Micro Cars builds first luxury double-decker bus

By Shabna Cader
As an automobile engineer and the Chairman/CEO of Micro Cars Limited, Dr. Lawrence Perera is an opportunist when it comes to bringing Sri Lanka’s transport and therefore development on to the top level.
The recently mooted idea of introducing a luxury double-decker bus was adopted by Micro Cars Limited and The Nation Economist met with Dr. Perera to find out about its origin and developments since.

“I have always thought that everyone needs to maximise and use efficiently whatever raw materials and other tools that we have been given. For a developing, mind you I don’t like saying ‘third world,’ country like ours, a very efficient and effective transport system is very important. The Micro Cars Company on this land is looking towards enhancing this development by means of adding ease to the transport system,” he began.

Benefits gained from a single car are limited whereas, on the other hand, public transport is important. One cannot expect the government to provide everything, which is where the private sector comes in. The luxury double-decker bus that the company is building has seating for 102 persons and standing room for 26. It makes sense to make use of the air above a single bus other than having two side by side on the road, and it therefore does take up less space.

Passenger comfort has been Micro Cars main priority, as well as convenience, low floor arrangement, so that people can get into the bus easily, state-of-the-art technology and safety, ABS breaks, full air-conditioning, and even automatic doors. It takes 50 million to import a single double-decker from overseas, ones that are used for more than 25 years, and then brought down here, which doesn’t make sense. Therefore, the best option would be to manufacture it directly in Sri Lanka itself, explained Dr. Perera.

The engine and chassis are imported whereas the rest are manufactured and made in Sri Lanka. All required raw materials are readily available as well as human power; there are over 800 civilians currently employed at Micro Cars Limited.
The prices range from 8-15 million depending on what is required. One can have the bus custom built as well. For a city transport bus, it would cost around 12 million. The investment is good and better, compared to a car which can provide transport for maximum five passengers and costs a lot more.

“The main thing is to create a good image of Sri Lanka. People have different impressions of our country and this is a start for them to look at it in a different and better way. We are the first in South East Asia to build a luxury double-decker bus with the kind of design features we have used. It is made out of design aluminum and very hardy. The technology used is borrowed from Hong Kong whereas the company is based in China” he further added.

The first manufactured bus was presented to the Head of State who has given great support to Micro Cars Limited. A 30 acre land in Hambantota is to be used to build a factory for assembling, track-testing the bus and also training individuals. “When we say that we test the vehicle here itself, people have a lot of confidence and it gives us a lot of recognition” added Dr. Perera.

In the past, Micro Cars Limited have proved that they are capable of what they do and cannot be underestimated. They were the ones to manufacture the first indigenous car in 2002 and also manufactured a four wheel drive jeep in Sri Lanka itself. “We have the skilled people and there is a lot of support from the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Finance and the President himself. Our company has experience of well over 30 years in this trade and we cannot go backwards; the right thing to do is always take steps forward and make progress. There can be 100 things I may not have in my office, but then I may have one thing available and I will make use of that to do something” said Dr. Perera, very adamant when it comes to giving back to his motherland and paying his dues.

The company’s next step is to introduce the Lanka Econo Rail – which would make transport, yet again, accessible and convenient. The design has been completed and is ready to go but the company wants to have a second look at everything even though the Minster of Transport is very keen on the idea.

Micro Cars’ vision is to support developing transportation. Dr. Perera’s ideas and motives are plausible enough to take the transport industry to another level entirely and also aid the country’s development in many ways.


By Lal Alawatte M.I.M.I (UK),
Dip. Auto.Eng. (Jap.)

Your trusted Motor Guru responds to your queries

A regular reader from Negombo
Q: I own a 2000 Nissan March car. During the last two to three weeks I have been experiencing a lack of acceleration in the second gear when compared to the torque it used to give. Can you please explain the defect?
Your problem is due to the clogging of the fuel injectors. Cleaning of throttle body, fuel injectors and proper adjustment in the fuel injecting system is required. In addition to that, a proper engine tune up will completely solve your problem.

