Stefan Sahlmann is head of MAN Transport Solutions and advises cities on the roll-out of electric mobility. We asked him where the key obstacles lie for municipalities and why a truck manufacturer is helping cities.
MAN advises cities on electromobility issues. Why?
Cities are under ever-increasing pressure to reduce local emissions in city centers. They must also make their own positive contribution to global CO2 emissions. In addition to various low-emission technologies, the battery electric drive is one of the most efficient zero-emission technologies available when it comes to achieving these goals. Since the use of battery-powered vehicles entails a number of innovations in vehicle operation and energy supply, MAN has set itself the goal of guiding its customers – that is, fleet operators – on the road to electromobility …
… and at the same time improve sales figures for MAN trucks and buses as well?
We are a mobility provider and would be delighted if the cities that we advise would cater for their needs with our vehicles. But ultimately the cities will decide for themselves which manufacturers they will work with in order to implement their strategy. First of all, local authorities have to have a valid e-mobility strategy. The concepts that we develop as part of our consulting services – which relate to operational planning, charging strategy & infrastructure, energy supply & cost optimization and service & maintenance – form the basis for this. Planning parameters from other manufacturers can also be incorporated if required. In addition, we support cities in defining the strategy by which they want to achieve their emission targets.
What are currently some of the typical obstacles on the road to an e-mobility city?
Under the prevailing conditions I need to know what the specific fuel consumption and consequently the range are. Climate, topography, vehicle usage, traffic density, etc., are all part of this. Only on that basis can a singular roll-out concept and a route plan be created. And that forms the basis for the right loading strategy as well. It provides answers to questions such as: When do I have to recharge my vehicles and where and with how much power and what energy source must be made available?
What can MAN do to help overcome these obstacles?
Apart from vehicle concepts that are ideally designed to meet the actual demands, MAN also offers a wide range of other services.
For example: range, drive train design, charging concepts, space utilization for city buses, etc. This also includes an eFleet concept which covers the above-mentioned aspects. This will enable our customers to make their future investments on an individually-determined and evidence-based basis in order to enter into electric mobility safely and purposefully.
What role do external start-ups play in this?
In addition to the classic areas such as vehicle and maintenance concepts, we are of course constantly looking to expand our portfolio with other services with additional value for our customers. Of course, start-ups and providers of e.g. charging solutions may play a role in this as well.
In your estimation, what is the significance of more recent vehicle concepts such as e-scooters, velomobiles or e-cargo bikes?
In the future, mobility in cities will change dramatically. New transportation modes and their intelligent networking will play an important role here. The focus is on the efficiency and sustainability of the overall system and its capacity to meet rising demands for mobility. All these new vehicle concepts will provide their own contribution alongside existing transportation concepts such as bus & rail as a means of mass transportation.
How do you come up with your new solutions/concepts? How do these work in concrete terms?
The MAN Transport Solutions team of experts consists of route planners, charging specialists, energy and battery experts. Each team member contributes the corresponding piece of the puzzle to the complex overall picture of an optimized eMobility system. The first steps are an analysis of the current situation and a feasibility study so as to see how far a diesel vehicle could be replaced 1:1 by an eVehicle. Then a suitable roll-out and route concept is drawn up. The optimal charging strategy is subsequently determined on this basis. This concerns issues such as operational stability, optimized investments and charging time flexibility. In terms of charging time, flexibility is particularly significant when it comes to using the optimum charging time window in order to be able to make use of the “cheapest” energy prices; this is where most of the cost optimization potential of e-mobility lies.