MAN Truck & Bus
The five-metre high gantry across the roadway already indicated that something special was happening here. “Electrifying Efficiency” is emblazoned across the crossbeam – which simultaneously marks the aspiration and objective. That objective is for an electric bus in petrol-effect paintwork, a Lion’s City 12 E known internally at MAN as the “green hornet” due to its striking colour scheme.
Around a dozen technicians and specialists have gathered on this Tuesday at MAN’s Test Track 2 in Karlsfeld near Munich, the start and finish of the E-bus ride. The Lion‘s City E has been on the market since 2020 and the engineers have been continuously optimising its performance. This efficiency run is now intended to demonstrate how far the bus can travel on a single battery charge. Under real conditions and on a genuine bus route. Will it reach 400 kilometres? 450? Or even more? “Something beginning with 5 would be spectacular”, says Sascha Böhnke, bus tester and trade journalist at “Omnibusrevue” magazine, who is also observing the trial.
The green hornet set off in the early hours of the morning. TÜV Süd had previously placed two seals over the charging socket. Multiple drivers are taking their turn at the wheel. Even if nobody knows how long the battery will last, one thing is for sure: it’s going to be a long day. Because this much is now apparent – the test will ultimately have lasted exactly 24 hours.
In the MAN factory before departure Jörg Junginger, head of bus trials, charges up the Lion’s City E.
Display at the charging station The charging process is almost complete.
Tamper protection A member of staff from TÜV Süd seals the charging socket.
Departure The bus sets off from the MAN factory in Karlsfeld.
An atmospheric morning The Lion’s City E rolls through Munich’s still empty streets.
Rush hour is part of the test The test programme also includes the stop and go during rush hour.
By 11:00 the bus has already completed four laps. A lap is a total of 39.6 kilometres from MAN’s Test Track 2 via Munich’s Moosach district to Puchheim, a small town in the suburbs, and back again. This route is travelled daily by the Munich public transport company’s urban bus 176 and express bus X80. It is typical of deployment areas where the Lion’s City 12 E will soon be more involved. The intention is for this fully-electric bus to serve not only shorter inner-city routes, but also to serve longer routes and suburbs without recharging, therefore acting as an uncomplicated alternative to the combustion engine.
Editor Böhnke has just been at the wheel himself – and is amazed. “The entire chassis concept and the whole set-up works wonderfully well.” He ended up completing three stints as a driver during the efficiency run. “I naturally want to discover for myself how far we can take things, the extent to which we can use a technology like this.” Being a journalist, he doesn’t want to rely just on the professionals at MAN. “I can therefore say I was part of it, as a co-driver and driver, and everything was done by the book.”
Evidence that the e-bus can serve comparatively long routes without intermediate charging will improve the economic efficiency calculation and give customers certainty. “Removing fears and creating trust”, is how Heinz Kiess describes the task. He is head of Product Marketing Bus at MAN Truck & Bus and has already been present since the early hours of the morning. “We know from surveys that bus operators want electric vehicles whose handling is just as unproblematic as that of diesel buses. We're seeking to demonstrate that the Lion’s City E integrates seamlessly into operational processes.” In other words that it can be deployed all day long without interruptions. The battery is charged at night, in the depot.
The bus is now starting lap five and sets off with a low hum. Thorsten Helbig, a trainer at the MAN ProfiDrive driving school, is at the wheel. He’s wearing a turquoise windcheater matching the bus design and starts off by commending the cockpit: “Clearly arranged and tidy. It suits me fine.”
Removing fears and creating trust, that’s our motto at MAN
Between Karlsfeld and Puchheim The springlike weather creates favourable conditions for the efficiency run.
Phantom passengers Dummies, each weighing 68 kilogrammes, are seated on the bus instead of genuine passengers.
Interested glances Some people waiting at bus stops occasionally attempt to board the bus when it pulls over.
On-board control system A display shows measurement data, such as consumption and range.
Bus stop at Untermenzing station The driver opens and closes the doors at every stop.
Round the clock endurance test The bus continues its laps even in the gathering twilight.
Gantry over MAN’s Test Track 2 in Karlsfeld The motto simultaneously serves as aspiration and objective.
The large display, which would normally indicate the next stop to passengers, is now showing lots of measurement data: in addition to the speed, things like consumption and braking characteristics, and most importantly the remaining range. That changes with the route and driving behaviour. Well-trained drivers who drive with foresight have a positive influence on the energy balance – and thus contribute to economic efficiency.
