HARTMUT SCHICK (DAIMLER BUSES) ON ELECTRIFICATION OF CITARO: "WE ARE NOT TOO LATE"
Daimler is once again very well-represented at Buswold. In hall 5, the South German multinational presents both of its brands Setra and Mercedes-Benz. Most of the news was already presented earlier this year with the Setra double-decker and the new Mercedes-Benz Tourismo. Still, for Busworld, they had another scoop in store, the Mercedes-Benz Citaro ‘mild-hybrid’. A striking step amid the battery-electric overload at Busworld. We asked Hartmut Schick, CEO of Daimler Buses, the obvious question: why?
For a long time already, the Daimler representatives have been announcing that an electric Citaro city bus will be taken in serial production in 2019. That seems quite a little too late, as other players in this market will have a major lead by then. According to Hartmut Schick, it’s not that big a deal. “The larger volumes, the tenders, will hit the market around 2020.” The electric Citaro will be tested with customers in 2018 so it can go into serial production in 2019. I will be built in Mannheim, where Mercedes-Benz has a capacity for 3,000 buses per year.
Daimler Buses managed to keep the costs of this mild-hybrid low by using components from other divisions, such as the hybrid system derived from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The same will go for the batteries and other electrical components later. Daimler is currently building a battery factory where batteries for all models will be produced; quite a scale advantage.
For Schick, it is all about the best-quality battery. “In winter, sixty percent of the consumed energy goes to heating and auxiliary systems. Only forty percent goes straight to the powertrain. This shows you have to look at the complete thermos package.”
He confirms that the electric Citaro will be an entirely new platform. He even calls it a completely new ecosystem. “It has nothing to do with a diesel bus anymore. The axles are different, the drive, all auxiliaries are electric and so on. Only the shell remains the same.” The same goes for the aftersales, but also for the preparatory phase. Within Daimler Buses, the new department ‘Mobility Solutions’ was created for that purpose. Road infrastructure, bus lines and charging infrastructure must be analysed to allow optimum deployment and smart charging. We will offer our customers an all-round package.”
Daimler Buses moved away from the philosophy of coming up with new prototypes and improving them on the go. Schick: “We want to offer a complete and good product, ready to be built in large volumes. A few years ago, the battery technology was not that advanced. Keep in mind that the European market for city buses is about 10,000 buses a year. At the moment, 800 electric buses are in operation, commissioned as from 2010. So if you ask me if we are too late, I don’t think so. You must not forget that operators are only now starting to think of converting their bus fleets to electric ones. Meanwhile, we are so far in the process that the bus has been tested thoroughly both in severe winter and hot summer conditions”.
Despite this revolution in drive technology, Schick warns us that until 2015, seventy percent of the total bus volume will still run on diesel engines. By 2030, that will be reversed into seventy percent electric and thirty percent diesel. Both in Europe and the rest of the world. Schick: “If you compare Euro 5 with Euro 6, you will find that an Euro 6 engine consumes fuel thirty percent more efficiently. Diesel engines can still be further improved and that is still necessary. But our new mild-hybrid can be delivered at a relatively small additional cost compared to a full hybrid. It is up to 8.5 percent more economical than our diesel Citaro. Taken over a whole year, this yields a significant financial advantage in terms of fuel costs.”