We have set ourselves the target of getting an entire public transportation system up and running by 2030 without the use of fossil fuels
Östersund. San Diego. Munich. Volkswagen Truck & Bus is entering an era of electric mobility with trailblazing concepts. Road tests featuring electric buses have just begun in Östersund, Sweden. chargE, an electrified school bus manufactured by the Group’s strategic partner Navistar, has set off on a road show. Furthermore, the development of an electric counterpart of the MAN Lion’s City is in full swing over in Munich. The Scania and MAN Truck & Bus brands’ electric mobility solutions are met with rapidly growing demand in the public transportation sector. The same can be said of their Navistar partner.
“We have set ourselves the target of getting an entire public transportation system up and running by 2030 without the use of fossil fuels,” says Anna Sörensson, of the city of Östersund. “In other words, the introduction of electric buses is paving the way for the future.” The community with 50.000 inhabitants is the ideal candidate for a model project in cooperation with Scania. “Thanks to its seasonal climate with cold winters and relatively warm summers, Östersund offers the perfect conditions for testing the performance of electric buses under operating conditions,” explains Karin Rådström, Head of Scania Buses and Coaches. “The pilot runs are the first step in the development of buses that run on electric batteries.”
Three Scania Citywide Low Floor buses were handed over to the city of Östersund in March. They operate on a highly frequented route that is 14 kilometers long and features 40 stops. Tom Terjesen, editor of Norwegian specialist newspaper Busmagasinet and President of the International Bus & Coach Jury, was clearly impressed with the first tests. No noise whatsoever could be heard from the engine, even once the buses had reached their maximum speed of 70 km/h. In order to be able to supply the buses with electricity, two charging stations have been set up at the first and last bus stop along the route, where the buses are charged for ten minutes before continuing their journey. They complete around 100 trips every day. More electric buses should join their ranks next year.
Electric buses are in equally high demand in a city 2,100 kilometers south of Östersund: Munich intends to electrify its public transportation network by 2030. But the journey toward electrification is taking place under tough conditions: a growing number of people are drawn to big cities. As well as taking their cars with them, they also come with even more individual needs, which is why more and more goods are transported to the cities. A growing number of road users have to fight for space on what are increasingly congested roads.
“We are witnessing the dawn of a new era,” says Ralf Willrett, Head of the Bus division at Munich transportation company Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft (MVG). According to him, simply replacing combustion engines with electric ones is not enough. An electric vehicle can get stuck in a traffic jam on Munich’s Ludwigstraße the same way a bus running on fuel can. Willrett stresses the importance of developing solutions to make public transportation not just more sustainable, but also more efficient and intelligent. Stefan Sahlmann believes that along with new software solutions for battery charge management, this also includes optimized bus stop networks. “If I only have to change twice instead of four times, that saves me a lot more time than if the bus goes three kilometers an hour faster,” adds Sahlmann. An industrial engineer by trade, he is heading up the team at MAN Transport Solutions. His consultancy supports public transportation companies and private fleet operators in navigating the path to alternative drives. At the end of 2016, MAN Truck & Bus and the city of Munich entered into an innovation partnership which will see, among others, MAN buses join other vehicles on the roads of the Bavarian capital as part of a field test.
MAN Truck & Bus’s first generation of electric buses is set to launch before 2020 – based on the new MAN Lion’s City introduced in mid-March. Sustainable. Efficient. Intelligent. And comfortable. The better the quality of the vehicles on offer, the more likely these are to encourage as many people as possible to switch to public transportation. This is of fundamental importance to Munich. Things are not much different in Hamburg. The Hanseatic city wants to move to zero-emission buses from 2020 onward. Hamburger Hochbahn and Verkehrsbetriebe Schleswig-Holstein public transportation companies in Hamburg are also working closely together in partnership with MAN Truck & Bus to make this reality. “This cooperation initiative enables us to turn specific questions into technical solutions more quickly than was previously possible,” says Felix Kybart, Head of Alternative Drives at MAN Truck & Bus. “It is not just about delivering vehicles, but also actively starting a dialog to be able to put customized solutions into practice for the city of Hamburg.”
There are around 40,000 buses on the roads in Germany alone. Most of them are powered by diesel. More and more communities are taking the offensive in order to drive down emissions, especially in intercity areas. Munich and Hamburg are just two examples. A study carried out by auditor and advisory service provider PwC revealed enormous potential for manufacturers. According to the study, hundreds of orders are planned over the next three years, which would mean that over 500 electric buses can be expected to operate on regular services in German cities by the end of 2021.
By using technologies on a cross-brand basis, we are able to avoid duplicate work and leverage synergies
As part of the serial production of their electric buses, Scania and MAN Truck & Bus use one and the same electric powertrain. This electric drivetrain is designed as a modular element – and is set to be installed in all electric models in the future. “By using technologies on a cross-brand basis, we are able to avoid duplicate work and leverage synergies,” says Anders Nielsen, Chief Technology Officer at Volkswagen Truck & Bus. “This enables us to concentrate our research and development resources on new technologies, as well as reduce our time to market while improving cost-efficiency.” As part of this cooperation initiative, each brand is responsible for its own development project. The central Research and Development function is in charge of coordinating the lead engineering concept. Nielsen highlights the benefits of this type of cooperation: “This puts us in a position to realize several large projects at the same time and with the same level of intensity and quickly address a variety of issues.” Strategic partner Navistar in the U.S.A. also reaps the benefits.
Navistar will install the electric drivetrain in one of its electric distribution trucks starting in 2020. chargE, a school bus designed by IC Bus – a Navistar brand – in cooperation with Volkswagen Truck & Bus, is already in operation on U.S. roads. The prototype set off on a road show, where it will present this new technology to the public, on March 24. The tour includes stops at trade fairs and in schools. The bus began its trip at the 50th annual meeting of the California Association of School Transportation in San Diego. “We are actively approaching our customers as part of this tour to get their feedback. We will incorporate these suggestions into the further development of vehicle and design. That's part of our philosophy, which we call DriverFirst,” explains Trish Reed, Vice President and General Manager of IC Bus. Interest in zero-emission buses is also on the rise in the U.S.A. Together with its brands and partners, Volkswagen Truck & Bus believes it is its duty to make a contribution toward transforming public transportation in a sustainable way – around the world. In doing so, its top priority is to offer reliable and efficient solutions to operators. This is the only way to bring change about successfully.