MAN Truck & Bus collaborates with Austrian consortium to test its electric trucks

Photo: MAN Truck & Bus

As countries draft regulations towards reducing carbon emissions in the automobile industry, OEMs are gearing up to face the challenges by investing in battery electric vehicles. MAN Truck & Bus, the European auto-major, has been testing its electric vehicles in collaboration with the Austrian business consortium Council for Sustainable Logistics (CNL) over the last three months – with much success.

As part of the pilot run, nine MAN electric trucks were handed over to CNL members on Sept. 13 at MAN Truck & Bus’ plant in Steyr, Austria. “We have developed these trucks in-house, and they have been produced in our factory,” said Felix Kybart, vp of MAN Truck & Bus AG. “I think it is important as the trucks have been manufactured according to MAN standards, and customers expect from us a high level of reliability and maturity, than they would when they buy a converted truck, for example.”

The truck’s electric motor packs an output of 264 kW and delivers up to 3,100 Nm of torque to the drive wheels, all without a transmission. The 26-tonne truck variant is powered by a combination of 12 batteries, while its smaller four-wheel semi-trailer counterpart has eight battery packs installed.

Kybart elaborated on the importance of MAN producing its own batteries for its electric trucks, rather than the company outsourcing or buying it off-the-shelf from a different supplier. He mentioned that this helped MAN gain deep insights into cell technology and module management, which would go a long way in improving vehicle efficiency in the future.

The companies that are part of the CNL consortium are putting the trucks out for delivery every day, with Kybart pointing out that there has not been a single instance of the trucks being forced out of service due to technical problems. The feedback has largely been positive, with companies calling up and indicating that the truck’s performance exceeded the range previously mentioned by MAN.

“I got a call from one of the companies who said that we were wrong with the range. While we had promised 180 kilometers per charge, they actually ended up driving the truck to 200 kilometers on a single charge. Another company said that their drivers after driving the MAN eTGM were not inclined to drive a diesel any longer,” said Kybart. “Overall, I’m very happy that everything is running so well.”  

Electric truck variants open up a myriad of possibilities in last-mile and warehousing logistics, especially with regard to working within city limits in the dark. As electric vehicles are emissions-free and are silent, it is easier to have them working through the night without disturbing its vicinity.

For instance, electric trucks can replace conventional delivery and distribution equipment, and can work all night with minimal disruption. “And if you are driving to a warehouse building, you could unload it directly at the line instead of unloading it outside and using a forklift to take freight inside,” said Kybart. “For urban applications, we think the technology available in the first half of the 2020s will be good enough to offer all this at a competitive TCO, when compared to the solutions that exist in the market today, which is the most important factor.”

In that regard, MAN has shown great interest in green mobility, pushing out its eTGE vans, which is a vehicle specifically designed for last-mile delivery purposes in metropolitan areas. The van provides a range of up to 100 miles and has a payload of around 3,750 pounds, making it ideal for city-related freight hauling, as around 70% of light commercial vehicles lining up city streets travel less than 60 miles a day on average.

The one challenging factor about electric vehicles in general is that there are not many charging possibilities for it to recharge while on the go. And thus, MAN is working on a vehicle integrated software that can enable its equipment to charge at all charging infrastructures equipped with CCS 2 plugs in Europe.

Meanwhile, Kybart mentioned that the testing phase for the electric trucks would continue in collaboration with CNL for the next three years. “These tests will provide us a good insight on how the trucks fare across different and challenging weather conditions, which will give us an idea about the long-term performance of the components and also the charging infrastructure,” said Kybart. “For now, we have urban traffic in focus at the moment, as we think that segment makes the most sense when we talk about battery electric vehicles.”

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.