MAN Truck & Bus

Portrait of Stefan Sahlmann, Vice President, Head of MAN Transport Solutions, MAN Truck & Bus

You have to allow at least 18 months for preparation and planning

Even though the Corona crisis and its possible consequences or the official countermeasures seem to outshine everything, there are certainly other challenges facing the industry or parts of it. For example, the medium-term conversion of the vehicle park in regular service to e-buses. We have now spoken with Stefan Sahlmann, Vice President, Head of MAN Transport Solutions, MAN Truck & Bus.


Stefan Sahlmann

leads the team at MAN Transport Solutions, which supports customers with qualified expertise and tailor-made solutions when entering electromobility.

What is the number of companies to which MAN Transport Solutions has provided consultancy regarding electric mobility?

Sahlmann In 2019 we had around 50 consultancy cases involving trucks, buses and vans, with three-quarters of our consultations focusing on bus companies.

To what extent have your customers developed their knowledge about electric mobility and its complexity?

Sahlmann The wealth of experience that companies bring to our discussions is very varied. Whereas most people I talked to two years ago still had very rudimentary knowledge, today I have customers who are sometimes very familiar with the subject matter – some have even gained initial experience with e-buses in their companies, transport associations or public utilities. Interest is also growing substantially among medium-sized companies. They are exploring the issue, even if widespread procurement is not yet their main focus.

How do the initial consultations arise?

Sahlmann Our consultancy customers are usually referred to us via MAN's Sales division. That is where they mostly request initial information about the options for electric mobility that MAN has to offer. Our sales representatives then put these customers in touch with the team of experts at MAN Transport Solutions.

What are the first points you cover in an e-mobility consultation?

Sahlmann Converting to electric mobility requires far-reaching considerations in advance. Public transport companies have to decide for themselves how fast they want to proceed. They also have to clarify which routes or operational areas are to be electrified. This usually occurs based on a feasibility study. We start by considering the existing routes and their suitability for e-buses. This involves determining whether the diesel buses can be replaced one to one by electric vehicles – possibly by optimising the route. That would be an easy case. It is also possible, however, that more electric buses will have to be deployed than the previous diesel buses to achieve the same level of service. It may moreover mean that interim charging during the day is occasionally needed to enable conversion to e-mobility to be sensibly organised within the planned operational area. Electric route planning is used to prepare a deployment-specific charging and energy concept, which also contains the charging infrastructure requirement and a design for the grid connections. Should en-route charging periods be required, whether via pantograph or plug point, this automatically results in higher capital expenditure and restricted operational flexibility.

Stefan Sahlmann spricht auf der VPK 2019
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Stefan Sahlmann The Head of MAN Transport Solutions advises companies on how to make their mobility planning future-proof.

What is the structure of the team at MAN that provides support with converting to e-mobility?

Sahlmann Firstly, MAN provides its sales representatives with intensive training on electric vehicles. This lays the foundation. Secondly, our consultancy team consists of six experts who come from diverse backgrounds. So, to describe it succinctly, we are not diesel mechanics who have been retrained in electrical engineering, but experts in all aspects of e-mobility. We are therefore in a good position to provide reliable advice and can offer our customers a 360-degree analysis.

When you speak of experts, can you give us a bit more detail?

Sahlmann Our professional knowledge and experience means we can speak to companies' specialists as equals. I come from an automotive engineering background, for instance, so have a very good overview of the range and consumption of electric vehicles in their respective operational fields. Our team also includes an experienced route planner who has intimate knowledge of route and operational planning. He discusses, calculates and simulates the customer's e-bus deployment routes. We also use the same route planning systems as our customers, just extended by the electric drive component. We also enjoy the services of an expert from the energy industry, for example. His calculation of the expected electricity demand and estimate of the anticipated peaks in consumption feed into our analysis. He also identifies optimisation opportunities in terms of energy consumption as early as the planning stage, thus helping to avoid unnecessary energy costs. Our team moreover demonstrates proven expertise in the field of charging infrastructure and battery technology.

How extensive is your conversion support?

Sahlmann We prepare a detailed plan for our customers, also a phased plan if they want step-by-step introduction of e-mobility. This not only relates to conversion of the vehicle fleet, but also considers the charging infrastructure and the depot: should there be prior investment in a lot more charging stations than needed in the initial stages, or is it better to rely on regular construction and installation work to retrofit successively? We inspect the customer's facilities at their request, take a look at the depot and the garages, make on-site suggestions to the company as to what can be placed where: where is it sensible to build charging points, where should the transformer be installed? How far away from the columns can it be located, so that the charging losses are not too great? We also supply customers with a cost estimate tailored to their individual case. This shows the outlays per development phase and also takes operating expenses into account. Diesel fuel savings compared with electricity demand, for example, whereby we also consider the different hourly electricity prices at the point of demand. Our calculations include any increased personnel costs at the customer's request, because e-mobility – where additional vehicles are needed – requires more drivers, more cleaning staff and more maintenance personnel than before.

How does your customer influence the planning?

Sahlmann The basic question they face is: how can I achieve a balance between optimum vehicle deployment, the need for charging points and operating expenses? This is where customers – depending on their financial options – can influence their desired focus within this triangle of investment, operating expenses and system stability. In other words, what can they more easily afford and what can they less easily afford – that's what forms the basis for our planning.

What are the actual lead times until the first e-buses can really leave the depot?

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   Dirk Sanne (Editor-in-chief Busmagazin)
Photos   MAN Truck & Bus

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