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africa|environment|service|services|system|testing|transport

MAN to start local assembly of electric bus in 2024

17th October 2023

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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MAN Truck & Bus has supplied Cape Town’s Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) with its first Lion’s Explorer E electric bus.

While the bus boasts a locally made body, its chassis was fully imported.

However, newly appointed MAN Truck & Bus South Africa (MAN SA) boss Jan Aichinger hopes to change this, and to assemble electric buses in South Africa in the same way the company produces fossil fuel busses.

Production of the Explorer E will start as chassis-in-a-box in Poland in May next year.

This will be sent to South Africa for assembly around July – when the locally made bus body will be joined with the put-together chassis. The first locally assembled unit will be ready for customers in November next year.

As the battery system is the most expensive part of the Explorer E, Aichinger says it is inevitable that local content on the Explorer E will be lower than that of a current diesel bus.

Local assembly is expected to save MAN SA 20% in import duties. MAN SA has an assembly plant in Durban, and a bus body plant in Gauteng.

Aichinger is familiar with South African operating conditions, having spent several years working in the country for another German bus and truck manufacturer.

He describes bus transport as “the ideal use case” to introduce electric mobility in South Africa.

The GABS Explorer E electric bus will be tested until September next year to evaluate its day-to-day performance.

GABS is also testing three electric buses from a well-known Chinese manufacturer. The current goal is to acquire more than 60 electric buses a year, says GABS CEO Francois Meyer.

The Explorer E electric bus was specifically developed for the African market, following a request by GABS 18 months ago for a MAN electric bus that would suit the South African environment.

The 66-seater Explorer E carries one more passenger than an equivalent diesel-powered Lion’s Explorer. The electric bus is powered by four modularised lithium-ion batteries of 80 kWh each. It has a range of 300 km to 350 km, with a battery life of up to 14 years.

A second Explorer E is currently being assembled abroad, with testing to follow in Türkiye.

Concurrently, MAN SA will ready its dealers, service staff and plant personnel on what it takes to build and service an electric bus.

Aichinger is reluctant to discuss the price tag on the Explorer E, as the field tests may identify the need for potentially price-altering modifications.

He adds that MAN SA has received interest in the Explorer E from several other operators in South Africa.

Read the full article by Irma Venter here.

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