MAN Truck & Bus

Melanie Ullermann stands next to an MAN bus.

Skilled and objective advice

Interview with Melanie Ullermann & Stefan Sahlmann

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The MAN Transport Solutions team advises customers on the path to e-mobility – Melanie Ullermann and her colleagues from Stadtwerke Neumarkt for example, which handles public utilities for the city. She tells Stefan Sahlmann, Head of MAN Transport Solutions, about her experience with MAN’s team of experts. 

Ms Ullermann, the mobility sector is facing huge challenges. Which are the questions uppermost in your mind at the moment, as a public transport provider?

Melanie Ullermann Our passengers are continually asking us questions about e-mobility. Many want to know why we use electric buses in Neumarkt and whether using them is worth our while. In contrast, we are often asked why we still use diesel buses and didn’t switch to e-mobility long ago. One of the most frequently asked questions is “will there be power cuts affecting whole districts when we are charging our buses?” As you can see, there is still a lot that needs to be explained to our passengers. 

And what is it about the switch to e-mobility that concerns you as a company?

Melanie Ullermann Obviously, we had to clarify quite a few things internally. For example, will we need to convert our vehicle depot? How many parking spaces should we plan for charging electric buses? Will we have to install a new electricity supply to the depot? The range of the vehicles was a key factor for us. We need to know which routes we can use electric buses on, and whether they will need to charge during the day. The workshop wondered how we could prepare them for the use of electric buses.

How can MAN help you with the transition to electric mobility?

Melanie Ullermann We are in regular contact with MAN. That means that we hear immediately when there is something new – and not just when it comes to a bus sale, but also current topics such as e-mobility. We had our first meeting to discuss what MAN could offer in the field of e-mobility three years ago. Then in September 2021, MAN loaned us an electric bus for a day. We parked it in the Marktstraße and introduced it to passers-by. Last year, Mr Sahlmann’s team provided us with comprehensive advice on our entry into e-mobility and introduced us to his partners and their portfolio of services.

Mr Sahlmann, what does MAN’s advice on switching to e-mobility look like?

Stefan Sahlmann We draw up a custom “360-degree e-mobility concept” for each customer. We use the current situation together with data on route lines and cycle times to develop a proposal for how they could operate with e-buses. Typical questions here include: can we keep the same routes? Will we need more vehicles? Do operators need to schedule breaks for charging? What infrastructure investments will be needed? And when is the best time to charge vehicles to get the best deals from electricity suppliers? At the end of the process, we have a customer-specific concept for the economic operation of electric buses. And that’s exactly what we did for Ms Ullermann and Stadtwerke Neumarkt.

Ms Ullermann, what exactly did you learn from this advice?

Melanie Ullermann MAN’s simulation showed us, for example, that our route management would not have to change because the longest circuit we have is only 270 km long. The use concept for e-buses takes into account the necessary charging times to cover even the longest circuits. This meant that we could run the entire network on the new drive technology. That was an important realisation for us. 

What was your conclusion after your advice from MAN?

Melanie Ullermann We were extremely pleased. Our contact at MAN was very competent and knew the answers to all our questions. Of course, we also spoke to other manufacturers and sought their advice too. The best way I can summarise my experiences with MAN is to say that their experts gave us good and comprehensive advice, and that’s exactly what we expected. Their advice was also very objective – I never got the feeling that we were being sold anything or having something imposed on us.

Stefan Sahlmann We don’t base our advice on any specific MAN vehicles. In our simulations, we can adopt any technical bus attributes whatsoever. Obviously, we want to support MAN Sales, but we value maximum neutrality highly. The focal point is a sustainable concept for our customers. And of course I am pleased that Ms Ullermann felt that she received good, objective advice.

Melanie Ullermann I can only emphasise that. Thanks to the advice we received, we now have enough information to discuss the purchase of the first buses with our local authority. We want to launch our first two electric buses in 2023, the first of a total of twelve vehicles.

Mr Sahlmann, you speak to a lot of customers. How big is the current need for advice?

Stefan Sahlmann Demand is huge at the moment. As a team, we travel all over Europe and have concluded some 150 consultancy projects so far, all of a wide variety of sizes – from customers with just two vehicles, to major international customers with more than 2,000 buses. I currently get the impression that increasing numbers of small and medium-sized businesses are turning to us with their questions. In any case, we will be continuing to grow our team of advisers.

What general advice would you give a company if they want to consider switching to e-mobility?

Stefan Sahlmann A gradual adoption of new technology makes sense under any circumstances – as they are planning in Neumarkt. That way, the drivers and workshops can slowly familiarise themselves with the vehicles. It’s a little different though when it comes to the infrastructure: you need to see the whole picture right from the start. Otherwise, there’s a chance that you might have to dig up the depot every few years to lay new cables. 

How do you want to further develop MAN’s consultancy services in the field of e-mobility?

Stefan Sahlmann Today, we’re a firm part of MAN’s electric vehicle sales process. Most potential customers want to talk to us. We use all their questions and feedback to build our service further. For example, we work with partners from the infrastructure sector, who can take care of the construction and maintenance of charging technology. On request, we can offer that coupled with the vehicles to provide a complete package. Charging management is another key topic. Here too, we want to bring added value for our customers into our portfolio for the future. It is possible that we might also offer infrastructure financing alongside the more traditional vehicle financing services. Further areas for consideration arise in the field of logistics – MAN Transport Solutions is responsible for the electrification of logistics within MAN. So we’re thinking in a lot of different directions.

Text   Christian Buck
Photos   MAN

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