9 Feb 2024
For the last few weeks, 76 zero-emission MAN eBuses have been carrying passengers through Oslo. The electric Lions have shown that they can even cope with adverse weather conditions.
It is pitch dark, with only a handful of lamps lighting the early morning at the depot of Norwegian public transport operator Unibuss in Oslo. Vicious snow flurries sweep across the site and the temperature is well below -10°. There can be no doubt that winter in the Norwegian capital is a real challenge for both mankind and materials. Bus driver Fozia Arshad is nevertheless looking forward to the start of her working day, and that’s for one very special reason: “Today is the first day we’ll be driving the new buses. I’m really excited!” she explains as she makes her way to her new workspace.
She’ll be working in a red and black painted MAN Lion’s City E. Unibuss has ordered a total of 76 electric buses from MAN over the last year – 59 solo buses and 17 articulated versions. They were delivered at the end of 2023. Arshad starts the brand-new bus with the press of a button and leaves the depot for today’s tour of the snowy streets. The Lion’s City E has been in scheduled service since December 2023, primarily in the northeast and eastern areas of Oslo – in popular districts with many parks, museums and charming wooden houses.
The electric Lions fit perfectly into the image of the Norwegian capital, which is seeking to become the world’s first zero emission city. No other metropolis has a higher proportion of electric cars. Trams and ferries also run on hydroelectric power. It is therefore logical that public transport operators such as Unibuss should also turn to environmentally friendly propulsion, which MAN believes is where the future lies. “This substantial delivery of eBuses emphasises MAN’s commitment to the path to zero emissions,” says Tim Schuler, Head of Sales Bus, Norway. “It also fits in perfectly with Oslo’s zero emissions goals and improves quality of life in the city.”
It is more than just its environmentally friendly transport that makes Oslo stand out – the city is also notorious for its winter. During the coldest part of the year, the temperature can sometimes drop to -30°. Today feels wintry and a frosty wind gusts through the city. It’s not an easy environment for eBuses, but Unibuss has confidence in its fleet of Lion’s City E buses, even in these conditions. The two driven axles on the articulated buses ensure superb handling: stability is increased, which offers a clear advantage, especially on snow-covered streets in the winter.
The safety of eBuses is another plus point, with the many assistance systems such as MAN BirdView, which provides a 360° bird’s eye view of the area immediately surrounding the vehicle, and the MAN OptiView mirror-replacement system making a valuable contribution. Simply put, the buses are comprehensively equipped with the latest safety technology that MAN has to offer its customers.
The subject of flexibility also plays a key role for Unibuss. The solo buses are fitted with five battery packs, while the articulated buses have seven. For both variants, that’s one battery pack fewer than the standard version. However, analysis of Oslo’s route planning showed that these configurations would be sufficient. The advantage is that the vehicle weight is reduced and passenger capacity is increased.
MAN is also building its own infrastructure in Norway to enable it to look after its eBus customers well. “We’re opening a workshop specifically for EVs,” explains Kristian Kro, Customer Service Director of MAN Norway. “The technology revolution is also bringing changes to the skills we need. Our technicians therefore undertake specific training on electric vehicles.” In the future, servicing will cover more than just repairs and maintenance; it will also include a variety of digital offerings and fleet management systems.
The order from Norway impressively shows that MAN is on the road to success with its eBuses. “We sold 263 Lion’s City E buses in 2022, but that figure had already risen to 771 by 2023,” reports Robert Katzer, Head of Sales & Product Bus at MAN. “And we intend to grow our sales even more in the new year. As a team, we can be very proud of this success!” MAN’s eBuses are now on the road throughout Europe, especially in Germany, Sweden, Spain, Norway and Belgium, representing around 80 per cent of all the Lion’s City E buses registered in Europe in 2023. “We’re particularly pleased with the many follow-up orders. They show how satisfied operators are with their buses,” says Katzer. The first electric Lion is also on the roads of South Africa, where it is showing that it can withstand not only extreme cold, but extreme heat too.
Text: Christian Buck