The apparent problem child  of the Traton family of truck brands, MAN  declared at the IAA in Hannover this week, that the decarbonisation of freight transport, the digitalisation of logistics and the worsening shortage of truck drivers pose fundamental challenges for transport companies are its main focus for the future.

MAN’s CEO Alexander Vlaskamp however, poured cold water  on hydrogen  as a fuel solution, and was emphatic that extracting it from that cold water would remain out of reach economically for some time to come.

He told the gathered media in Hannover that the MAN brand would be providing answers to these questions at the IAA Transportation 2022, as well as shaping the change in conventional products promising lower fuel consumption, more workplace attractiveness and better comfort for drivers and more innovative digital services. It’s just that MAN seems to have different answers to the other truck makers in Europe.

Vlaskamp revealed that  the answers would come from future CO2-free and intelligently networked transport, the development of autonomous vehicles and the market launch of its purely electric large-series trucks which will come to market from 2024.

The electric offerings  were shown by MAN for the first time in Hannover claiming a daily range of up to 800 kilometres, along with megawatt charging capabilities.

“The new eTruck will not only electrify long-distance transport, but all common transport segments covered by diesel trucks today. Its production with conventional trucks on a series production line makes the switch from diesel to electric particularly flexible,” said Vlaskamp on the IAA media day.

However Vlaskamp was pointed in his comments, dismissing synthetic diesel or e fuels and also hydrogen fuel cells, saying all three  would be too expensive for some time to come and simply could not match battery electric vehicles powered by green power.

This flies in the face of much larger and more successful rivals  such as  Daimler, Volvo and Iveco, who have all made major plays on both H2 and e fuels.

“The change towards sustainable, climate-neutral mobility is taking place ever faster, also and especially in the transport industry and that is why MAN is focusing on the three megatrends accompanying the change at this year’s IAA,”  the MAN boss said.

“Zero emissions for the CO2-free transport of goods by road, digitalisation for the optimal integration of trucks into transport processes and autonomous driving for more safety and efficiency, are the three areas we are targeting,” Vlaskamp said.

“But actively shaping this transformation also means remaining innovative with conventional products,” he added.

Vlaskamp explained that MAN is  making its production more flexible and will be building its future heavy eTruck on production lines shared with conventional vehicles,  enabling the Traton brand to produce electrified or diesel-powered trucks for its customers in the most efficient way.

“Our new eTruck will cover all areas of application when production starts, whether for regional distribution of organic milk or long-distance transport of green steel,” said Vlaskamp.

“We accompany our customers in the changeover to e-mobility as closely as possible based on our many years of expertise in the field of e-buses and e-vans as well as our electric eTGM in distribution transport,” Vlaskamp explained.

MAN said its focus at Hannover was what it quaintly described as its “near-series prototype” of its MAN eTruck.

While its opponents were announcing that their electric trucks were either already in series production or coming to market in the next few months. MAN tolfd the gathering that its e trucks will not go into service with customers until 2024, almost two years away.

The company said a special technical feature of its electric will be its preparation for future megawatt charging, as well as high charging capacities with short charging times, which it said would make the electric trucks suitable for heavy-duty long-distance transport with daily ranges of between 600 and 800 kilometres, and at a later date even up to 1000 kilometres.

These ambitious targets are well in excess what its industry rivals are predicting for battery electric trucks, with the others looking to H2 FCEV trucks for these long distance and heavy load scenarios.

“Together with low operating costs and the best energy balance, battery electric vehicles offer the most suitable technology for future CO2-free commercial vehicle fleets,” Vlaskamp emphasised.

“:In terms of application diversity and possible body concepts, the future MAN eTruck is in no way inferior to today’s diesel truck, the CO2-free long-distance transport of refrigerated food will be just as possible with it, as will low-noise and exhaust-free waste disposal in the city or the fully electric transport of materials to the construction site,” he added.

“Bio fuels, synthetic fuels and hydrogen maybe a possibility, however, they are  just that, a possibility,” he said.

“Actually to optimise the existing fleet we will need to make sure we are using biofuels in those existing fleets,” he said.

“However when it comes to biogas, reusing the gas which is emitted from landmasses and synthetic fuels then yes, it’s possible, but like the conversion cost of producing hydrogen using electricity, then they are too expensive and they are too expensive for business to business,” he stated

Vlaskamp went on to say  MAN believes battery electric vehicles will be a better solution, and maybe later on,when green hydrogen is sufficient available and is at an attractive price, then it might be also a use case to use hydrogen as a range extender to support electric vehicles.