"H₂Kit": PEM Develops E-Drives for Refrigerated Trucks and Similar Vehicles


The chair "Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components" (PEM) of RWTH Aachen University has joined forces with partners from industry and research to launch the "H2Kit" project funded by the Federal Ministry for Transport. The goal of the project, which is scheduled to run for two years and has a total volume of around three million euros, is to develop a modular conversion kit that turns commercial vehicles with energy-intensive auxiliary consumers – such as refrigerated trucks – into efficient electric vehicles. By using a fuel cell-based "range extender," the project partners aim to achieve low battery weight and flexible control of the power supply.

  Graphic of an electric refrigerated truck with fuel cell drive Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University

"Vehicle-specific design and production of electric powertrains has not yet been possible at competitive costs," says PEM head Professor Achim Kampker. Special use cases such as refrigerated trucks demand maximization of battery capacity due to their high and changing energy requirements, which in turn lead to a disproportionately high vehicle mass and low payload. "Logistics companies, however, need the lowest possible vehicle weight to maximize transportable payload and keep fuel costs low," says Kampker, co-inventor of the renowned "Streetscooter" electric van.

Conversion and retrofitting of existing vehicles

In addition to the development of new vehicles, Kampker says, the conversion and retrofitting of existing vehicles are also necessary to meet climate targets. However, when implementing alternative powertrain concepts, transferability to future series production is rarely taken into account. The integration of innovations for peripheral components is also not always sufficiently considered. The project partners therefore want to develop a modular conversion kit from a fuel cell-based range extender system that can be used by all vehicle manufacturers and which is economically realistic. To achieve this, the kit will be tested for its functionality and integrability in a truck prototype. Eventually, the research partners want to make their results and experiences available to all interested parties as open access.

Further information on the project is provided here.