1998 - 2008: Growth into the new century
Van Hool acquires a minority stake in ABC Bus Companies Inc., reinforcing the strategic collaboration between ABC and Van Hool. The Cornell family continues to hold the majority of the shares. Thanks to this collaboration Van Hool luxury coaches become the most popular European coaches in North America.,In collaboration with GEC Alsthom, Van Hool builds 96 trolleybuses for Athens (GR) and 20 articulated, low-floor buses for Bologna (IT).,In addition to being market leader when it comes to building an extensive range of stainless steel tank containers for liquids and aluminium bulk containers, Van Hool also captures an important position on the market with gas tanks. A new manufacturing hall is used for the mass production of carbon steel gas tank containers, bodies and trailers. The new hall, which can produce up to 450 units per year, operates at full capacity.,Thanks to a state-of-the-art design and construction method it is possible to build a new kind of lightweight gas tank, which international leasing companies are very keen to buy.
The firm Alfacam from Hove in Belgium, which is one of the top three Belgian television suppliers, purchases its third outside broadcasting van from Van Hool. This mobile TV studio will be used for recording large media events (sport, rock concerts, opera, children’s shows, Ö) throughout Europe and even beyond. This impressive van, which is fitted with all the latest high-tech devices, heads for Israel to broadcast the European Song Festival.,The Salzburger Stadtwerke order the first 30 articulated Van Hool trolleybuses for Austria.,Lightweight trailers are the order of the day. Van Hool supplies the first 20 lightweight platform trailers and, a short while later, 25 lightweight huckepack tautliners to H.J. van Bentum in Woudenburg (NL).,Van Hool emphasises its prominent presence on the North American market during City Transport, the large, biennial international public passenger transport exhibition that is organized by the UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics) and which is held that year in Toronto in Canada.
The Flemish transport company ‘De Lijn’ orders 122 low-floor city and country buses from Van Hool. The order is part of the rejuvenation strategy pursued by De Lijn for a number of years that involves using new, modern buses for the Flemish bus fleet.,Van Hool supplies the ìStraussmobielî, or Strauss-mobile, to AndrÈ Rieu. This is an articulated coach designed to meet the needs of the members of the orchestra. The whole thing exudes luxury and class.,A new, extremely ingenious container chassis is developed in Van Hool’s commercial vehicles department. This is in response to specialised container hauliers’ demands for increasing flexibility, efficiency and ease of use. The fact that this new chassis always enables optimum weight distribution is extremely important for ensuring safe transportation.
Van Hool presents its new public transport range.,The new range has not only been completely remodelled both inside and out but a large number of technical aspects have also been improved. With its rounded shapes, the large windows that extend up to the edge of the roof, the completely smooth sides and the originality of the back, it is a definite change in style when it comes to design.,The first of a series of 33 AG300 articulated buses for the Zuidtangent project are delivered. With their new, striking design the 18-metre-long vehicles will certainly be more conspicuous in the traffic. The Zuidtangent project comprises a 25-km-long bus lane (unique in Europe) and runs from Haarlem via Hoofddorp to Schiphol (NL).,The English firm RODELLA orders a series of Van Hool tank containers for the international transportation of beer. Both the loading and unloading system and the cleaning system have to meet special requirements.
Belgian vehicle technology receives international recognition. The Van Hool A330 is chosen as ìBus of the year, 2003î after extensive, comparative research by a jury of specialist journalists.,Gé Simons from Hilvarenbeek (Netherlands) orders 20 tipping bulk containers from Van Hool, with special attention being paid to quality and safety. The tank and the chassis are made from aluminium, which means a very low weight of only 6,700 kg (all in!). The bolted chassis design is certainly partly responsible for this because this new construction method not only has numerous advantages with regard to corrosion protection and maintenance but also helps to lower the weight. Maximum use is made of the volume, which is 63 m, with a tank pressure of 2 bar.,Double articulated buses break through permanently. GVU, the Utrecht public transport company, first orders 15 and then another 12 double articulated buses from Van Hool.,Norfolk Line (UK) orders 65 huckepack tautliners for road/train transport on the Continent and 10 Mega and 5 standard tautliners. This brings the total number of units delivered to Norfolk Line to in excess of 2,000.,PTT Post Transport orders 90 box trailers for the transportation of Euro coins. 53 mail carts can now be transported within the legal dimensions. A new floor section was developed for this.,Van Hool enters the public transport market in the USA and acquires an order for 134 low-floor A330 city buses and 57 articulated, low-floor buses for AC Transit from Oakland, California (USA). This is the beginning of a long relationship.
