Trucks have a terrible reputation among consumers. They are seen as noisy, dirty smelly creatures that cause congestion on our highways and pollute the environment. That’s certainly not true, insists CHARLEEN CLARKE, who reveals that one truck and bus manufacturer is moving mountains to change this perception
Let’s not beat around the bush: there are some challenges with trucks. They do sometimes cause congestion when they shed their loads (because irresponsible operators have not ensured that those loads are properly tied down). And yes, they do a certain amount of environmental damage: the transportation sector as a whole (not just trucks) is currently responsible for approximately 15 percent of global CO2 emissions, a figure that’s expected to reach 22 percent by 2020. But they’re certainly not monsters!
Many companies within the transport arena are not sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to emissions or climate strategies – and one such company is MAN.
Global transport giant
Before we reveal the extent of the company’s highly commendable plans in this regard, let’s kick off with a brief introduction to the company. The MAN Group is one of Europe’s leading industrial players in transport-related engineering, with revenues of approximately €16,5 billion (roughly R170 billion) in 2011. Volkswagen AG became the majority shareholder in this manufacturer and distributor of trucks, buses, diesel engines, turbomachinery and special gear units last year, marking the start of a new chapter in its 254-year history.
MAN currently employs approximately 52 500 people all over the world (including right here in South Africa). It has 31 production sites in 13 countries – and these facilities naturally all consume raw materials and electricity and use resources to generate energy (with CO2 emissions obviously resulting along the way).
But if the company has its way, those CO2 emissions will reduce progressively over the years. In fact, it has just published its Climate Strategy, whereby it intends reducing CO2 emissions at its sites by 25 percent worldwide by 2020 (baseline: 2008). The company is committed to meeting this target. “We can only meet our responsibility and seize business opportunities at the same time if we have clear and binding targets,” says Dr Georg Pachta-Reyhofen, chief executive officer of MAN SE. “After all, climate protection and cost effectiveness belong together: efficient, low-emission production and products minimise emissions and cut costs.”
Yvonne Benkert, head of corporate responsibility for MAN SE, concurs. “MAN wants to be recognised as one of the industry players to have best dealt with the challenges of climate change by 2020,” she tells SHEQ MANAGEMENT.
But how will the company achieve this goal? The production sites will become more energy efficient and the company will improve its so-called “energy-management technology” throughout the organisation.
It is currently analysing the feasibility of using its own MAN combined heat and power (CHP) plants to generate electricity at the sites with the highest energy consumption levels.
In the coming years, MAN will also investigate the potential for using CHP at all its sites. In addition, it will step up its efforts to use renewable energies such as geothermal, biomass, wind, and solar energy at all its sites. This will allow the company to cut its CO2 emissions and also keep its energy costs from rising, making it more competitive in the process.
The programme has already kicked off at some of MAN’s plants. For instance, at the MAN Truck & Bus plant in Steyr, Austria, the waste heat from engine test beds is already being used to heat production halls, earning the company an award from the Austrian Environment Ministry in the process. Moving to the east, MAN Truck & Bus and MAN Diesel & Turbo have already met with considerable success when it comes to improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. In Changzhou, China, for instance, the company has already almost halved energy consumption per working hour from 48 to 27 kilowatt-hours over the past year – thanks to implementation of a needs-based central building control system.
Focusing on product
The company will also focus on producing products with lower CO2 emissions. As Bruce Dickson, deputy CEO of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, explains: “In order to reduce the carbon footprint of our products, we analyse the product life cycle — from the procurement of raw materials to recycling — to determine at what stage they produce the most CO2 emissions. Up to 90 percent of emissions are generated during the service life of the products. This means that the most effective way for us to cut CO2 emissions is by using energy-efficient technologies in our products. By optimising the way in which they use our products, our customers can cut fuel consumption even further, a process we support by offering training courses for professional drivers and operators of large-bore diesel engines.
“Reducing carbon dioxide emissions during the service life of our products goes hand in hand with cutting the total cost of ownership for our customers,” he points out. “As a responsible OEM, we need to show immediate commitment to the environment by offering the best possible fuel efficiency right now. We also aim to look for continuous ways and means of improving efficiency and ensuring that we are abreast of the latest technologies in managing exhaust gas emissions more efficiently in the long run.”
The company has also been producing increasingly frugal vehicles – as evidenced by its EfficientLine branded products. These trucks, as their name implies, are über efficient. “We have streamlined specific areas of the vehicle to reduce aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, auxiliary power consumption and overall tare mass,” says Dickson. “As such, they deliver class-leading fuel consumption performance, effectively reducing total cost of ownership and harmful exhaust emissions.”
Last year, in order to promote these economical vehicles, MAN conducted its first EfficientLine Tour in Europe in 2011. As part of this tour, a fleet of MAN trucks criss-crossed that continent – and the MAN TGX EfficientLine recorded a fuel saving of almost three litres per 100 km over a comparative (but not EfficientLine) truck! This is a massive achievement; remember that trucks travel hundreds of thousands of kilometres each and every year.
In 2012, MAN Truck & Bus South Africa will launch its new flagship truck-tractor, the MAN TGS EfficientLine. “This vehicle will use the same fuel-efficient design principles as its European counterpart,” explains Dickson. “The new range is designed for on-highway long-haul applications and includes two 6×4 models and a 4×2 derivative.”
The MAN deputy CEO says this is just one of many of the company’s environmental initiatives. “Climate change is among the greatest challenges to humanity. MAN is fully aware of and acknowledges its responsibility to contribute to reducing the global carbon footprint of the transportation and energy sector,” he tells SHEQ MANAGEMENT.
This also entails developing vehicles that don’t rely on the conventional combustion engine. The German federal government has – highly commendably – set a target of having one million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, of which
50 000 are to be electric commercial vehicles. Naturally, MAN is closely involved in this initiative. In the Bavaria-Saxony region of Germany, MAN is also working on a city logistics concept that integrates a number of MAN hybrid commercial vehicles. Tests have demonstrated fuel savings – and an associated reduction in CO2 emissions – of up to 15 percent.
We salute the company for its planet-pleasing efforts; take a bow, MAN!