MAN Truck & Bus

Portrait Rudi Kuchta

No emission rather than low emission

 

Electric mobility has gained a foothold in public transport. MAN is already offering its electric city buses as sustainable and customer-oriented solutions for the public transport of the future. A conversation with Rudi Kuchta about the irreversible transformation of urban mobility. 

RUDI KUCHTA 

is Head of Business Unit Bus and therefore coordinates bus activities at MAN. This graduate in business administration has additionally been responsible for successful international sales of MAN and NEOPLAN buses for 13 years. 

Mr Kuchta, how does MAN Truck & Bus position itself in the public transport market?

Kuchta It’s quite clear that the future of urban mobility is electric. We find it absolutely electrifying and are therefore relying fully on battery-powered vehicles. We’re already offering the MAN Lion’s City E as the fully electric solution for public transport. The operators are benefiting from our overall concept, which combines holistic e-mobility consulting with customised, forward-thinking mobility solutions. This involves us keeping an overview of central issues like charging infrastructure, sustainability and digitisation.  

What were the significant milestones for MAN in the electric bus segment?

Kuchta They definitely include starting our series production of the MAN Lion’s City 12 E in October 2020. That was preceded by initial successful day-to-day operations and long-term field trials in various European cities. Our hashtag #ElectrifyingEurope shows online coverage of how we accompanied the European e-bus demo fleet on its tour through Europe. In the meantime, the first series-production vehicles have already been delivered to customers in Hamburg. Others are due for scheduled operation in Nuremberg, in Malmö, Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What is the next step?

Kuchta The first fully electric articulated buses go into series production from April 2021. Practical tests play an important role here too. The articulated bus will, just like the solo bus, undergo customer testing at different locations under real conditions in day-to-day operations – in specific terms initially in Cologne and Barcelona. 

What is the point of these large-scale tests?

Kuchta They enable multiple insights into aspects like different topographical or climatic conditions. We incorporate this experience into development and production, and also share it with our customers. That’s the only way to incrementally improve our buses. 

What are the main issues for your public transport customers?

Kuchta In addition to availability and reliability, it’s mainly the issue of range that’s a key criterion for our customers. The ultimate intention in the future is for only one electric vehicle to be travelling on routes that were previously served by a single combustion-engined vehicle. Otherwise it wouldn’t be economically viable for public transport to convert to electric mobility. 

So, what range do MAN's electric buses currently cover?

Kuchta The Lion’s City E ensures a reliable range of 200 kilometres over the entire life of the batteries. This can even extend to 270 kilometres under favourable conditions. So transport companies can already use our electric bus to  passengers on a majority of their routes without intermediate charging. But we’re far from satisfied with that, of course. We want to use the next battery generation to substantially extend the range of our buses with fully electric drives. They should be capable of up to 400 kilometres by 2025. This would mean that our customers could cover around 90 percent of all their routes using sustainable electric mobility. 

What role does policy play in the development of public transport?

Kuchta It has set the benchmarks for the urban mobility of the future: firstly, there are the legal requirements for CO2 reduction. And most recently, since the European Union adopted the “Clean Vehicle Directive”, urban areas have to set the course for emission-free mobility. The aim is to move from “low emission” to “no emission”. More and more public transport companies have grasped this and are relying solely on battery-powered urban buses for new purchases. Or they are defining clear time targets for converting their entire fleet to zero-emission drives. 

How does this manifest itself in the market for electric buses?

Kuchta We see this trend very clearly. The total European electric bus market included over 2,000 vehicles in 2020. And the trend is clearly rising. 

Does MAN have the corresponding production capacity?

Kuchta We are continuously ramping up production to be able to successfully offer the Lion’s City E in this dynamically growing market. The current ramp-up means we’ll be able to produce around 400 e-buses in 2021. In the coming years, we’ll be able to produce up to 2,500 vehicles a year in our plant in Poland. We’re in a position to create additional production capacity by means of further investment if demand continue to rise after 2026. 

Are hydrogen buses also part of MAN's strategy for public transport?

Kuchta Hydrogen has not so far been something we’ve pursued in the urban bus segment. We’re relying on the Lion’s City E as a purely battery-powered vehicle. We believe this has economic and ecological advantages for public transport customers. Using battery power, for example, means about two thirds of the electricity actually ends up on the road – hydrogen buses only recycle one third. The future range of up to 400 kilometres also obviates the need to switch between two different technologies for urban mobility.  

How do you see this for longer distances?

Kuchta Various types of drive are certainly currently conceivable for intercity buses and coaches. This is where hydrogen-based drives – fuel cell drives for instance – could prove themselves as a potential alternative to pure battery-electric operation. Which technology prevails in long-distance traffic will however depend on many factors. Availability and costs of the respective energy source, development of the charging infrastructure and advances in drive technology are key aspects regarding this. Yet the same applies here as in the field of alternative drives in general: the future starts now! 

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