Taking its quest to become a global leader in electro-mobility and software solutions for vehicles, Traton SE has announced investments of €2 billion by the end of 2025 in electric and autonomous vehicles.
Chief Executive Officer Andreas Renschler made the announcement on Oct. 2, 2019, at the company’s Innovation Day in Södertälje, Sweden.
“Our goal is to become the leading provider of e-trucks and e-buses,” Renschler said. “By 2025, we plan to have spent a total of more than €1 billion (approximately USD$1.096 billion) in electro mobility.”
Traton, which is the truck subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, will also invest €1 billion in software to digitize vehicle operations.
“We want to move into the digital fast lane and are continuing to evolve from a hardware supplier to a provider of software and services,” Renschler said.
Renschler said customer interest in electric power is growing, even if the infrastructure is lagging at this point.
“If all necessary prerequisites are in place at the right time, I expect for our group, that in the next 10 to 15 years, every third of our trucks and buses can have an alternative drivetrain, most of them fully electric,” Renschler said. “One of the prerequisites is that the infrastructure for alternative fuels and electricity must be fully available to guarantee seamless operation.”
Renschler noted that the total cost of ownership for battery-powered vehicles used in distribution services and city buses “will be comparable with vehicles powered by fossil fuels.”
Traton is leveraging its three brands – MAN, Scania and Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus, to spread development costs out. A common modular electric powertrain toolkit will be used to produce the first serial all-electric city buses put into operation by Scania and MAN, Christian Levin, chief operating officer, explained.
“It can be individually modified depending on the brand and area of use. As a result, a maximum number of individual solutions can be produced with a minimum number of components and costs,” he said.
In Brazil, Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus has announced the formation of an e-consortium at is Resende development and production complex. The e-consortium will manufacture, set up charging infrastructure, and manage the lifecycle of battery packs in electric trucks deployed throughout Brazil.
Those trucks will include current 11- and 14-ton electric models and the new Volkswagen e-Delivery 4-ton model.
“Our team has conceived and built a pioneering technological configuration and a business model that will enable us to introduce our range of commercial electric vehicles on the world’s transport market,” Roberto Cortes, president and CEO of Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus, said.
The e-consortium includes seven suppliers that will share in the responsibilities of building the vehicles, the company said. Partners include Siemens, which provides the charging infrastructure and equipment, and supplies electrical energy to the client; CATL and Moura, which are responsible for distribution, management and maintenance of the battery packs; Bosch, WEG and Semcon, which will share responsibility for developing and supplying components.
That e-consortium will provide primary support for Ambev, a Brazilian beer and beverage producer that has already placed an order for 1,600 electric trucks.
Traton has invested millions already into its software capabilities. In 2016, it created the digital brand RIO, which develops digital services for logistics. There are more than 115,000 trucks connected to its open, cloud-based platform and the company considers software to be more important in the development of autonomous vehicles than the vehicles themselves.
Part of that digitalization effort is the continued development of a common autonomous driving platform. Levin said vehicles have already been delivered and testing is ongoing.
Scania unveiled a concept vehicle last week, the AXL. The vehicle has been engaged in testing in the Rio Tinto mine in Australia since 2018. Featuring no driver’s cab, the AXL is monitored by a logistics system that tells it how it should perform.
“With the Scania AXL concept truck we take a significant step towards the smart transport systems of the future, where self-driving vehicles will play a natural part,” Scania’s President and CEO Henrik Henriksson said. We continue to build and pilot concepts to demonstrate what we can do with technology that is available today. “
Later this year, Scania expects to put into operation an electric and autonomous bus to transport passengers in Nobina, which is part of the Stockholm metropolitan area.
MAN is also engaged in autonomous projects. It will introduce self-driving trucks in the port of Hamburg in a few months. The trucks will be driven by drivers on the highway, in some sections in highly automated mode. Once at the port, the driver will exit the vehicle and the truck will continue to drive autonomously to the Altenwerder container terminal, where it will be autonomously unloaded before driving back to the driver on its own.
Not all the innovation will fall to electric. Traton said that “highly efficient diesel drive systems, alternative drives and fuels like biofuels, ethanol or the gas technologies LNG and CNG as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid solutions are playing a major role in efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.”
Renschler concluded his remarks by urging leaders in each country to create an “incentive program for electric commercial vehicles and a European master plan for charging infrastructures.”