MAN Truck & Bus

E-investments secure our future-proof product portfolio

Dr Frederik Zohm, MAN board member for research and development, explained why MAN must now invest in electromobility and what the next steps look like at IAA Transportation 2022.

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Dr Zohm, billions will be spent on vehicle electrification over the next few years – both at MAN and within the group’s other companies. Can the company afford all this in view of the difficult financial situation?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM We have to! Even if we’re once again discussing commissioning new coal-fired power stations in light of the war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the fight against climate change remains the most important aim for humanity. It goes without saying that we’re one hundred per cent committed to that fight and to switching to climate neutral propulsion systems. It’s our ecological and economic duty. Investment in e-mobility secures our future-proof product portfolio. The price of CO2 will continue to rise as time goes on, especially when emissions trading is extended to cover the transport sector too in the second half of the decade. On top of that, fleet targets for emissions from our vehicles are more and more ambitious. Those targets are about the same size as those for the Netherlands.

How is MAN planning to overcome this and reduce its fleet emissions?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Throughout our entire product range, we are initially focusing on electrification and then later, in the second half of the decade, on specific hydrogen applications too. When it comes to e-mobility, we already have a great deal of expertise. I would even dare to say that we are among the most advanced manufacturers in Europe in this field. We have already sold more than 1000 Lion’s City E-buses and almost 2000 eTGE vans. The bus and van segment is a clear pioneer here. Our eTGM electric local delivery truck has also covered more than 1.5 million kilometres for our customers already. We can now build on this experience.

The new eTruck is now ready for series production!

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Yes. At IAA, we will be showing it off to the wider public for the first time, after its initial launch in Nuremberg in March and its first public drive in Berlin in the spring. The first 20 prototypes were built at our eMobility Center. We are now preparing our Munich factory for mixed production on a single line, enabling us to meet customer demands as flexibly as possible. We are set to start series production of this outstanding new electric vehicle in 2024. Initial numbers are likely to be low, but we will have the ability to scale upwards quickly. The key deciding factor will be whether our customers think it is worth replacing all the diesel vehicles in their fleets with electric alternatives.

What are the challenges facing your engineers?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM For electric vehicles the focus still needs to be on achieving the lowest possible total cost of ownership. There are plenty of levers to achieve this on the vehicle itself. The most important is definitely efficient energy management. Range, durability and battery charging capacity are still key topics, alongside how to handle the higher weight of electric vehicles due to their heavier energy source compared to a diesel tank. That not only affects driving and braking, but also determines the vehicle’s payload and thus the profitability of the vehicle for its operator. At the end of the day, our customers expect the same overall reliability from an eTruck as a diesel truck.

What else contributes towards this goal for e-mobility – what are the big themes?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Key future technologies include megawatt charging, for example, which is high-voltage charging with an output of a megawatt or more. The standard is likely to come into effect in 2025. We are working on this as part of a consortium with some 20 partners in Germany alone. Drivers typically have a very narrow window for charging their trucks, such as during their break periods. Furthermore, we need a modular battery concept and intelligent range optimisation to enable us to customise our vehicles to suit our customers’ needs and provide continual improvements once they are in use.

The TRATON Group’s modular components help to achieve that...

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Across all brands, we are facing the task of increasing the range of our electric vehicles as quickly as possible and reducing energy consumption too. With our new eTruck, we will achieve a daily range of 600 to 800 kilometres for the first time. The next generation of batteries is set to take that to more than 1000 kilometres. Development will bring clearly tangible improvements in energy density, which is likely to lead to weight savings for our customers as well as extra range. We are also collaborating on the development of other high-voltage components such as electric motors and the eAUX projects such as high-voltage heating and air compressors. Synergies within the group are leveraged within the new Industrial Operations Organisation (IO), with a single set of modular components for trucks and buses.

The modular system has enabled MAN and the rest of the Group to develop new technologies. What still needs to happen for e-mobility to gain a firm foothold?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM The biggest challenge is the development of the charging infrastructure. The ACEA has worked out that we will need around 42,000 MCS charging points along the European motorway network by 2030 to meet demand. To achieve this density of charging points will take a massive effort from all the parties involved. The high-performance charging joint venture with TRATON makes us part of the solution. On top of that, we are also looking at establishing our own MAN charging points.

Do new services relating to battery electric vehicles really play a role in your field?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Yes, and it’s an increasingly significant role. What we need if we are to be able to offer our customers state-of-the-art additional services such as intelligent e-route planning or other services in the future is not only the hardware, but above all intelligent software. Developing this and interpreting the many new parameters of an electric vehicle are going to be of decisive importance – for us too if we are to be able to evaluate variables such as the condition of the battery after a certain number of hours’ operation. The key concept here is battery analytics. On the customer side, we need this data to allow us to offer custom solutions as part of the MAN Transport Solutions programme.

Can you give some examples of how this data will be used?

DR FREDERIK ZOHM Initially, it’s all about range – calculating and predicting it. To do that, we also work out the traction energy consumption. However, live calculations during charging are also of interest to our customers, for example in terms of kilometres added per minute of charging. The more actively and transparently we communicate the technical possibilities to our customers, the better we can demonstrate our competitiveness.

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