MAN Truck & Bus

A fire department employee cuts the window of a MAN electric bus with a reciprocating saw.A fire department employee cuts the window of a MAN electric bus with a reciprocating saw.

How the fire brigade cuts up an e-bus


A very special event in the mobility sector: firefighters are conducting a cutting test on a MAN electric bus. This will result in rescue guidelines for the vehicle, which will optimise safety for rescuers and passengers if damage occurs. Because the fire brigade needs an immediate and complete overview of the vehicle in an emergency.

There is loud crunching and creaking – the tubular steel has been cut. The door operator component – solidly constructed with a wall thickness of almost a centimetre – was effortlessly severed. The hydraulic pump throbs, the rescue cutter seeks its next victim. And Michael Klaus, a true commercial vehicle enthusiast, cannot help it: “The poor bus”, groans the team leader of 2W Technische Informations GmbH & Co. KG.  

We do have to feel sorry for the white MAN articulated bus, because the 18-metre giant is being mercilessly dismantled at the end of its days. And yet the end justifies the means: the 30 metre hall in the München-Freimann complex is witnessing a cutting test by the fire brigade. MAN has commissioned documentation of the best procedures for rescuers when dealing with an electric bus to enable rescue guidelines to be produced. The company 2W Technische Informations, for whom Klaus works at is bases in the München-Freimann complex, is an experienced service provider that is producing technical instructions for MAN in pictures, text and video – so also for this e-bus. Stefan Brochhausen, technical editor, is recording every step with his camera. Birgit Süssner, Ludwig Fuchs and Albert Kreutmayr – firefighters and passionate trainers – continue in the meantime to dissect the electric bus.

And with full commitment. "We're going in now," Fuchs shouts through the breathing mask and, together with Kreutmayr, both wearing personal protective gear and helmets, begins to press the doors apart brutally with the rescue spreader. Meanwhile, Süssner puts on the rescue scissors. With this she pinches off the hinge with the force of 105 tons without any problems - and then everyone is inside.

Sounds like the fun that children have when they flatten a sand castle. However, the project has the important goal of creating an instructional template for fire departments around the world: How do you get into an electric bus in a dangerous or accident situation, and above all safely? A vehicle like the one on which Süssner, Fuchs and Kreutmayr cut, spread and saw, conceals a complex line system in its interior. And thus risks.


“What matters to us is the utmost safety of customers, passengers and also rescuers”, explains Stefan Gobitz, head of Customer & Service Documentation at MAN. Rescue instructions are moreover now obligatory for the approval of new vehicles in countries such as Spain. “Suppliers must also present such guidelines during tendering, when local authorities want to purchase new commercial vehicles, for example.”

MAN Munich provided a bus for the project. The three-axle vehicle had covered many hundreds of thousands of kilometres as a test vehicle. Originally equipped with a diesel engine, it was subsequently converted to an electric drive and was used as “endurance runner” in test applications. “It has really been through the wringer – it even spent time driving in the Arctic Circle”, says MAN employee Michael Wagner, who is responsible for electric mobility in Technical Support.


The firefighters demonstrate the first steps: deactivate the drive and ensure there is no longer any current flowing in the vehicle. Switch the ignition off, apply the parking brake, actuate the emergency stop switch and turn on the hazard warning lights. There is also a measuring point at the rear that can be used to play it safe. But first of all the potential bus driver has to be rescued. “Do we have a volunteer?”, Kreutmayr shouts out. One courageous individual steps forward and sits in the driver’s seat while the transparent protective cover is put in place, his seatbelt is cut and the steering wheel is nipped off – he could of course be trapped.

The fire brigade team has brought along the most up-to-date rescue equipment now available: a rescue cutter, spreader and rescue cylinder from Weber Hydraulics. Other gadgets include a rescue safety spring punch as well as a glass saw, a reciprocating saw and the "Halligan tool", a kind of ice pick with a crowbar.


Yet despite this high technology, the fire brigade has to proceed with caution where modern vehicles are involved. Items like the high-voltage cables pose a hazard. “We certainly can’t cut there”, says Fuchs, pointing to bright orange lines in the rescue map that is present in every bus.

The firefighters find the signal coloured cables on the roof of the bus, where the high-voltage batteries and components are installed, under the floor in the drive area and in side rails. They also come across hot water pipes for the heating system, which could scald passengers. Or air lines for the brakes, without which it would no longer be possible to move the vehicle. “We wouldn’t cut those. Only if people’s lives were at risk. But it’s extremely important that firefighters know exactly where to find them”, says Süssner.

In the case of this test bus, the batteries were already removed from the roof before it was brought into the production hall. Now a discussion has started among the firefighters: what actually happens with the power storage units, which could well explode? "For e-cars there are disposal containers that can be taken to a quarantine area", says Süssner.


Stefan Gobitz
Head of Customer & Service Documentation at MAN

But for an e-bus? It’s clear that specialist know-how is required to deal with the batteries in an articulated electric bus, as they weigh around 4.5 tons. But here too MAN is already able to provide the decisive answer – and solution – for the rescuers: “We can use our Mobile24 breakdown service to send competent, appropriately qualified service technicians to stranded vehicles”, explains Gobitz. “We can’t admittedly provide mobile cranes to recover damaged vehicles ourselves, but our employees can use their specialist knowledge to advise the local rescue teams. We’re currently ensuring that all our support points in Europe have electrical specialists”, he adds.

If there is a risk of fire, the fire brigade supports the rescue company during the transport of the entire vehicle including the battery to a quarantine area. From there MAN takes care of taking back the batteries and initiates coordination with the central support team. Particularly high safety requirements apply if the safety condition of the batteries is classified as critical. The battery is monitored for at least five days to ensure it has a capacity for charging. Only then will MAN organise the safe reconditioning process.

Proper disposal or storage of batteries only occurs in the second stage of this so-called “ecoline” reconditioning. Several MAN pilot projects are currently investigating the extent to which high-voltage batteries that can no longer be used in vehicles can be ecologically recycled for use in other applications.

All of the necessary scenarios have at least been run through for today’s cutting test and the rescue guidelines. Fuchs places a tick on his to-do list: all the important information is recorded and the editorial work on the documentation will be finished in a few weeks. Gobitz from MAN is also happy: “That went really well – all those involved interacted brilliantly.”

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