Hamburger Hochbahn Orders 20 Mercedes-Benz Citaro Electric Buses

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The Hamburg (Germany) based bus operator Hamburger Hochbahn AG has placed an order for 20 units of the new all-electric Mercedes-Benz Citaro city buses.

As revealed in a Daimler press release, this firm’s order is expected to be delivered sometime before the end of 2018.

The head of Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) Buses, Till Oberwörder, commented on the news: “The first major order for our fully electrically powered, emission-free Citaro has been received even before the official premiere, demonstrating the confidence transport operators have in our concept for electromobility in urban public transport. With the Citaro, we are bringing a major component on the way to locally emission-free bus traffic to market.”

The comment about the order occurring before the official premier is a reference to the fact that the all-electric version of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro isn’t slated to officially enter production until late 2018.

Here’s more from a press release (via Green Car Congress): “The drive system of the new all-electric Citaro is based on the ZF AVE 130 electric portal axle with electric motors at the wheel hubs, as previously deployed in other variants of the Citaro. Peak motor output is 2 x 125 kW, while torque is 2 x 485 N·m.

“The modular battery packs offer a total capacity of up to 243 kWh. The batteries are cooled to the ideal temperature for maximum charge, maximum usable capacity, and a long service life. The batteries are charged at a connector in the bus depot. After the series start-up of the Citaro, further variants for intermediate charging en route will become available.”

As the model is based closely on the best-selling Mercedes-Benz Citaro, sales should be strong. Notably, Hamburger Hochbahn has itself purchased more than 1,000 Citaro platform buses to date, so this initial order of the electric version should lead to further sales at a later point.

An order of 20 electric buses in Europe or the United States is news worth celebrating. It’s a big order. But as regular readers of CleanTechnica know, it would be a small mound of sand on the beach in the Chinese electric bus market. It’s good to see Daimler getting into a competitive market that Proterra has long been leading in over in the USA and BYD has been leading in globally. However, it’s questionable whether Daimler is actually prepared to compete. Hamburg, as we’ve pointed out, is quite a captive customer for Mercedes-Benz buses. How about São Paulo? London? Tokyo?

Competitiveness in a market like buses generally comes down to a couple of things — economies of scale and better technology. Does Mercedes-Benz have superior technology for electric buses? Does it have greater economies of scale to take advantage of for electric buses?

Year China Electric Bus Sales
2011 1136
2012 1904
2013 1672
2014 12,760
2015 94,260
2016 115,700
2017 89,546
TOTAL 316,978

The good thing for Daimler is that many places in Europe would prefer a Mercedes-Benz bus over a Chinese one. That gives it a leg up. The challenge in Europe is that development doesn’t compare to a place like China, so bus fleets aren’t rapidly expanding. New bus orders are primarily to replace buses, and that is only needed to a limited degree in European cities. So, with all of that context in mind, an order for 20 electric buses is a notable success for Daimler — hence the press release.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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