benz brand is no stranger to making buses for commercial use. The three-pointed star is a regular fixture on many European routes and even on some Point-to-Point coaches on local roads. But did you know that all this began some 125 years ago in Mannheim, Germany?
It was in March of 1895 when Netphener Omnibus-Gesellschaft took delivery of the very first Benz & Cie produced bus. Initially ordered in December of 1894, the Benz Landauer-based vehicle featured eight seats and was the largest model offered by the German automaker at the time.
Considered to be a showcase of technical innovation in its day, the bus serviced the Siegen-Netphen-Deuz route and featured such amenities as a lattice roof for carrying luggage, numbered seats, and lettering on the sides to let people know where it was coming from and heading to. The-rear-engined bus also featured a solid rubber spare tire for the rear wheels.
A second bus, which was delivered in June of the same year, also had the same equipment levels but added a signal bell. Pretty soon, Benz & Cie saw itself servicing other companies who used its buses for their own transport requirements.
While the scheduled regular service of a bus powered by a combustion engine was short lived, it was significant nonetheless as it showcased the innovation at the time and how it could be put to good use—despite the heavy demands on these types of vehicles in tricky conditions. Propulsion came from a 2.9-liter single cylinder rear-mounted motor with a standing flywheel and automatic intake and controlled exhaust valves.
Rated at 5 bhp, the motor was cooled by evaporative cooling and had a battery-powered high voltage buzzer ignition system. Fast-forward 125 years later and we see Mercedes-Benz doing pretty much what it did back then—pioneering a new age in commercial bus propulsion. The new Citaro, for instance, now utilizes all-electric power that will be further enhanced by hydrogen power come 2022.
Yes, the form of propulsion may differ but that pioneering spirit that powers each Mercedes-Benz buses always seems to be present—both in 1895 and today.