MAN Truck & Bus

Portrait of Stefan Sahlmann, head of the MAN Transport Solutions division

Transport solutions
must be individual

Making green mobility profitable: Stefan Sahlmann and his team at MAN Transport Solutions develop solutions that support transport companies and carriers in their efforts to make their fleets ecologically sustainable for the future while maintaining their commercial viability. The expert for e-mobility explains in an interview why the transition in the transport sector is about much more than just clean trucks and buses.


Stefan Sahlmann

heads the MAN Transport Solutions division. His team supports customers wishing to enter the world of electric mobility with qualified expertise and tailor-made solutions.

Mr Sahlmann, how far have transport companies and carriers in Europe progressed towards transitioning to climate-neutral fleets?

SAHLMANN There are hardly any companies left that are not grappling with e-mobility and alternative drives. Progress, however, is varied. Many customers have already gained experience from working with e-buses and e-trucks. They possess specialist knowledge and are able to enter as equals into the dialogue with our experts at MAN Transport Solutions. Others remain uncertain and inexperienced. That’s also due to the fact that e-mobility is currently not suitable for all uses due to the batteries’ limited range.

Where have electrically powered trucks and buses delivered the best benefits?

SAHLMANN In those places where routes are relatively short and easy to plan. That’s in the city bus sector, for instance, but also in the field of distribution with trucks and vans in urban settings. We’re assuming that the electrification of commercial vehicles used for urban distribution tasks may reach the 50% mark by the middle of the 2020s. But electrification is much more difficult to achieve for daily long-distance routes of 400 kilometres and more. Europe is also lacking a proper public charging infrastructure for either long-distance trucks or coaches. Energy densities in batteries may also not yet be sufficient for difficult topographies and climates where particularly large amounts of energy are required for motors to deliver the appropriate performance and to meet interior air-conditioning requirements.

CO2 emissions from new trucks are to be reduced by 30% by 2030. The requirement by then will be for 65% of buses to operate with low emissions. The European Union plans to be climate-neutral in all areas of technology – including road transport – by 2050. How realistic do you think these climate policy goals are?

SAHLMANN It will be possible to achieve them if vehicle manufacturers, transport companies and carriers, energy suppliers and the providers of drive technologies and charging infrastructures make a joint effort to meet the targets. We at MAN support the objective of halting climate change and eliminating carbon from all aspects of life.

What goals are MAN’s customers pursuing in the conversion of their fleets? To what extent are they concerned about climate protection and to what extent are they more concerned about cost-effectiveness and efficiency?

SAHLMANN Responsibility for the environment is very important to our customers. Swiss Post, for example, wants to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25% this year in order to achieve the EU’s sustainability targets before 2030 if possible. But transport companies and carriers also need to keep their eyes on commercial requirements while making the transition. Those switching to e-mobility now are still competing with other operators that continue to run vehicles fuelled by diesel and natural gas. That’s why the total cost of ownership (TCO) for electric commercial vehicles must compare favourably with that for vehicles with combustion engines.

Electric buses and electric trucks are considerably more expensive to purchase. How can the TCO be reduced so that e-mobility becomes commercially competitive?

SAHLMANN Through the creation of tailor-made solutions that make a fleet’s entire logistics and infrastructure more efficient. And MAN Transport Solutions develops precisely such solutions with its customers. We work out detailed plans that allow them to shift gradually towards e-mobility. These plans take account of the acquisition of electric vehicles, financing models, insurances, professional servicing and repair, route planning, the creation of the charging infrastructure, charging management and energy supply. The switch to e-mobility represents a complex process that we facilitate for our customers – in line with the aim of simplifying business. That’s why – besides technological know-how – we also provide reliable cost estimates and investment planning that has been precisely tailored to individual cases. We’re also able to deliver one-stop tailored charging solutions to customers in 28 countries.

How is digitalisation making the switch to e-mobility easier?

SAHLMANN Data analyses are the key to setting up fleets efficiently. The experts at MAN Transport Solutions analyse the extent to which customers’ fleet performances are in line with the industry average and what potential exists for optimising the deployment strategy and operating costs. Such digital services as MAN Essentials, MAN Perform and MAN Maintenance help simplify vehicle management and keep the TCO under control. New digital financing and business models will also emerge in future – pay-per-use for trucks, for example – which will permit vehicles to be used more flexibly. That will save costs.

Talking about costs: What is the break-even point in regard to the higher costs of acquisition for electric commercial vehicles?

SAHLMANN That depends on how the vehicles are used as well as on the commercial framework conditions. The break-even point for e-mobility may be reached more quickly in countries where the cost for electricity is low and where incentives for electric vehicles exist in the form of lower taxes and concessions on road tolls. We generally assume that electric vans start delivering returns on the acquisition costs after around three to four years. That period is between 10 and 12 years for city buses, which are usually used over longer periods of time, and around six years for electric trucks operating in distribution. The TCO for e-buses and e-trucks is particularly favourable when compared with combustion engines in countries with low electricity prices and high diesel prices.

For which companies does it make sense to maintain mixed fleets with different drive systems?

SAHLMANN We generally recommend that the switch to e-mobility be gradual. The process may take between around eight and 10 years for companies that are transitioning from operations that run purely on diesel. A mixed fleet will be created automatically over this period. It makes more commercial sense and it’s logistically easier over the long term, however, to rely on a single technology. That’s because mixed fleets mean considerably more complexity for the entire infrastructure and employees. E-mobility will be the most environmentally friendly, simple and efficient form of drive in the long term for around 95% of transport companies and carriers.

What role are diesel engines playing as a transitional technology?

SAHLMANN Diesel engines will probably continue to be relevant for long-distance transport with trucks and coaches for another 20 to 25 years, but that will also depend on the individual circumstances in the different countries. Where climate protection is concerned, the next logical step for long-haul companies is the rejuvenation of their diesel fleets. The new generation of MAN trucks consumes around 8% less fuel than the previous generation – so emissions are accordingly lower. The transition to e-mobility in long-distance transport will only become possible in a second stage – and only when the battery ranges and the public charging infrastructure allow.

How long does it usually take before a company is able to use its first electric commercial vehicles?

SAHLMANN You have to allow at least 18 months for preparation and planning. Three years for preparation and implementation is a realistic planning period for a medium-sized fleet.

Interview   Felix Enzian
Photos   Andreas Hantschke

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