MAN Truck & Bus is accelerating the change to zero-emission commercial vehicles. Production of heavy-duty e-trucks in Munich is now scheduled to begin as early as the beginning of 2024 with delivery of an initial 200 units.
This is almost a year earlier than originally planned. MAN presented a near-production prototype of the new electric truck to the public for the first time in Nuremberg this month. In addition to the new emission-free drives, MAN is developing systems that will mean customers get the most out of electric trucks in advance of proper charging infrastructure.
“We need to drive the electrification of our fleet even faster. However, we will only succeed in ramping up e-mobility if we support our customers in their transition and convince them to do so. To this end, we are creating integrated digital solutions and charging offers,” explains Alexander Vlaskamp, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus.
Hydrogen Power R&D
In addition to accelerating the ramp-up of electric mobility, the commercial vehicle manufacturer is intensifying its research into hydrogen mobility. To this end, Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder and Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger today presented a funding commitment of 8.5 million euros for the “Bavarian Fleet” (Bayernflotte) project. In 2024, MAN trucks with hydrogen fuel cells are to prove their suitability at five customers in Bavaria.
Vlaskamp said: “MAN is accelerating its transformation and taking big steps towards emission-free drive systems. Our focus at MAN and in the TRATON Group is clearly on battery-electric drives. They form the basis for our heavy-duty e-trucks, which we will be launching on the market from 2024. Only when sufficient green hydrogen and the corresponding infrastructure are available well after 2030 do we expect to use H2 trucks in selected areas of application. That is why we are researching the topic of hydrogen and the funding from the state of Bavaria enables us to build up further expertise in the field.”
MAN CEO Alexander Vlaskamp also announced at the event that the first 200 e-trucks will be built at the beginning of 2024. The battery-electric trucks will then roll off the production line at MAN’s main e-mobility plant in Munich this includes in-house assembly of the battery packs.
Zero Emission: Technology in Comparison
The fact that battery-electric and hydrogen-powered fuel cell drives go hand in hand technologically and build on each other was underlined by MAN with the first presentation of the battery-electric prototype based on the new MAN Truck Generation.
The electric motor, which draws its energy from batteries, is the starting point. BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) already offer the basic technology that combines customer requirements for cost-optimised, practical solutions with the striving for sustainability and climate neutrality in MAN’s trucks, buses and vans. As a supplement to this, trucks and coaches with H2 fuel cells can be used in the future, as these are based on the BEV powertrain, but replace a large part of the weight-intensive batteries with lighter hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell.
With current technology, commercial vehicles with fuel cells have a longer range than those with batteries as energy storage, but the energy costs of hydrogen in operation are foreseeably still significantly higher. The energy cost advantage of battery-electric trucks is the key to a rapid switch to e-trucks, which is urgently needed to meet the climate targets of the transport sector. To explain: fuel or energy costs account for the largest share of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for intensively used commercial vehicles.
Charging Infrastructure Support Required
Furthermore, the development of a charging infrastructure remains an essential factor for the transformation of the transport industry. Political support is indispensable here. The TRATON Group, the parent company of MAN Truck & Bus, will also make a contribution to this. The company wants to help set up a high-performance charging network in Europe as part of a joint venture.
Another reason why hydrogen as an energy storage medium will later become relevant as batteries for commercial vehicles is that green hydrogen will not be available in sufficient quantities in the near future and is likely to be used initially in industries producing steel or chemicals.
The trucks that MAN showed to the public for the first time will cover the majority of applications in the transport sector. MAN sees the offer of eConsulting as essential for the transition of customers to fossil-free drives in order to make sustainable transport easy for users. For a successful fleet conversion from diesel to BEVs, a holistic analysis of customer needs is necessary long before the purchase of an electric truck. After the decision for an eTruck, eConsulting then covers the operational phase including cost optimisation, route analysis and fleet optimisation and charging infrastructure.
Battery Pack Production
A central component on the way to emission-free drives are the vehicle batteries. MAN began building up its own expertise in the assembly of battery packs as early as spring 2021. The nucleus for this is the eMobility Technical Centre at the Nuremberg site, where the first battery packs for e-vehicle testing and internal tests have since been produced in individual production.
Battery packs are the largest units of vehicle batteries in commercial vehicles. The battery cells are integrated and controlled in them. In the series-produced MAN Lion’s City E city bus, a battery pack has a capacity of 80 kWh. Six battery packs are currently installed in a 12-metre city bus, resulting in a range of up to 350 km. At the Efficiency Run in May 2021, the MAN Lion’s City E impressively demonstrated that it can achieve even significantly greater ranges under optimum everyday conditions. For 24 hours, the MAN electric bus travelled 550 kilometres on a public transport line in Munich – without intermediate charging. The MAN eBus drive showed what ranges are already possible today and that these also depend on influencing factors such as topography, driving style and use of heating or air conditioning.