A regular reader from Kotehena

Q: I have a Nissan Pulsar with a mileage of only 90,000. For the last few weeks I have witnessed white smoke coming out constantly from the car exhaust. Earlier it was only in morning when I started the car, but now there is a constant emission of white smoke. Why?
It is most probably due to an internal oil burn. Without proper inspection I’m afraid I won’t be able to give you a full diagnosis. Get your vehicle checked by an experienced mechanic or an automobile engineer as soon as possible.

A regular reader from Mount Lavinia

Q: I have a Toyota CR 41, diesel, with a mileage over 100,000. Every time I apply brakes within 10 minutes drive from the initiation of the engine, there is a creaking sound. However, the sound is gone within 10 minutes. Why?
This can be either from extremely polished brake disks or drums or inferior quality brake pads or brake shoes. A replacement of your vehicle’s brake pads and shoes will solve the problem.

A regular reader from Gampaha

Q: I own a 1998 Toyota Corrolla Station Wagon. When I reverse the vehicle I hear the rattling of a belt. Can you please explain whether this is some defect in the timing belt?
First of all let me correct your question. Belts never rattle, but slip. I’m afraid that without a proper road test I’m not in a position to help you in diagnosing the defect.

A regular reader from Galle

Q: I have a 2003 Nissan FB 15. I’m trying to change a damaged steering wheel but keep the airbag in. Is this a possibility? Do I have to replace the entire steering wheel?
If the airbag is not damaged, it can be reused. Without any difficulty you can replace the steering and use the undamaged airbag.

A regular reader from Ratmalana

Q: My car engine heats up to the halfway point within a very short time but then stabilises. Does this mean there are any problems in the cooling system? The vehicle is an EP 91, Toyota Starlet, Reflect.
You don’t have to worry about that. That is very normal. Your car has a thermostat valve, which is the device that causes this.

A regular reader from Pepiliyana
Q: Can you please tell me some key points that I should be mindful of when buying a used car and how I can roughly diagnose the condition of the engine?
This differs from vehicle model to model. You haven’t mentioned whether you are looking to buy a diesel or a petrol vehicle. Without a proper knowledge of motor mechanics, it is not easy for a layman to diagnose the engine condition or at least the body condition of a vehicle. Therefore my advice to you is that if you are planning to buy a used vehicle, you must seek the assistance of a qualified and a trusted mechanic.

A regular reader from Katubedda

Q: I own a brand new Toyota Yaris. The red indicator on the dashboard keeps lighting up even after fastening the seatbelt? Why is this?
There is something wrong with the seat belt indicator unit on the latch of your seatbelt. Get it checked by a qualified electrician.

A regular reader from Nugegoda
Q: I’m thinking of buying a dual air conditioned van. Is there a drastic difference between dual A/C and single A/C when it comes to fuel consumption?
It is good that you ask this question because there are many misconceptions about the fuel economy of dual air conditioned vehicles. Actually there is no drastic difference between dual A/C vehicles and single A/C vehicles in terms of fuel economy. The difference can be quantified; it is not more than five percent.

A regular reader from Kandy

Q: I never use water for the cooling system of my Toyota Corolla but coolant. But should I also fill the reservoir tank with coolant every time the level goes down?
There are several types of coolants. Some coolants cannot be used with water and there are some that can be mixed with coolant. If you are using the latter you can fill the reservoir tank with water when the coolant level goes down. But make sure the concentration level of the coolant does not get diluted.


Selecting the right tyres for your motorcycle

As a rider, it is very important that you know how to select the right tyres and how to maintain them to get maximum performance. There are three very important aspects you should keep in mind when you select a tyre for your motorcycle or any other vehicle, for that matter.

