I have just returned from Berlin, where MAN gave journalists an exclusive preview into what the company has up its Bavarian sleeve for this year’s IAA. I think it is fair to say that IAA visitors will be in for a treat.
The location for the event was Berlin Brandenburg Airport – the German capital’s new and as yet unfinished airport. What’s noteworthy about this airport? It has two things in abundance: lots of free space and lots of controversy. This facility was meant to open in June 2012, but – thanks to an obscene number of problems – this still hasn’t happened. In fact, not one single regular commercial flight has used the supposedly state-of-the-art (yet monumentally messed-up) terminal.
Furthermore, no one has any clue when it will open. Some say it would be better (and cheaper) to flatten the entire airport and start over. “It’s our ‘just now’ airport,” one German lady, who has spent time in South Africa, told me with a giggle.
However, while the controversy is regrettable, the abundance of free space is absolutely ideal for a commercial-vehicle event. Accordingly, we used one of the unused runways to experience live platooning (which is an incredible, if quite weird, technology; it feels so strange to sit in a truck that is actually being “driven” by the vehicle in front of it).
Visitors to the IAA obviously won’t get to experience platooning on the MAN stand, but, boy oh boy, there will be lots of other technological treats for them to see. The big news at the IAA will be MAN’s electric vehicles – specifically the eTGE, a battery electric version of the new MAN van, and the eTGM, the company’s all-electric distribution truck. I drove both at the press event; they’re utterly magnificent. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail about the truck right now; it will be the star of next month’s Global Focus. Suffice to say that it’s surprisingly dynamic – it was so quick off the hoof that I thought that it was empty … but it was actually loaded to 20 t!
The eTGE – of which production commenced in the MAN plant in Września, Poland, in July – was just as wonderful to drive. It has a range of around 160 km. This is more than enough; I was chatting to the MAN chaps and they told me that 70 percent of lightweight commercial vehicles used in urban areas average less than 100 km a day.
Most operators will charge the vehicle overnight, using an AC wallbox. This will take about five and a half hours. Rapid recharging from zero to 80 percent is possible within 45 minutes, using a DC charger. So, in theory, the driver could recharge his van during his lunch hour; no problem! The van is powered by a 36 kWh battery (the 264 lithium-ion HV cells are stored under the slightly raised load floor, which means that the batteries don’t eat up load space).
I drove the eTGE in and around the airport, and it was a real blast to drive: 100 kW of power is on tap and the 290 Nm of torque (which is immediately available) means that the van springs forward like a racehorse as soon as you prod the accelerator.
Also on the subject of the TGE, I drove the van with its all-new optionally available eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox. With all the other test vehicles, we were always accompanied by a member of the MAN team. With the automatic TGE, we were released from the airport sans a babysitter … and it was great to be able to focus on the navigation rather than on changing gears. This considerably bolstered my chances of returning to the airport!
Another innovation within the TGE range is an all-new minibus, which seats 15 passengers. It will be absolutely ideal for shuttles, excursions or hotel transfers.
Speaking of buses, I also drove the all-new MAN Lion’s City, which will be manufactured in the MAN plant in Starachowice, Poland, from early 2019. Highlights of the new bus include an all-new driveline with the MAN EfficientHybrid, independent suspension on the front axle, gorgeous LED daytime driving lights and a new modular interior. The Lion’s City has also been on a strict diet: the 12-metre variant has slimmed down by around 1 130 kg – so, as I discovered on the autobahn near the airport, it’s more dynamic too.
The new, lighter D1556 LOH engine, which already complies with the Euro-6d emission standard valid from September 1, 2019, can be supplemented with the MAN EfficientHybrid system, which significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions. I experienced its stop-start function, and it’s quiet and unobtrusive (which is saying a lot, because I usually abhor stop-start functions). Also look out for the fully electric Lion’s City E on MAN’s stand at the IAA.
Also on the bus and coach front, I was delighted to see that the Neoplan Skyliner and Cityliner can be equipped with cameras instead of mirrors. Too cool! I took a Neoplan for a spin, and the cameras work really well, too.
Now, as I wrap up this part of Global Focus, I know exactly what you’re thinking: what about new truck technology? I experienced lots of that, too … but you’re going to have to wait until our next issue to read all about it!