Electric vehicles – leading the way for low-emission mobility

Electric vehicles (EV) are supporting global efforts to tackle climate change by contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), electric vehicles, powered by electricity from renewable energy sources, have the highest climate protection potential and the best eco-balance of all land-based vehicles. For example, around one million tonnes of CO2 could be saved per year if 10,000 electric trucks were to replace the same number of diesel trucks on the road.

Why electric motors are the foundation of a greener transport transition

Electric vehicles (BEV = Battery Electric Vehicles) rely on electric motors for propulsion, powered by batteries, which in turn are charged by electricity from the grid. These vehicles do not emit any exhaust fumes during operation, making them a sustainable mobility alternative – especially if the electricity is provided by renewable energy sources as the EV, then becomes virtually CO2-neutral.  

Equally, an electric motor can convert energy into motion more efficiently than a combustion engine providing lower operating costs, as electricity is generally cheaper than petrol or diesel. Electric drives also have fewer moving parts, which leads to lower maintenance and repair costs. 

Further information on alternative drives and climate-neutral driving can be found on the TRATON site "Alternative fuels and clean driving".

The challenges of electromobility: range and charging infrastructure are crucial

One of the biggest challenges of electromobility is range. Although modern electric vehicles can usually cover several hundred kilometres on a single charge, potential buyers are still put off by ‘range anxiety.’ This is particularly true in the truck sector, where every kilometer driven contributes directly to turnover. Despite such reservations, modern e-trucks, including the latest e-truck from the Swedish TRATON brand Scania, can already achieve ranges of up to 400 kilometers on a single battery charge. If a Scania truck is connected to a charging station for 45 minutes – during the driver's lunch break, for example – at least another 200 kilometres are possible – a daily mileage that is already sufficient for many journeys. Plus, manufacturers are constantly developing their models further; by 2025 at the latest, daily ranges of 800 kilometres could be a reality.

In the logistics sector in particular, the success of greener technology is contingent on the development of charging infrastructure. Milence, a joint venture between TRATON, Daimler Truck, and the Volvo Group, serves this purpose and aims to power trucks throughout Europe via a network of at least 1,700 fast-charging stations by 2027. This could motivate more transport companies with fleets travelling throughout Europe to switch to BEV trucks. 

The development of new, high-performance traction batteries based on chemistries such as lithium-ion, will also have a major impact on the future of e-mobility. The demands here are particularly high for commercial vehicles due to the significantly higher payloads involved, requiring a much more robust battery design. While a typical car covers an average of 200,000 to 300,000 kilometers over its entire service life, a truck covers up to 160,000 kilometers in a single year alone, meaning that e-trucks must be able to cope with more charging cycles. 

Innovations in battery technology

Scania's battery assembly plant in Södertälje, Sweden.
Scania's battery assembly plant in Södertälje, Sweden

Manufacturers are rising to the challenge of transitioning to battery-powered trucks by investing in new battery technologies. For example, an assembly plant was opened in Södertälje, Sweden, in 2023 by TRATON brand Scania, which invested 100 million euro in the factory and uses it to assemble batteries for the electric trucks of the future. The battery packs are expected to last for 1.5 million kilometres, which corresponds to the average service life of a lorry. 

MAN is also focussing on in-house battery production and is currently building a large-scale production hall in Nuremberg, where up to 100,000 battery units for e-buses and e-trucks are to be manufactured every year from 2025. 

Battery Technology 101

The following battery types are currently in use

  • The classic among power suppliers, popular due to its high energy density and low tendency to self-discharge. Well suited for high currents.

  • The advantages of this type lie in its robustness and longevity. These batteries are also comparatively inexpensive.

  • The lightweight lithium-sulphur batteries reduce the weight of electric vehicles. They are also inexpensive to produce.

  • This type of battery scores points for its high energy density, faster charging, and long service life. However, it is still a little too early for serious use in electric vehicles.

But battery technology is only one aspect of electromobility. MAN has demonstrated how the use of electric trucks can be further optimized through digitalization. The manufacturer, which is one of the leading providers of climate-friendly commercial vehicles, with models such as the Lion's City E electric bus, offers a range of digital services for the MAN eTruck. The MAN eManager program enables comprehensive vehicle and battery monitoring of vehicles during operation. When this is combined with MAN SmartRoute, a control system for drivers and fleet managers, routes can be optimally planned and dangers such as a battery overheating are recognized in good time. In view of the truck charging infrastructure that is still being developed, such systems, which reliably guide the driver to the next charging option and prevent ‘running empty,’ are an important building block for the adoption of the new technologies. The North American TRATON brand Navistar, with its legendary yellow school buses, is also exploring low-carbon mobility – having introduced the first fully electric buses to the road in mid-2021. Navistar is currently working on new solutions and products, amid growing demand for battery electric vehicles and zero-emission transport in the USA. And with the e-Delivery from Volkswagen Truck & Bus, the first electrically powered distribution lorry is in operation in South America. 

V2G – the- electric car and electricity storage system 

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not only depend on battery technology and range; affordability is also crucial. Many electric cars are still so expensive that customers continue to favor combustion engines. One way to alleviate this is by covering some of the operation costs with Vehicle to Grid (V2G) – whereby electric vehicles can feed stored energy back into the power grid at times of high demand. 

V2G could help balance out fluctuations in electricity demand and generation with the energy stored in the vehicle batteries during idle periods. They can also store the surplus supply when there is an oversupply of electricity, for example, from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power. V2G supports the integration of renewable energy sources, improves grid stability and efficiency, and can potentially incentivize electric vehicle owners financially by paying them for providing their battery capacity. Although not all technological and regulatory issues have been resolved, V2G is a promising technology that could fundamentally change the way we generate, distribute, and use energy. 

Driving the industry in the right direction

Electromobility has the potential to transform the logistics industry. It offers clean, efficient, and intelligent mobility that not only contributes to reducing pollution, but also forms the basis for a new, sustainable transport infrastructure. While the challenges along the way are significant, the advantages and opportunities offered by electromobility make it an indispensable part of our future.