Mercedes eCitaro. Behind this name lies the first electric bus ever developed by the Daimler Group, built on the basis of the best-seller urban bus range launched in 1997. The Citaro was the first city bus in the world to meet the Euro VI emissions standard in 2012. In November 2019 Daimler celebrated the 55,555th delivery of the model series. It was an eCitaro. The same model gained, in 2021, the third place in the electric bus market in Europe. And in 2022 ranked first in the German electric bus market, with 632 deliveries. In 2023 the 1,000th units was produced.
We sum up the entire history of the model in this article, taking in the consideration market reception, tenders, deliveries, production strategy and everything relevant that involve the Mercedes-made electric bus.
Mercedes eCitaro, the launch in 2018
Officially launched in September 2018, Mercedes eCitaro series production started a couple of months later and between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 the first deliveries were put in place.
At the 31st December 2019, therefore after the first year of production, 149 units of Mercedes eCitaro have been registered. In 2019, with 149 registration, Mercedes put its mark on a market share of the 5 per cent in the field of e-buses. As mentioned above, that figure grew significantly: as many as 333 eCitaro were delivered from January to December 2021. German market shifted to high gears: the Mercedes eCitaro has been the top sold electric bus in 2022 in the country.
Mercedes eCitaro, the first order? From Hamburg
It was May 2018, before the official launch of the model, when Hamburger Hochbahn placed the very first order for the Mercedes eCitaro (at that time the eCitaro was a Citaro model with camouflage on the roof, nothing to do with the front that will be definitive on the battery-bus). The public transport company, that plans to procure emission-free buses only from 2020, has placed an order for 20 units.
Mercedes eCitaro ordered in Berlin
In June 2018, in view of the rising deployment of electric commercial vehicles, Daimler Trucks announced the establishment of a global organization for e-mobility. “We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses» stated Martin Daum, member of the Daimler Board of Management for Trucks and Buses.
At that time Daimler Truck & Bueses portfolio of fully-electric commercial vehicles inclued two e-trucks from Freightliner, the Mercedes-Benz eActros, the FUSO eCanter, the fully-electric Mercedes eCitaro city bus and the Thomas Built Saf-T Liner C2 Jouley school bus.
In the same month of June 2018 BVG Berlin finalized an order (the second, after Hamburg) for 15 fully electric Mercedes eCitaro. The order was the result of the first tender for e-buses issued by the transport company, won by Mercedes for 15 units and by Solaris, with its Urbino 12 electric, for the other 15.
July 2018, the premiere of the Mercedes eCitaro
Then, in July 2018, it was the time for the presentation to the press of the Mercedes eCitaro (world premiere will be at IAA 2018).
With the eCitaro Mercedes was finally taking the step from low-emission bus (a definition that can match the Citaro mild hybrid) to locally emission-free bus. A clever definition that stresses a crucial point: the electric bus produces no pollution from the tailpipe, but its “cleanliness” depends on how the electricity is produced.
Coming back to the eCitaro, the drive system is provided by the electric portal axle ZF AxTrax, with electric motors at the wheel hubs. The peak output of the motors is 2 x 125 kW.
With regards to batteries, Mercedes opted for a modular concept. The maximum of energy that can be stored on board is 292 kWh split in 12 modules, half in the rear and half on the roof (six modules are the standard).
With ten battery modules, the all-electric Citaro weighs around 13.44 tonnes. In conjunction with a gross vehicle weight rating of 19.5 tonnes, this corresponds to a payload of more than six tonnes or around 88 passengers (15 less than the conventional diesel solobus).
Energy efficiency of the Mercedes eCitaro is based on a unique thermal management system. It reduces energy consumption, therefore increasing operating range. An energy-saving heat pump is used to warm the passenger compartment, for example.
A roadmap for the Mercedes eCitaro
The new Mercedes eCitaro was announced to be the kick-off for an innovation initiative with a clear strategy aimed at the electrification of urban public transport.
