Daimler Brings Tomorrow’s Buses to Mexico
Q: What are some of the challenges standing in the way of Mexico’s mobility electrification?
A: One of the booming trends in the transportation industry in Mexico is electric motorization in favor of modernity and environmental care, for which anti-pollution regulations are becoming more restrictive regarding the use of combustion vehicles, especially in large cities.
However, solving the challenge of electromobility in Mexico requires a great commitment and teamwork to coordinate actions of the public and private sectors, technological advances, marketing, financing, public policies and innovation that improve productivity. This will create more sustainable environments and more efficient transportation in our cities.
For this reason, Mercedes-Benz Autobuses is firmly committed to developing solutions that improve urban mobility in large cities. The proposals are designed based on the integration of transport, operators, authorities, the environment, pedestrians and users, with the last two elements being the most relevant for the company.
In Mexico, we have a dedicated bus chassis engineering team that helps design the right products to meet local mobility needs. The Mercedes-Benz family works together to overcome current and future challenges.
Q: What are the objectives behind Daimler Buses’ alliance with Tec of Monterrey’s National Electromobility Lab?
A: To contribute to the quality of life in cities, climate protection, air quality and technological development promoted by academia, we donated a chassis to Tecnológico de Monterrey. This donation will allow students to learn everything related to the ecosystem of electromobility.
This donation will promote the TecNexus initiative, which pays for the development of technological and sustainable solutions for the use of natural resources to accelerate the training of talent, research and technological development focused on cleaner and more sustainable mobility.
Q: Models like the OC 500 LE are already meeting Euro VI standards. What is still missing for this technology to reach the Mexican market?
A: First, all our buses meet the highest quality standards and are configured with a BlueTec 5 engine that has the Euro V certification, which includes environmentally friendly technology. It should be noted that we launched this technology in the country before the local law required it. When the regulations required it, we already had nearly 10,000 vehicles with this technology, which is the cleanest in the country.
Mercedes-Benz Buses is ready for Euro VI as soon as the infrastructure allows it. Our goal is to make Mexico the first country in Latin America to receive this technology. However, it was delayed until 2025 due to the availability of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) in all the country.
The eO500U chassis is ready to work but for Mexico to have this type of motorization, first it must have the adequate infrastructure. It should be noted that Germany already has buses with new generation batteries that optimize the vehicle’s energy consumption. The eCitaro is already the benchmark for electric buses and we are bringing this technology to Mexico as a chassis.
We decided to start electrifying urban transport and from there expand to other types of buses, sizes, and applications. Parallel to product development, we will build intelligent transport systems to optimize fleet management because when we think of electricity, we must think of recharging, energy availability and fleet organization. The process involves much more than the bus; you need a complete ecosystem to organize and provide excellent transportation.
Q: What steps can the government take to ensure e-buses are eventually incorporated into the public transportation system?
A: The short answer is communication. Greater communication will allow stakeholders to work toward a common goal. We all have the same purpose: to offer the best mobility to citizens. Through communication we can collaborate and create synergies in the financing and duplicity of developments and services. We need to develop technology related to Euro V, Euro VI and electrification.
On the other hand, governments need to implement infrastructure. The sector requires innovative technological solutions and different perspectives to improve mobility. We must collaborate and do things together. The introduction of electric buses requires much more than the vehicles; it involves an infrastructure interface, cargo parcel delivery, power lines, and many other requirements that must all work together, so communication is key.
Q: How is the semiconductor shortage impacting the heavy-vehicle segment and how has it affected demand fulfillment?
A: As demand began to return to pre-pandemic levels, semiconductor shortages hit electronic board construction. We have also faced problems in the construction of seat frames because some of our Tier 2, 3 and 4 suppliers have closed their operations, so we had to rethink our supply chain. These numerous challenges led to production redesign involving OEMs, suppliers, and logistics partners.
We have left behind the most difficult times. Last year was very difficult and this year continues to be difficult, but the processes are beginning to stabilize. The redesign of the process is finished and now it only remains to guarantee the supply. We still cannot guarantee that the volumes planned for this year will be reached, but we are fighting to get there. The second half of 2022 will be much better.
Q: In terms of safety, how is autonomous technology evolving to improve active and passive safety features in vehicles?
A: Of the four pillars of CASE, we have achieved two: electrification and connectivity. Autonomous driving and short services will come later. We have some early initiatives for electrification and connectivity, but there are almost endless opportunities to explore, including connectivity with other buses and companies and applications for end users, cities, operators and manufacturers. We are happy to be leaders of these transformations because we want to shape the future of mobility.
Q: You have referred to 2020 as a period to “overcome and prepare.” How would you characterize 2021 and why? What do you expect from 2022?
A: Every crisis represents a great opportunity and in the case of our industry, this allows us to reinvent ourselves and continue. Even when it was not considered essential, we had to transfer thousands of people who were on the front line of battle and modify the operation and the business. The new normality brought endless challenges for which the vast majority was not prepared. However, trusting in the capabilities of the work teams and the passion for moving the business forward allowed teams to overcome challenges.
Today, we are moving forward full of confidence by providing buses in the different urban, suburban, foreign and BRT segments with the highest technology and innovation that protect the environment.
Even though the reactivation has been gradual, we anticipate that the national demand for buses will recover to pre-pandemic levels in approximately four years, but we estimate that the total recovery will be achieved in 2024 or 2025.
We must be resilient, take the crisis as a window to great opportunities and put our strengths to work. We have to consider best practices from other players to get back on track and continue operating effectively and efficiently for the good of our business, society and country.
Daimler Buses is a German OEM and one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers, with over 40 production sites around the globe and more than 100,000 employees.