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.
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.
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.’
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.’
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.
Pictures: © Max Kratzer
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