Making HGVs more eco-friendly is a tough task, since fully electric vehicles are often limited by the lack of an adequate charging infrastructure, making them not truly viable for long-distance transport.
Hybrid power trains tend to be seen as a good stop-gap technology, building towards an age when EVs truly become a viable option for operators of all sizes.
MAN Truck & Bus is the latest firm to jump on the hybrid bandwagon, announcing the development of a new concept bus which will combine electric motors and a diesel engine to deliver excellent performance in urban environments without causing such a negative impact in terms of emissions and noise levels.
The bus is not going to be shown in public until the final quarter of the year, but the manufacturer is already talking about what it hopes to achieve. It is being created in conjunction with the ECOCHAMPS project, which seeks to push the envelope in terms of efficiency and sustainability in the production of trucks, buses and coaches.
Automotive World reports that cost-effectiveness is also something that is being factored into the design of this bus, since MAN wants to make sure that its customers can justify purchasing it in the long run because it represents a sensible investment – not simply because it is greener than the competition.
Company spokesperson Dr Gotz von Esebeck explained that the cost of ownership was something which could be lowered through the use of hybrid technology, helping to make fuel less of a burden by pairing electric and diesel power effectively.
Furthermore, MAN is seeking to ensure that the components it develops for this bus are also cross-compatible with a variety of its other products, meaning that it can lower manufacturing costs and enable other trucks and commercial vehicles it builds to benefit from the progress that is made without necessarily having to embrace hybridisation wholesale.
Flexible Hybrid Platform
The hybrid platform is intended to be flexible, meaning that customers can specify a different power train set-up if they require it. This could include battery-powered electric motors or even a hydrogen fuel cell as yet another alternative.
Such adaptability will be valuable further down the line as the EV marketplace has yet to settle into its final form, and the nature of the refuelling and recharging opportunities which will be available in the future is still uncertain.
The hybrid design is singled out as being especially suitable for buses which are not only used on the streets of towns and cities but also in a mixed environment, perhaps ferrying people from outside urban centres as part of a shuttle service. This means that the electric operation for low-speed travel will be cleaner and less disruptive than current diesel-engined HGVs, while the traditional engine will be able to kick in when faster speeds are required on larger roads.
It is still several months before this concept vehicle is unveiled, and in the meantime MAN will no doubt provide more information as it makes progress.