Van Hool starts building 300 buses for Algeria. Van Hool has been successfully active on the Algerian market for years and has supplied more than 2,000 vehicles in the past 30 years. A framework agreement for the supply of 300 buses is signed.,18 "high heat" tank containers for Katoen Natie roll off the production line at Van Hool and a new order for 200 24,000 L "high heat" tank containers is placed.,The first trailer from a new generation of Van Hool Megatrailers is delivered to Ewals Cargo Care. This is part of an order for 150 units. All vehicles are delivered with the "zur Ladungsicherung und Festigkeit des Fahrzeugaufbaus" certificate issued by T,V Nord.,The AGG 300, the double articulated bus that is almost 25 metres long, is one of the eye- catchers at the UITP congress in Madrid. It is an impressive sight that, thanks to the special engine position and Van Hool’s own turntable steering system, combines a large capacity with fantastic manoeuvrability. The exhibited vehicle comes from the fleet of buses in use in Utrecht in the Netherlands. The GVU now has 27 of these vehicles on the road in this city.
2 special tank trailers are delivered for Dubai. The tank trailers will be used to transport liquid tar between the port of Dubai and a factory where aluminium is produced. The stainless steel tanks transport 34 tonnes tar per trip. In order to prevent it from solidifying the product has to transported at a temperature of 220∞. Considerable attention was therefore paid to the insulation, which is 150 mm thick. Loading and unloading lines are also insulated and everything is fitted with electric heating systems.,Van Hool regains its position as the largest supplier of trailers in Belgium. Because of the huge variety in its product range and its large production capacity, which is aimed at the international market but which nevertheless still retains a flexible production process, Van Hool has always been able to provide an answer to specific transport requirements. Not only for any haulier, large or small, but also for specialised companies.,100 gas tank containers are delivered to the Algerian STPE.,These containers are destined for the distribution of LPG by rail. The STPE was looking for a flexible and economically sound solution for the transportation of LPG from the refineries to the various distribution points. The tank containers meet the stringent ADR regulations for the transportation of chemical products – including in a gaseous state – and all international standards for multimodal transportation. A container chassis for the further transportation of the tanks was also ordered together with the 100 tank containers.,York Rapid Transit from Canada orders 77 buses from Van Hool to improve public transport in the York region in the province of Ontario in Canada by providing a high quality service. York Rapid Transit will also improve connections between the regions of Peel and Durham and provide a connection with Toronto’s underground network. The order is for 55 low-floor buses, 12.2 meters long, and 22 articulated low-floor buses, 18 metres long. The Van Hool buses were chosen because of their stylish, passenger-friendly design. They were also preferred because of their low noise level, their modern, comfortable interior and their low emissions.,Sales-Lentz from Luxemburg purchases 21 luxury double earners of the T915 CL type. The various bus and coach companies within the Sales-Lentz group provide scheduled public transport services in Luxembourg as well as being hired by private customers. The buses can sit 49 passengers. There is a removable seat for the guide next to the driver. Opposite the wide, central door is a spacious platform with 4 more tip-up seats.