Daimler claimed to be sure that the eCitaro will be able to replace city buses powered by a combustion engine nearly completely in just a few years. At the beginning, with a maximum battery capacity of 243 kWh of NMC batteries (the possibility to reach 292 kWh was later announced), the electric bus already covers, according to Daimler, about 30 percent of all requirements of the transport operators.
Since the development of battery technology is progressing at a rapid pace, the eCitaro is already designed to be transitioned to the future battery technology, was ensured by Mercedes. The next generation of the eCitaro will be able to cover, from 2020 (then changed in 2021), around 50 percent of all applications, thanks to the second generation of NMC batteries. Then the so called solid-state batteries are expected to be introduced. With a rated battery capacity of about 400 kWh in the solo bus and even more in the articulated bus, the eCitaro will then meet about 70 percent of all requirements without opportunity charging.
Order from Mannheim, deliveries in Berlin
Series production of the Mercedes eCitaro started at the end of 2018. The third order for the Mercedes eCitaro, again in the domestic market, was secured by the operator Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr which operates in Mannheim and Heidelberg, very close to the plant where the cCitaro (together with the ICE Citaro) is built. It was announced in January 2019.
In March 2019 the first eCitaro for BVG reached their destination. The eCitaro electric bus units ordered by BVG are characterised by their extensive equipment, Daimler points out. Passengers benefit from an air conditioning system, 15 double USB ports for their own end devices and three monitors for information provided during the journey.
Passengers with reduced mobility have at their disposal generously dimensioned areas for wheelchairs and pushchairs, as well as tactile handrails with ribbed handle profiles on the doors or the contrast-rich interior design. Bus drivers can take advantage of the exterior camera for keeping an eye on cyclists and pedestrians. Interior surveillance cameras and a door-closing warning system with red LED light strip and video surveillance provide for added safety.
Wiesbaden gets 56 e-buses
«It is the largest order so far for the battery electric bus by Mercedes»: this was the incipit of the article we published on April 10th 2019 following an order for as many as 56 eCitaro from the public transport company ESWE Verkehrsgesellschaft of Wiesbaden (Germany’s Hesse region). 41 of them, according to the statements then released, will be equipped with solid state batteries.
Mercedes won’t just deliver electric buses to ESWE: it will also takes care of the adaptation of the service yard, the equipment and setting up of charging infrastructure (provided by Heliox). With this commission, the city of Wiesbaden is switching a fifth of its bus fleet to electromobility within a short period of time. Deliveries began in November 2019. In early February 2021 as many as 21 e-buses were delivered: they stand out for being the very first eCitaro with solid-state batteries ever rolled out.
Mercedes eCitaro, fuel cell range extender on the horizon
In May 2019 Daimler announced that by 2021 the Mercedes eCitaro will be able to carry 330 kWh battery capacity, thus covering about 50 percent of all applications. Then, also solid-state batteries will become available. The fuel cell range extender will be the ice on the cake. In fact, the range of the eCitaro will be increased yet again by a range extender in the form of a fuel cell for generating electricity. It will be designed to allow the eCitaro to fulfil nearly 100 percent of all requirements on city buses.
This technology eliminates the need for intermediate charging and the complex infrastructure required for it in almost all cases: the eCitaro will be able to replace combustion engine-powered city buses virtually one to one, Daimler claims.
More information on this topic were released in September 2019, when it was disclosed the news that Hamburg will be the first city to test the Mercedes eCitaro with such technology. The public transport company Hamburger Hochbahn is expected to purchase 530 electric buses between 2021 and 2025. Also hydrogen applications will be in the spotlight. Starting in 2021, the operator will be field-testing the new vehicle, in the articulated version. Two units will be involved in the pilot.
The first orders from abroad
But the deployment of the eCitaro is not exclusively happening within the borders of Germany.
In summer 2019 the battery-electric bus approached foreign markets, following a batch of three orders from Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway.
The basic version of the 20 Mercedes eCitaro models from the three orders varies greatly, the manufacturer points out. What the buses have in common, however, is the high-quality equipment and double glazing, the electrically operated pivot-and-slide doors, comfortable Inter Star Eco seating for intercity operations and USB sockets for charging mobile devices.
