Traton bullish on e-trucks and e-buses

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 03 Oct 2019

Traton, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group and a leading global commercial vehicle manufacturer, at its ‘Innovation Day’ on October 2 in Sweden showcased a broad range of innovations, from new commercial vehicles to new ways of working together. At the event, Andreas Renschler, CEO of Traton and board of management of Volkswagen said, “Our goal is to become the leading provider of e-trucks and e-buses. By 2025, we plan to have spent a total of more than €1 billion (Rs 7,801 crore) in electromobility.”

For the first time, Traton has also introduced a cross-brand development budget for electromobility and brought together teams from all over the Group. They are working on the next generation of e-drive systems, software for battery management, and the compatible frame structure. Traton’s brands claim to hold more than 1,000 electro mobility patents — and, thus, some 25 percent more than in 2018.

The brands under Traton include MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen Caminhoes e Onibus (VWCO). According to Traton Group’s scheme of plans: Scania is the innovation leader for sustainable transport solutions, working on many different non-fossil alternatives. As a full-range business partner, MAN pursues a broader strategy ranging from light to heavy commercial vehicles. And VWCO's approach is to offer tailor-made solutions with the best value for money ratio, especially for markets in Latin America and Africa. 

Electromobility across brands
Traton reports that VWCO has signed the world’s largest purchase intention agreement for e-trucks — 1,600 trucks have been ordered by the Brazilian beer and beverage producer Ambev. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2020 — and it was available for test drives for the first time in Europe at the Innovation Day. In order to speed up the introduction of e-vehicles in Brazil, VWCO has just announced the formation of an e-Consortium at its Brazilian R&D and production complex. This is the first time that a vehicle manufacturer has established a complete support structure for its electric trucks, from manufacturing to setting up the charging infrastructure and managing the life cycle of the battery pack, leveraging the commitment of the company’s fully integrated supply chain. 

Later in 2019, Scania plans to put a bus in operation which will electrically and autonomously transport passengers for Nobina in the Stockholm metropolitan area. Together with Asko, Norway’s largest food wholesaler, Scania is testing fuel-cell trucks with an electric powertrain in which the electrical energy is converted from hydrogen gas from renewable resources in fuel cells onboard the vehicles. Later on, Asko will be testing a Scania battery-electric truck as well. E-trucks made by MAN with a total weight of 26 tons are currently being tested by customers in Austria; an extended production of the eTGM for further customer tests is scheduled to start this year. Also, sales of the new electric MAN van eTGE have taken off since it was introduced into the market and Traton reports that more than 150 of them have been sold in the past 12 months. 

Key drivers of Innovation
According to Traton, the three key drivers for innovation are Modularisation of components and products, Software and Systems as the byword for networking traditional and new technologies as well as business models, and People and Collaboration to serve as the foundation for collaboration across borders and brands.

Speaking on the modularisation front, Joachim Drees, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus, explained, "With the right design and a clever combination of a few parts, better variants are possible — and along with with that a more tailored configuration for specific customer requirements. With our new configurator, it will be easier and quicker than ever to put together the vehicle of your choice based on customer requirements."

With almost a third of its engineers working on software development, Scania CEO Henrik Henriksson showcased Scania’s new concept vehicle — an autonomous vehicle for use in mines — for the first time and a collaborative solution of an autonomous shuttle service in the area around Stockholm. 

Stressing on the importance of collaboration in Traton, Roberto Cortes, CEO of the Brazilian truck brand Volkswagen Caminhoes e Onibus highlighted the modular consortium at the plant in Brazil, where integrated production of commercial vehicles is operated jointly with partners and suppliers. The model is now being extended to the production of electric vehicles for the first time. 

Ready with fossil fuel alternative
In addition to 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. The three brands have a long tradition and excellent market positions in the area of alternative drives, with MAN, for instance, as the leading supplier for gas-powered city buses in Europe. Today, Scania has one of the broadest range of alternative fuel-enabled vehicles on the market, ranging from bioethanol trucks and buses to vehicles using liquefied biogas. However, Traton projects that demand for electric vehicles will continue to rise over the medium and long term because electric vehicles will become more affordable and cost less to maintain. In the process, they will be able to take full advantage of their edge in energy costs. 

Andreas Renschler, CEO of Traton, said, “Our customers’ interest in e-mobility is clearly growing. In the mid-term, we expect that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of battery-powered commercial trucks used in distribution services and city buses will be comparable with vehicles powered by fossil fuels. In the Group, we are developing a common modular electric powertrain toolkit that will be used in 2020 in the first serial produced all-electric city buses made by Scania and MAN. We are already taking orders for electrically powered trucks and buses and are confident that over the next 10 to 15 years, every third truck and bus we deliver will have alternative drive systems, of which the majority will be purely electric."

Renschler concludes, "We would like the political leaders of the respective countries to initiate an incentive program for electric commercial vehicles and a European master plan for charging infrastructures that would ease customers’ transition to electromobility.”

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