First and foremost is the safety and comfortable riding ability. A tyre is a container to carry a certain load and obviously it does carry you, your pillion and the weight of your motorcycle. All manufacturers invest heavily on research and development for producing high performing tyres. However, the makeup of the tyre, other than air, is what makes you safe, comfortable and, above all, ensures overall performance.

A bias tyre is made of two wire bead treads wound to fit around the wheel rim, with some form of carcass material wrapped around them to give the tyre its shape. Plies of tread material are laid to give the tyre a profile, and finally the rubber tops everything off.

According to the structure of a tyre, it could be of Radial, which means some tread plies lie at (or close to) 90 degrees to the direction of rotation or it could be of Bias, that is tread plies are laid at alternate angles substantially less than 90 degrees to the centre line of the tread.

You need to be very particular about the right size of the tyre, tread pattern, maximum permissible load, and permissible speed, ply rating, age of the tyre and inflation of your tyre to ensure safety and comfort. You need to learn how to read the information given on the tyre for this and refer the picture when required.

The tyre size is usually embossed on the side wall of the tyre. It could be embossed using a numeric, metric or alpha numeric base. You are required to replace the tyre with the same size to ensure the fuel efficiency.

Tread patterns are of mainly three types – Rib pattern, Lug pattern and Semi Lug pattern. Basically Rib patterns are used for the driven wheel, that is the front wheel of a motorcycle, to ensure the grip in steering while the driving wheel, that is the rear wheel of a motorcycle, need to have a Lug pattern to have grip to push the vehicle forward.

However, with evolution, tread patterns have evolved to Semi Lug patterns, mainly with the requirement of the front wheel driven vehicles. Nevertheless you need to select a Rib pattern for the front wheel and Lug pattern for the rear wheel to serve the purpose.

On the side wall of the tyre, the load index and the speed symbol are displayed. The load index is an indication of the load carrying capacity, which is the load the tyre can carry. Refer the table to find out the load carrying capacity of your tyre.

In addition to the given load index, ply rating is also an indication of the load carrying capacity. Conventionally the plies were made of cotton yams and later on by using rayon and nylon yams. The strength of many cotton plies could be obtained from a single rayon or nylon ply. Hence the term used is ply rating, which gives an indication of strength and not the actual number of plies.

The speed symbol specifies the maximum speed that the tyre will support and while selecting the tyre for your motorcycle, you need to be aware of the speed symbol as well. Refer the table for the speed symbol.

However, an important aspect that has been often neglected is the age of the tyre. It is quite obvious that the passage of time causes the material to be obsolete and this applies to tyres as well. The shelf life of the tyre in different stages of the distribution channel is not usually known to the customer who purchases the tyre unless and otherwise he is very careful in selecting tyres.

Tyre pressure leads to high performance and optimal grip on the road. Although many riders spend a great deal of time discussing the virtues of various tyre brands, rarely does the subject of tyre pressure enter the debate.

Besides performing the essential function of holding a tyre on a wheel, pressure affects performance in a number of ways. While most riders know that the wrong pressure can reduce a tyre’s life expectancy, air pressure can also dramatically affect handling and stability.

The second important aspect you need to bear in mind is the economical usage of the tyre, that is both fuel efficiency and the cost per kilometre in addition to the time you spend on frequent tyre changing and other maintenance activities.
Many manufacturers are concerned about fuel efficiency and hence recommend the ideal width of the tyre, which should not be compromised. The cost per kilometre could be calculated by dividing the cost of the tyre by expected usable kilometres. The tyres, which are perceived to be expensive, turn out to be very economical when you take this into consideration and calculate the cost per kilometre in addition to the time saving.

This information is brought to you by David Pieris Motor Company Ltd., with an intention of broadening the knowledge of motorcycle customers with technical know-how from MRF Limited, India’s No. 1 tyre manufacturing company, which manufactures an extensive range of superior quality tyres in six production facilities in India, while it exports its products to over 75 countries worldwide – a standing testimony to outstanding leadership.