Innovation  |  Technology 

If there’s a will, there’s a way

Fresh produce deliveries from a cold storage facility outside the city to stores in the city centre. In theory, this is the perfect requirement profile for the MAN eTruck deployed by Rewe Group Österreich in Vienna.

The MAN TGM 26.360 E of Rewe Group Österreich delivers groceries all over Vienna.
The MAN TGM 26.360 E of Rewe Group Österreich delivers groceries all over Vienna.

Fruits, vegetables, yoghurt, milk, butter and eggs – almost anything that customers of supermarkets such as Billa, Penny, Merkur and ADEG in and around Vienna buy on a daily basis comes from a fresh produce warehouse owned by Rewe International AG in Vienna-Inzersdorf. Approximately 90 million order units are shipped from the enormous cold storage facility each year. Since September 2018 also with a low-noise and locally emission-free MAN TGM 26.360 E. Rewe Group Österreich is a member of the Austrian Council for Sustainable Logistics (CNL) and another partner who is testing a fully electric distribution truck in practice as part of the MAN eTruck field test.

Driver Istvan Nemeth is convinced that the field test is an important step on the way to series production.

Nemeth works the late shift between 3 pm and midnight. Depending on how many stores have placed orders, he does two to three delivery runs with the eTGM to distribute the goods and to make sure they are on the shelves when the stores open the next morning. The 53-year-old has been working as a truck driver at Rewe Group Österreich for 23 years but has never come across a piece of equipment as unusual as the e-truck. “The driving experience is unique, it reacts instantly to every tiny movement of the pedal. The first time I drove with it was incredible. I couldn’t stop smiling – and still can’t”, he summarises his experiences. Others also seem to be fascinated by the vehicle: “We have caught plenty of looks during the mandatory night-time heavy duty transport checks that the police conduct on the south-east motorway of the A4 in Vienna. Every time, the entire team drops whatever they are doing and curiously inspect the MAN.”

Field tests eradicate technical weak spots

In the process, the trained car mechanic had the opportunity to experience some of the little quirks of a prototype that are not fully foreseeable... “Of course, a truck that doesn’t work isn’t great, but I think it’s a good thing for possible technical weaknesses to reveal themselves now. That’s what the field test is all about. I’m sure these things won’t be an issue in series production.” The one thing that Istvan Nemeth disliked the most about the downtimes? He laughs: “That I had to go back to driving a diesel truck while the eTruck was being repaired, of course. That was a real culture shock!”

The e-truck can be frequently seen driving along the Praterstraße, with a Billa store right around the corner.

The range of application of the eTGM covers central Vienna and a radius of approximately 50 kilometres around it. “None of us has ever had problems with the range, on the contrary”, says Istvan Nemeth. “Yesterday, for example, I had a route of about 100 kilometres, with the tail lift in use at every drop and a lot of cooling output, and I still had 40% battery left at the end. And for me, there is a particular motivation behind driving the e-truck economically: you can see the result in digital form right in front of your eyes.” Once he has connected the truck to the 150 kW high-performance charging station, the test driver meticulously enters the consumption, range, kilometres covered and remarks on technical issues into an overview.

The clipboard with the notes from his colleagues is the first thing that Boban Stevanovic picks up and reads once he has checked the charging status of the truck’s battery. He has the early shift and starts at 5 am the next morning with the fully electric 26-tonne truck . “The drivers who work with this trucks and the project management team of the fleet are in very close dialogue and talk about anything concerning the trucks”, Boban explains. “It’s our special baby, after all. It might sound a bit strange, but that’s how it is.”

Driver Boban Stevanovic was very eager to try out something new.

The MAN eTruck brings the future to life

The 40-year-old has been working as a truck driver since 2005 and has been with the Rewe Group Österreich for five years. When he was asked if the wanted to be a test driver, he immediately said yes. “My son is enrolled at a polytechnic college and his classmates bombarded me with questions when they found out that I'm driving an e-truck. I think us grown-ups should also be curious about the future.” He says that personally, he would like the range to be extended in the future, so that it won’t be anything to think about any more. But other than that he thinks the eTruck is already a very good vehicle: “It’s comfortable, it has great acceleration and it protects the environment.”

Between them, the drivers have already accumulated 20,000 kilometres and are obviously impressed by their ‘baby’. What does Rewe’s fleet manager Harald Camondo think? “The eTruck supports our own fleet of 54 trucks at the Vienna-Inzersdorf location as an additional vehicle. So any potential downtime can be compensated for. Dispatch includes it in the schedule like any other truck. Because when everything works, it’s absolutely outstanding. This is why the E-MAN is fundamentally a good match for us”, he explains and says, smiling: “And the driving experience is simply ingenious, there is no other way of putting it.”

Ready for e-trucks from series production

The 35,000 square metres of cold storage depots are powered via already installed high-voltage cables routed all across the premises, meaning that building a high-power charging station with an output of 150 kW was relatively simple. “It takes about 45 minutes for the eTGM to be fully charged and since we operate in shifts, it’s not necessary for all vehicles to be refuelled at the same time. That means it would be possible for us to use multiple eTrucks from series production at this location without any issues”, says the truck project manager with confidence.

Harald Camondo sees a variety of different incentives for using fully electric trucks in distribution transport: “One thing is the road toll. The Austrian motorway operating company ASFINAG calculates this based on mileage, CO2 emissions and the day-night driving tariff. The e-truck generates no local emissions, it is quiet and we can increase our driving times at night. That should be taken into consideration as part of the evaluation. It would also be good for delivery times if the restrictions imposed by noise control regulations were lifted a bit.” Apart from the transport and logistics sector, the fleet manager also thinks that the government, power suppliers and technology developers hold a certain responsibility, especially when it comes to the charging infrastructure: “Things are looking promising, but it’s all about investments and especially the will to move forward – the Rewe Group has that will.”

The supermarkets Billa, Penny, Merkur and ADEG are supplied.

The supermarkets Billa, Penny, Merkur and ADEG are supplied.

Fleet manager Harald Camondo still has mixed feelings, but he sees great potential.

Fleet manager Harald Camondo still has mixed feelings, but he sees great potential.

The high-power charging station charges the eTruck in no time.

The high-voltage plug can only be disconnected if it has first been secured.

The high-voltage plug can only be disconnected if it has first been secured.

The e-truck is mainly used to transport cooled food and beverages.

The e-truck is mainly used to transport cooled food and beverages.

Deliveries during the late shift mostly arrive when the supermarkets are already closed.

Deliveries during the late shift mostly arrive when the supermarkets are already closed.

The Danube river is crossed via the Wiener Reichsbrücke.

The Danube river is crossed via the Wiener Reichsbrücke.

Tradition meets innovation – not just one but multiple delivery addresses are located all around the world-famous Prater.

Tradition meets innovation – not just one but multiple delivery addresses are located all around the world-famous Prater.

Boban Stevanovic (left) and Istvan Nemeth (right) agree: Testing the eTruck is a fantastic job.

Boban Stevanovic (left) and Istvan Nemeth (right) agree: Testing the eTruck is a fantastic job.

Despite the continuous use of the tail lift and the cooling system, the range of the eTruck is impressive.

Despite the continuous use of the tail lift and the cooling system, the range of the eTruck is impressive.