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Touching the limit – endurance test at the thermal extreme

Heat and dust at high altitude: when it comes to summer testing in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, buses and lorries have to demonstrate under extreme conditions what they are made of. Only when an MAN vehicle has really proved its worth it is ready to be passed on to the customer.

MAN truck driving on serpentines in the Spanish Sierra Nevada

It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. In Granada, the temperature is rising steadily to the 40-degree mark. As happens practically every day, the Andalusian summer in these parts turns the world into a baking furnace. High time, you might think, for a siesta. But not a chance when test engineer Sabine Lützeler is involved. For her and her team-mate, test director Philipp Freischlag, these are ideal working conditions. She powers up her laptop, and the pair set off on another test drive with the 15-ton TGL. The aim is to test the MAN lorry to the utmost. They have to cover some 35 kilometres into the Sierra Nevada, a gruelling climb from 700 to 2,000 metres above sea level, on tight hairpin bends with gradients up to 22 per cent. This is a real challenge both for the crew and for the equipment.

Development engineer Sabine Lützeler testing on her laptop

Open-heart surgery

The test focuses on fuel combustion. And the team must ensure compliance with the new European 6c exhaust standard, which becomes mandatory in 2017. For testing purposes, the engine of the TGL has been equipped with a large number of probes and measuring devices. While travelling, Sabine Lützeler alternates between a plethora of curves and diagrams on her laptop, based on which the 33-year-old development engineer can then read off the different driving situations and fine-tune the settings in real time. ‘It’s a bit like open-heart surgery,’ she says.

Along with its winter counterpart in the north of Sweden, the summer trial is the last major endurance test before the new vehicles and new technology are finally launched on the market. Before that happens, an enormous amount of work and innovative imagination will have gone into the product. ‘Taken all together, MAN has around 250 experts involved in the development, more than 70 of them on location in Granada: drivers, vehicle support staff, workshop technicians, implementers and engineers,’ says Rainer Miksch. At 50 years of age, he is responsible for Truck & Bus Overall Vehicle Testing. It’s his 19th summer on the job. ‘We started with two members of staff and four cars,‘ he recalls. ‘It’s certainly impressive what the operation has grown into.’

Test drive in Granada

MAN Lion’s City bus driving on a street in Granada

While the lorry climbs the hairpin bends to the Pradollano ski station, Zeljko Krcelic navigates his 18-metre-long articulated bus through the streets of Granada. The 55-year-old Croatian is a qualified automotive electrician, and he has been with MAN for 38 years. He, too, is an experienced professional tester – it is the fifth time he has been involved in the summer vehicle trials. Ever since leaving Munich, his MAN Lion’s City bus has had its measuring equipment up and running, registering all the data relevant to the post-treatment of exhaust gas. Krcelic has covered 2,400 kilometres to reach Andalusia. At regular intervals he draws up reports and compiles all the data resulting from motorway or urban operations.

The main focus of the bus testers is on the new exhaust levels, engine cooling and gear coordination, as well as on optimising the engine speed. All this takes place in extreme conditions, in the blazing heat of Andalusia. The air-conditioning in the driver’s cabin is an important factor here. ‘The driver needs to feel good for eight hours at a time,’ Krcelic points out. ‘His needs are different from those of the passengers, who don’t want to be hit by an extreme change of temperature when entering or leaving the bus.’

Practical experience and engineering in tandem

The summer vehicle trials combine practical experience and engineering in all kinds of different ways. ‘It’s impressive how the team works together, and how their scientific expertise complements their many years of experience,’ says Rainer Miksch. There’s a perceptible enthusiasm for the product, in his view, and a whole lot of self-motivation on the part of everyone who is involved. ‘It isn’t just a job like any other,’ he is firmly convinced. But he won’t be finally satisfied until he sees the vehicles and components that have been tested in their serial incarnation on the road. ‘Then I can be sure that we’ve really delivered the goods,’ he concludes.

MAN’s summer vehicle trials in Andalusia

Assembly of the MAN test team

Start of a testing day

Before the test drives begin, the whole MAN team is assembled. The test directors introduce the programme and make sure that everyone has the information they need on all the vehicle categories and types.

Sabine Lützeler and Philipp Freischlag prepare their test drive

Programmed through and through

Sabine Lützeler and Philipp Freischlag get ready for their test drive in the Sierra Nevada. No engine setting is left to chance.

MAN TGL stuffed with on-board technology

Always on the ball

The MAN TGL is stuffed with technology. The on-board equipment documents and analyses every detail of the trip. When necessary, the engineers can influence the engine and combustion controls directly from the computer.

MAN truck driving on a road in the north of Sweden

On burning asphalt

Temperatures that go up to 45 degrees place extreme demands on human beings and on machinery. And if it works in summer, it must survive winter conditions as well – in the north of Sweden, for example, when it is down to minus 45.

MAN Lion’s City on a test journey from Germany to Spain. MAN trucks are driving behind the bus.

From Munich to Granada

On its way to its trial by fire, the 18-metre-long MAN Lion’s City has already accomplished a 2,400-kilometre test journey from Germany to Spain. All the data generated on the trip will be analysed by the developers.

Dummies on seats of  the touring bus

Cool passengers

These passengers on the touring bus are mainly responsible for adding to the weight. But the endurance testing in the Sierra Nevada does nothing to upset their state of deep relaxation.

Test driver Zeljko Krcelic

Everything at his fingertips

Zeljko Krcelic, from Croatia, is an experienced test driver. It’s the fifth time he has been involved in the summer trials in Granada. He knows the vehicle and the needs of the driver down to the last detail.

Rainer Miksch, director of the tests in Granada

Something to laugh about

Rainer Miksch directs the tests in Granada. The interaction of the engineers and technicians from the workshops makes him happy. In his view, the fundamental principle is evident: only effective teamwork makes it possible to get big things moving.

Pictures: © Max Kratzer

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