A purpose-designed community vehicle, offering a high-tech alternative to ageing mobile libraries and health clinics, is the result of a tie-up between the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Research Centre and bus manufacturer Optare Group.
Designed by HHRC research associate Owen Evans, the Optare Alero community service vehicle, or CSV, unveiled last week, is seen as a viable commercial proposition, according to an Optare spokesman.
It will be marketed at local authorities and charities seeking to provide essential services in ‘socially-excluded’ areas. If interest is high, Optare will consider putting the design into production.
The design is an evolution of Optare’s existing Alero model, which features a low, wheelchair-friendly floor height. An earlier vehicle in the brand family, Solo, was listed among the Government’s Millennium Products on account of a similar design.
Evans has introduced a modular interior that can be customised for various uses, from IT training and youth outreach to library services and health advice. Other options include providing Internet access or delivering pre-ordered goods, mail or prescriptions.
Items such as desks, bench seating and storage units can be fixed to the walls and floors, using adapted versions of the ‘rails’ to which regular seats would normally be applied, says Evans.
He adds, ‘Our research suggested that if you’re going to provide essential services in this way the vehicle has to be as adaptable as possible. This design is a systemic approach to finding answers to a lot of questions.’
In practice, several agencies would need to use the vehicle to make the costs of the service worthwhile, Evans says, and the modular design can be configured to meet operators’ needs.
Most community vehicles currently on the road are converted trucks or buses, says the spokesman, and the virtue of Evans’ design is that it is uniquely fit for purpose.