Emission-free travel through Hamburg

As of the year 2020, the city of Hamburg will be exclusively acquiring emission-free buses. The municipal transport services Hamburger Hochbahn and Verkehrsbetriebe Hamburg-Holstein (VHH) will jointly work with MAN to implement the ambitious plan. Felix Kybart, Head of Alternative Drives at MAN Truck & Bus, talks about the cooperative efforts to achieve a clean urban environment.

Piers in Hamburg
Piers in Hamburg (Image © getty images)

The Senate of Hamburg passed a resolution to render public transport even more environmentally friendly as of 2020. Due to the acquisition of emission-free vehicles, the hanseatic city’s ecological balance should be improved significantly. As of today, alternative drives are already being tested on the Innovation Line 109, yielding valuable data for the development of all-electric regular service buses that will shape the urban landscape in future.

Felix Kybart, Head of Alternative Drives at MAN Truck & Bus (Bild © Felix Kybart)

Mr Kybart, public transport services in Hamburg is scheduled to become even more environmentally friendly. As of the year 2020, the city intends to exclusively purchase emission-free regular service buses. What does the hanseatic city hope to achieve with this line of action?

The City of Hamburg meets the major demands in order to reduce fine particle levels and CO2 emissions, hereby assuming a pioneering role in Germany. Varying bus concepts have already been tested in Hamburg for many years and not least due to the Paris Climate Agreement and the new EU guidelines pertaining to air quality, the hanseatic city is proactively addressing this major challenge and focuses on emission-free drives.

Together with MAN, the public transport services Hamburger Hochbahn and VHH intend to jointly reach that goal. How has this cooperation evolved?

We initially received the principal enquiry as to whether we had the capacity to provide all-electric vehicles and the partnership then resulted from a joint meeting. This cooperation is not just about delivering vehicles, but also means active participation in a dialogue to tackle custom-tailored solutions for the City of Hamburg. Compared to conventional vehicles, electric mobility raises an entirely new set of questions. We therefore went a step further and signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2016, where we jointly defined very clearly how we intend to work together. Our partners will receive insights into our development progress, for example, thus obtaining the opportunity to directly respond throughout the continuous process.

What are the specific measures for MAN in order to implement this ambitious undertaking?

The plan is to enter series production before 2020. Our exceptional approach is that we don’t merely electrify already existing bus models, but are introducing electric mobility in our new generation of urban buses.
In addition, MAN Truck & Bus prepares its customers for the vehicles and their specific operation. This includes aspects that need to be organised around the electric buses to ensure smooth and reliable operations, such as charging technology, setting up workshops and so on.

While developing electric mobility solutions, what are the partnership’s advantages for MAN?

Endeavours in the development, production and marketing of electrically driven vehicles demand changes in all of our business areas. The close partnership with the public transport services Hamburger Hochbahn and VHH presents a challenge and enables us to convert concrete issues into technical solutions faster than before. We are certain that our new electric buses will therefore offer the reliability, efficiency and safety expected from a true MAN product from the very beginning.

The city has already been looking to e-mobility since 2014. Every day, the Innovation Line 109 is testing all relevant systems under identical conditions on its route, be it fuel cell vehicle or diesel hybrid. How valuable are these experiences for the development process?

This operation provides us with lessons on the priorities for the City of Hamburg, in addition to which aspects of daily operation are also viewed in a more critical light. This assists us in tackling all the right issues and delivering the best solutions. One topic, for example, is the desired range on certain routes, wherein the communication was also helpful in determining which kinds of range we will offer for our 12-metre and 18-metre electric buses.

Over the course of development, MAN will implement a modular concept. What exactly does that look like?

We will electrify both our buses and our trucks. It is therefore essential that we don’t have a specific solution for every single vehicle version, but that we optimally deploy electrified components in as many applications as possible. We also intend to facilitate the timely implementation of any given technical advancements in battery and drive technology.

Will bus transport become as advantageous as electric trams in future?

The point of the matter is that our cities are growing much faster than underground or surface train networks could possibly be expanded. The number of transported passengers could be increased more expeditiously on the already existing road grid. In addition, bus transport is more flexible than a tram. If there are any problems on the line, the bus can more easily bypass a road closure and change the route without any standstill. The employment of MAN’s electric buses will also change the driving experience, for they are extremely quiet, don’t jolt when starting up and offer passengers a modern design. Their journey from A to B will therefore be very agreeable indeed.

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