PEM Develops Electric Drives for Energy-Intensive Commercial Vehicles

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

In the "H2Kit" project, the chair "Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components" (PEM) of RWTH Aachen University is working with partners from industry and research on the development of a modular conversion kit for commercial vehicles with energy-intensive auxiliary consumers. Special applications, such as refrigerated food trucks, require maximization of battery capacity due to their high and changing energy demands, which in turn lead to high vehicle mass and low payload. By using a fuel cell-based range extender, the project partners are pursuing the goal of reducing the weight of the battery and regulating the power supply more flexibly.

Customized powertrains not yet profitable

Individual powertrain design and production is currently not feasible at competitive prices. This makes it necessary to cover the widest possible range of applications by default, including special applications with energy-intensive auxiliary consumers. In the case of alternative powertrains, this leads to a maximization of battery capacity, which in turn disproportionately increases the overall weight of the respective vehicle. At the same time, logistics companies need the lowest possible vehicle weight to maximize transportable payload and keep fuel costs low.

Retrofitting of electric drives gaining in importance

In addition to the development of new vehicles, the conversion and retrofitting of existing powertrains is also necessary to achieve the climate targets. 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 is economically feasible.

Prototype to provide information on functionality

When developing alternative powertrain concepts, transferability to future series production is rarely considered. Also, the integration of innovations for peripheral components is not always given sufficient consideration. The planned conversion kit is now intended to consider these two factors holistically for the first time. As part of the project, the kit will be tested for functionality and integrability in the form of a prototype. This will include extensive tests on the behavior of the powertrain. Eventually, the research partners want to make their results and experiences available to all interested parties in an accessible way.

Further information is provided in this press release.



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The project

  • "H2Kit": Fuel cell-based conversion kits for trucks with energy-intensive auxiliary consumers

Research objectives

  • Development of an efficient and locally emission-free solution for commercial vehicles with energy-intensive auxiliary consumers and validation through a prototype
  • Design of a powertrain tailored to requirements, taking into account modular fuel cell and battery systems
  • Development of an optimal control system to ensure maximum efficiency in the interaction of fuel cell and battery
  • Design of a modular, vehicle manufacturer-independent conversion kit for existing vehicles

Research and project partners

PEM of RWTH Aachen University
ORTEN Fahrzeugbau GmbH (project coordinator)
AE Driven Solutions GmbH (German)


  • 12/01/2022 through 11/30/2024

Project management

Projektträger Jülich (PtJ)

Funding code

  • 03B10413B


Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV)