The battery is the heart of an electric truck. As well as of an eBus, mobile machines or stationary energy storages. It’s no wonder then, that MAN is taking battery production into their own hands at the Nuremberg Technical Centre.
Nothing moves without a battery. Neither an electric truck, like the new MAN eTruck , nor an electricity-powered bus, like the MAN Lion’s City E , a small loader on the farm or an excavator on the construction site. And it’s quite simple: the energy is missing. The traction battery is a decisive factor in the drive of an electric vehicle and therefore also plays a key role in achieving the goal of “zero emissions.” This is because the future of delivery and of public transport will also be electric.
MAN Truck & Bus is therefore taking the production of energy storage units into its own hands, for the electrification of its fleet. They are doing so at the eMobility Technical Centre at the Nuremberg site, where high-voltage battery packs are soon to be mass-produced. Engineering, development, production – everything in-house and under one roof. Construction of the new production hall is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2023 and the hall should be ready for occupancy a year later. The first battery pack is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025, in Nuremberg. Over five years, MAN will be investing around 100 million euros in the entire process.
“We produce batteries which are optimised for commercial vehicles, and which will fully meet the expectations of future customers, especially in terms of safety,” says Dr Michael Bernath, who heads the development of the new powertrain components at MAN. “The results of all the tests, including the sensitive high-voltage components, have been 100% positive so far.”
“In preparation for large-scale production, we have already been developing prototype batteries in this set-up since 2021, which we will then be able to produce in smaller quantities from the end of the year,” adds Markus Pröpster, head of the eMobility Technical Centre in Nuremberg. “The new MAN eTruck should be delivered to customers as early as 2024.” Critical, quality-relevant processes are already being tested and automated now, so that they can be smoothly applied later for larger quantities.
The production facility complements the MAN eMobility Centre at the main plant in Munich, which opened in 2021. “With the go-ahead for the production of battery packs in Nuremberg and in conjunction with the production of eTrucks at MAN’s Munich site, we have created a commercial vehicle e-cluster that will secure MAN’s future,” said Alexander Vlaskamp, Chairman of MAN Truck & Bus SE, at the laying of the foundation stone on 29 June 2022.
The energy storage systems used by MAN are lithium-ion modules with nickel, manganese and cobalt. Each battery pack consists of battery cells that are grouped into modules and combined in individual layers. “We have three variants for trucks, buses and later for specific applications, depending on customer needs,” Bernath explains. It is already MAN’s third battery generation, he says, with more power, more energy, more range and a longer service life. “We have also benefited from the experience and synergies in the VW and TRATON Group,” says the power unit expert.
“Above all, the proximity to Audi in Ingolstadt helped us a lot,” says Pröpster. “Many employees who came from the engine sector were trained there and now assemble batteries for us. The know-how that has been passed on is immensely important for job security at the Nuremberg site, which was previously purely an engine production facility.” According to Bernath, other experts from MAN Munich, but also from elsewhere, have also played their part in the development. “It’s nice to see what has been created.” A total of 350 future-proof jobs are to be created in the Franconian city in production alone.
The progress in batteries from MAN goes hand in hand with the research and development of megawatt charging, which the commercial vehicle manufacturer is pushing in parallel. After all, the Powerpacks are intended to power heavy trucks in particular, like the MAN eTruck, which will promise a daily range of 600 to 800 kilometres when it enters the market.
But the “Bus of the Year 2023” will also be equipped with the new battery generation later on. The MAN Lion’s City 12 E has a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of up to 480 kilowatt hours (kWh) on board, which reliably takes it up to 350 kilometres on one charge if driven in the right way. The all-electric city bus also proved its endurance and reliability on the Electrifying Europe Tour , during which it drove almost 2,500 kilometres on its own axis across Europe in ten stages.
In addition to production, MAN is also working on the after-use strategy for its batteries, so that they can be used resource-efficiently and put to subsequent use. In the so-called first life of the batteries, the focus is on training customers to drive, charge and use the vehicles in a battery-friendly way. This can significantly increase the service life of the battery. In the event of a defect, repair is the first measure to be taken.
If battery packs in a vehicle can no longer be used as traction batteries, they will then be put to subsequent use. As things stand today, there are three options for this. Firstly, they can be reused in another vehicle (second use), as long as it still has sufficient charging capacity. Secondly, a second battery life (Second Life), for example as buffer storage for solar or wind power plants is possible. MAN is currently researching with various partners and the University of Kassel whether used batteries are suitable as stationary storage units.
Thirdly, recycling comes into play after the second-life application, or if batteries are no longer suitable for storage applications after an accident. For this purpose, MAN is part of the Volkswagen Group’s recycling network, with partners throughout Europe. The declared aim is to achieve a closed cycle for the raw materials – in keeping with MAN’s efforts for sustainability . The recovered raw materials such as nickel, manganese, cobalt or lithium will then flow into the new production of batteries. Currently, the recycling rate is more than 70% in relation to the weight of the battery.