Voyages Emile Weber, in Luxembourg, has chosen nine two-door eCitaro buses. These are equipped with the maximum number of twelve high-voltage battery packs delivering a total capacity of 292 kWh. Besides the extensive equipment, the colour concept of the passenger compartment is also very striking. From the upholstery of the seats to the grab bars or the side-wall panelling in needle felt: everything is in red. The floor covering has a homely wooden look.
Hanover to get 48 eCitaro
A new, large, German contract was concluded by Daimler Buses in August 2019. ÜSTRA, public transport provider in Hanover, signed a framework agreement for 48 units of the fully electric Mercedes city bus. The agreement is for 30 12 meter buses and 18 eCitaro G articulated buses. First vehicles were spotted in the city in January 2020.
Mercedes eCitaro wins Sustainable Bus Award 2020
October 2019 was time for the Busworld to debut in Brussels. Of course the eCitaro was among the vehicles in the spotlight ad Daimler Buses’ stand. And the Busworld 2019 was also the stage for the delivery of Sustainable Bus Award 2020. Guess which vehicle was elected as Sustainable Urban Bus? Yes, you got it: the Mercedes eCitaro. Here is the motivation:
«The Mercedes-Benz eCitaro battery electric bus wins the Sustainable Bus Award 2020 in the Urban category because today it represents the best compromise between sustainability, comfort and safety.
Daimler Buses has also been the only manufacturer, to date, to declare a range that actually corresponds to that registered by the bus in real condition operations. Also, noticeably, Daimler Buses has stated that the current eCitaro is the starting point for future technological steps.
The current Mercedes-Benz eCitaro features lithium-ion batteries for a maximum capacity of 292 kWh, that ensure a range of around 170 km in city operations (SORT 2). The eCitaro will be available with 330 kWh batteries by 2021. And a further step has already been scheduled, namely the use of solid state batteries. Also a fuel cell range extender will be implemented».
Again in Germany, Reutlinger Stadtverkehr (RSV) took delivery of four vehicles on 29th November 2019. Buses that will be recovered in a completely new and purpose-built electric bus depot. And in the same period ASEAG, transit operator in Aachen, rolled out 7 Mercedes battery electric buses, and up to further 20 units are coming.
Environmental label for the Mercedes eCitaro
In February 2020 the Mercedes eCitaro has deserved the “Blue Angel” environmental label. What is more, it’s the first fully-electric city bus entitled to bear this label, that will be displayed on the three vehicles in delivery in Jena for Jenaer Nahverkehr. The company operates local public transport in the Thuringian university city, with a fleet including 43 city buses on 13 routes. The three eCitaro models form the foundation for the first electric bus fleet in Thuringia.
Mercedes eCitaro G: it came in 2020
2020 has been the year of the launch of Mercedes eCitaro in articulated version. Namely: eCitaro G. The debut of the new version of the Mannheim-made battery-electric bus in 2020 has been scheduled by Daimler Buses ‘electric’ roadmap since the launch of the 12-meter eCitaro. Even though we could guess that the Coronavirus outbreak, with following shutdown of operations in many plants, could lead to a delay.
The Mercedes eCitaro G, with a lenght of 18.13 meters, will be able to carry up to 145 passengers (136 with the biggest battery equipment, made of 12 modules) on a continuous low floor where up to 45 seats can be placed.
The body of the vehicle is based on the Citaro G with combustion engine, and the roof is based on the Citaro G NGT with integrated heavy-duty rails, Daimler Buses points out. It’ll be available in 3-doors and 4-doors versions. Both the door positions and the layout of the passenger compartment correspond to the Citaro G with combustion engine, is specified by Daimler Buses.
Only zero emission buses by Daimler by 2030
Daimler Buses aims to offer zero emission vehicles in every segment by 2030 (both battery and hydrogen-powered). Starting in 2023, the Mercedes eCitaro will be also equipped with a hydrogen-based fuel cell as a range extender. The first full electric intercity bus will be launched in 2025.