The world premiere of Van Hool’s fuel cell bus in Dallas. The most advanced, hydrogen-powered bus is presented to the American public for the first time ever. Van Hool managed to achieve this world first in close collaboration with its customer in California and its American fuel cell partner, United Technologies Power Inc. Within less than two years of receiving the commission the commercial vehicles team succeeded in developing and building a hydrogen-powered bus for the American market. Four buses were ordered: three for AC Transit and one for SunLine Transit, both from California.,Van Hool wins the most important prizes at the UK Coach Rally 2005 in Brighton (UK). Two coach companies won 3 prestigious prizes with their Van Hool coaches. The Alizee T9 Acron/Volvo belonging to Tellings Golden Miller from London was the winner of the coveted and prestigious "Coach of The Year 2005" prize. The T917 Astron belonging to Go Goodwins Coaches from Manchester won two prizes, the "Top Executive Coach" and the ìJohn Fielder Memorialî trophy.,Van Hool wins an important order from the German Public Transport company, Hamburger Hochbahn, that serves as a prestigious reference in Germany. It had just been announced that Van Hool was to supply the Brussels public transport company MIVB-STIB with 115 city buses when the Belgian bus builder managed to sell 10 double articulated AGG300 buses and 12 A330 city buses to Hamburger Hochbahn. Included with the order is an option for an extra 15 double articulated AGG300 buses (taken up in 2006).,Substantial investments are made in the commercial vehicles department. Additional production halls for the construction of gas tanks are built. Included among the new production unit’s facilities is an annealing furnace to be used for the thermal treatment of the tanks. In addition, significant investments are also made in the trailers department, in new assembly jigs and auxiliary machines that are intended to ensure that the entire production process occurs more flexibly and in the best possible conditions.,Van Hool supplies a luxury coach to cycling team Quick Step. Van Hool once again proves its forte as a builder of customer-oriented vehicles. The exterior dimensions are those of a standard coach. Inside there are luxury leather seats, a lounge with TV screens (via satellite) and laptop connections, a modern kitchen with a double sink, electric hotplates, coffee maker, fridge and lots of storage space. There is also a built-in washing machine and tumble dryer. In the rear is a spacious toilet, a changing room with a couch and massage table and a double shower.,The Italian cities of Lecce and Genoa can be added to its list of references when Van Hool helps renew the trolleybus services in these two cities. Lecce ordered 12 low-floor A330T trolley buses while Genos opted for 17 articulated low-floor AG300T trolley buses.
On 18 May Ewals, a specialist in the transportation of car components, celebrates its 100th anniversary. This centenarian proves it is still going strong by placing a new order for Ö Megatrailers from Van Hool, that will be built at a rate of 3 per day by Van Hool in the period 2006-2007. By winning this order Van Hool proves that its numerous investments in the optimisation of its production process are worth it and that improvement in competitiveness pays.,Van Hool wins prizes. Each year the German specialist magazines Lastauto Omnibus, Trans Aktuell and Fernfahrer ask their readers to choose the best buses, coaches and lorries. This year Van Hool wins prizes with both buses and coaches. Van Hool gains first place in the ‘midi buses from foreign suppliers’ category. In the case of buses for intercity transport Van Hool gains third place among the importers and in the case of the coaches fourth place in the double-decker coach category. By winning these prizes Van Hool proves it is no longer a small, unknown brand in Germany despite stiff competition from the national manufacturers.,During a Contact Day on 16 September the doors are opened to employees and their family, the inhabitants of Koningshooikt and pupils and teachers from the technical and junior schools from the surrounding area. Everyone was able to see the machines and workstations from close by and inspect the work of those who help produce products that are appreciated both nationally and internationally.,Because this Contact Day was also the start of Van Hool’s 60th anniversary year, there was a festive touch to it and entertainment was also provided. Two large tents, food and drink stalls, bouncy castles, balloon stands, brass bands... ensured that all the ingredients were present for a huge party. Together with the wonderful weather this all ensured that there was a fantastic atmosphere among the numerous people present. More than 13,000 interested people visited Van Hool that day.
On 14 May, the fuel cell bus for Europe was unveiled in the presence of Kathleen Van Brempt, the Flemish Minister for Mobility, Social Economy and Equal Opportunities, and a representative of Fientje Moerman, Deputy Minister-President and Flemish Minister for the Economy, Business, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade. The new fuel cell bus is a world first. It is the first fully fledged hybrid bus (hydrogen – electric) that recycles braking energy. As a result it requires a lot less energy than previous fuel cell buses. In addition, it has the same capacity (up to 104 passengers), performs in the same way and has the same range (up to 350 km) as a modern diesel bus. In order to achieve this Van Hool developed a 13.2 metre long vehicle with three axles.,At the trade fairs in Kortrijk, both at Busworld and at Trailer, 60 years of technological development is celebrated in a befitting way. At each event, the past 60 years, in which Van Hool has grown into one of the main players among bus and commercial vehicle manufacturers, are reviewed during a reception attended by customers.
New machines are constantly invested in. A new electro-hydraulic four-roll roller complete with CNC for the rolling of cylindrical and box-shaped tanks is installed in the commercial vehicles department. The 85 tonne colossus arrived on 21 August and that same evening was set up in its permanent position in the assembly hall.,The development of alternative drivelines for public transport continues. An order for 8 fuel cell buses from the United States confirms the huge advantages of this emission-free drive. New trolleybuses are ordered for Europe and Van Hool develops a whole range of diesel-electric hybrid buses. The VVM (Flemish transport company) and Connexxion (NL) order 35 and 4 hybrid vehicles respectively.