Commercial Vehicles: PEM Presents Solutions for CO₂ Reduction


The chair "Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components" (PEM) of RWTH Aachen University has outlined concrete "strategies for achieving emissions targets in the commercial vehicle sector" in a white paper. In the document, which is available for free download, the authors compare the practicality and efficiency of different electric powertrains – from traction batteries and battery-powered truck trailers to fuel cells, overhead lines, and synthetic fuels.

  White paper "Strategies for Achieving Emissions Targets" Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University

"Any proposed solution must take into account both the vehicle and the infrastructure," says PEM chairholder Professor Achim Kampker. For example, any electric drive system for commercial vehicles must guarantee the range required for a driving period, with sufficient infrastructure available throughout Germany to ensure complete recharging or refueling during rest periods. "Solutions on the vehicle side only prevail if they are economically attractive and continue to meet the use case," says Kampker.

No universal solution from one powertrain topology

In the 16-page document, the authors sometimes come to the conclusion that there can be no universal solution from one powertrain topology for all weight classes in the commercial vehicle sector, right up to heavy-duty trucks: "Even within individual weight classes, the requirements sometimes differ so greatly that here, too, only a composition of the various technologies comes into question." However, their interaction could lead to a sustainable decarbonization of freight transport, for example.

Reorientation in development and production necessary

To implement this in road transport, a reorientation in development and production is necessary. "Attempting to directly develop a vehicle in 'purpose design' for each powertrain topology from the prototype stage would delay the respective market introduction and penetration so much that the 2030 emissions targets would not be achievable," the authors of the white paper emphasize. They assume that the three technologies – battery, fuel cell, and pantograph – will move with ascending duration from the prototype stage to the vehicle's expansion and eventually to its complete redesign.

Holistic expansion of the infrastructure

Infrastructure expansion should be holistic in the coming years, considering the different technologies. "For example, stationary fuel cells could cover power peaks in charging and batteries could cover power peaks in hydrogen compression," Kampker says. The background to the publication is the realization that heavy-duty vehicles account for around 40 percent of total vehicle kilometers due to their use in national and international distribution transport. In the process, they collectively cause about 66 percent of the carbon dioxide produced annually in road traffic.

The white paper "Electric Motor Production: The Value Chain in the Field of Tension Between Market Pull and Technology Push" is available in German for free download.