The fuel cell of the eCitaro Range Extender comes from Toyota and is in its second generation. It is a heavy-duty unit with a maximum output of 60 kW.
Daimler Buses states it is not investing in Euro VII in Class I buses and forecasts a share of 75% of e-buses in public transport in the EU by 2030. It was announced by the manufacturer in May 2022.
Mercedes eCitaro with IVU software
What is interesting, since spring 2022 public transport operators can now acquire the electric bus Mercedes eCitaro and software from a single source, on request, thanks to a partnership between the bus builder and IVU Traffic Technologies. A current example of this is BSAG Bremen, where the delivery package includes the charging infrastructure and a charging management system. The e-bus together with software solutions from IVU becomes an eSystem.
The first tender awarded in Italy
July 2022 saw Daimler Truck winning the first tender in Italy with the eCitaro. 16 vehicles (13 with a length of 12 meters, and 3 articulated) will be in operation in the province of Trento. Signature of the contract is expected by 30/09/2022; the supply should begin within 400 consecutive days from the signature. Daimler Truck made offer together with Enel X, that will take care of charging infrastructure.
60 eCitaro in Vienna
In late 2022 Daimler Buses gained a significant order from Vienna. By the end of 2025, Wiener Linien will convert nine of its 127 routes to operation with the battery-electric bus by Mercedes. In fact, the operator has ordered 60 eCitaro. They are set to be delivered from 2023 until 2025. In summer 2022 Austrian government announced an investment of 122 million euros to support the procurement of 289 electric buses.
Mercedes eCitaro in 2023. Also in rural operations
Year 2023 saw Daimler Buses receiving a new order for 46 vehicles from Nuremberg, in the domestic market. What is interesting, a German company (VLP) has taken charge of the last 15 vehicles of a large order consisting of a total of 45 Mercedes eCitaro mainly used in regional transport.
UITP Summit 2023: Mercedes eCitaro fuel cell
Big news were launched in early 2023. The fuel cell version saw the light at the UITP Summit in Barcelona. It offers a stated range of approximately 350 kilometers without the need for recharging. This goes together a passenger capacity, on the articulated version, of up to 128 passengers. T
he difference between the eCitaro fuel cell project and most of the fuel cell buses on the market stay in the battery capacity: while it’s common to feature a small LTO battery (below 50 kWh) accompanying the fuel cell module, the eCitaro is equipped with a battery capacity similar to its battery-electric counterpart (up to 392 kWh for the 18-meter).
The eCitaro fuel cell utilizes a battery-electric drive system with high-performance batteries NMC3 (also launched in 2023), while the fuel cell acts as a hydrogen generator to extend the range.
First order for the vehicles dates back to October 2022. Daimler Buses turned to Toyota as fuel cell module provider.
Major orders intake in 2023
A major order for 70 electric articulated buses was landed in April 2023 by STIB in Brussels. They are set to be delivered from 2024. 250 units will be in operation in Hamburg for VHH in the framework of the largest e-bus tender in the operator’s history to date: VHH has indeed awarded MAN Truck & Bus and Daimler Buses two framework agreements for 100 and 250 e-buses respectively. Also UK entered the spotlight of Daimler Buses.
In late 2023 Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr received the first Mercedes‑Benz eCitaro articulated buses from series production with a fuel cell as a range extender.
But among the largest orders for the eCitaro secured in 2023, the one in The Hague stands out. 95 Mercedes eCitaro will be in operation in the city. These electric buses will replace HTM’s current natural gas buses by mid-2024, aligning with HTM’s commitment to sustainable public transport in The Hague region.
Mercedes eCitaro on its way to be produced also in France
The same year 2023 saw Daimler Buses achieving the milestone of 1,000 eCitaro units produced. In the future, the model will be produced also in France, at their plant in Ligny-en-Barrois, France. This move is part of the group’s investment of approximately 50 million euros by 2030 to expand the production of electric buses at the French location. The conversion and modernization of the plant are expected to create 250 additional jobs. However, Mannheim will remain the electromobility hub of the group.