Helbig shows how it’s done by breaking early at an amber traffic light. “It’s a different approach than with a combustion engine”, he says. And names some examples: “Don’t fully depress the accelerator when starting off. Approach the bus stops using regenerative braking, because this helps to recharge the storage system.” The motor turns into a generator every time you brake, which allows energy to flow back into the system. Heinrich Degenhart, division head of Bus at MAN ProfiDrive, reveals: “We’re currently achieving recuperation of 38 per cent. That’s actually quite a lot.” Good prospects, then, that the Lion’s City E will perform well in the efficiency run.
The test is being conducted under real conditions, with the bus stopping at each bus stop and the doors being opened and closed. The drivers have to repeatedly ward off boarding attempts, like at Puchheim station where an elderly lady was heading energetically for the door. “Sorry, this is a test bus”, calls Helbig. By then, the senior citizen had probably noticed the phantom passengers: 14 black dummies strapped with red belts, each weighing 68 kilogrammes. This ensures that the weight equates roughly to an average occupancy rate. The weather is also a significant factor. The springlike temperatures today are favourable and the interior barely needs to be heated or air conditioned during daytime. There are frequent heavy showers, though, which increase tyre resistance. This makes the drivers all the more competitive. A regular contest breaks out during the day: who will accomplish the lap with least consumption?
A final standardised procedure for measuring the range of an urban bus does not yet exist, which is why trials like this are so important. In the early days of its experience with this technology, MAN decided to specify the range for the Lion’s City E at up to 270 kilometres. This was a consciously conservative forecast – above all it should be reliable. It is clear by now that a lot more is achievable under good conditions, due also to better software control and optimisation of the battery reserve.
We're seeking to demonstrate that the Lion’s City E integrates seamlessly into operational processes.
Head of Product Marketing Bus at MAN Truck & Bus
The Lion's City E’s entire chassis concept and the whole set-up works
Bus tester and trade journalist
I believed all along that we’d beat the 500 kilometres mark.
Division head of Bus at MAN ProfiDrive
“Now it’s about time for me to adjust the rear-view mirror”, division head Kiess says just before 17:00 and takes his jacket off. He also wants to take the wheel on this special day. He was awarded his bus driving licence decades ago and as a student he transferred buses within Europe and beyond, across to Russia and down to Morocco. Those of course had combustion engines. The bus the manager is driving today is emblazoned with “Electrifying Europe”. How times change. Kiess is firmly convinced that the future of urban traffic is electric: “Electric mobility won’t take place tomorrow, it’s already here.” Municipalities around the world are discovering green technologies for their public transport companies. MAN is offering a sustainable series solution to meet this demand – the Lion’s City E.
“We entered the market relatively late, but are moving forward with great strides”, Kiess says. “Many manufacturers have taken a conventional bus and installed an electric drive into this geometric frame. We, on the other hand, have adapted the vehicle in line with electric mobility.” The batteries – with an output of 480 kilowatt hours – are located on the roof, which protects them from accidental damage and makes them more accessible for maintenance. The interior is level and offers four more seats than on a diesel bus, as there’s no need for an engine block. The use of materials has also been optimised, since every kilogramme less counts towards extending range.
Jörg Junginger, head of bus trials at MAN, also arrives for the late shift after 17:00. He’s excited, like most people here: “This is far more than just a technical event for us” – namely a confirmation of one's own work, assuming a good result. “We’re responsible for our own extensive developments in this vehicle. A very important criterion is the range. We have calculated and tested this theoretically. Today we are running a comparison with reality." The efficiency run is therefore also the basis for further optimization of the vehicle; after all, the consumption data are precisely evaluated depending on driving style, weather and road conditions. "What differences do we learn today compared to our tests? That takes us further."
The team members bet on the extent of the range before this major test. As the bus sets of again, they discuss their estimates. Kiess was cautious with 464 kilometres, test engineer Maximilian Huber had predicted 495, even Junginger had remained below 500. Trainer Degenhart was the only one to be convinced that the 500 mark could be beaten.
Yet no one had dared to dream that, the Lion’s City E would have completed 14 laps on just one battery charge when it passed through the gantry on the test track for the last time and drove back into the MAN factory – exactly 550.8 kilometres after precisely 24 hours. That is what’s stated in the confirmation issued by TÜV Süd at 04:00 on Wednesday at the end of the test. Before boarding the bus, Jörg Junginger told us that he was preparing for a long night. He was right, but it was worth it.
This is the new benchmark that the MAN Lion's City E has set in terms of range.