Deutz Equips Telehandlers with Hybrid and Fully Electric Powertrains

Deutz demonstrated a Manitou telehandler that is fully electric, marking a major change for the diesel pioneer. (Terry Costlow)

Deutz, which has produced internal combustion engines for more than a century, is moving quickly to integrate electric power with its mainstay diesel engines. Only a year after acquiring an electric motor manufacturer, Deutz demonstrated three off-highway vehicles that use prototypes of its electric drive systems.

Three telehandlers normally powered with 74- and 75-kW (99- and 101-hp) diesel engines were converted to hybrids and full electric for a recent week-long demo in Cologne, Germany for customers, vendors and reporters. One Liebherr TL 432-7 telescopic handler was converted to a hybrid drive, while a Manitou MT 1135 telehandler and another Liebherr TL 432-7 used a 360-volt vehicle power supply and a 60-kW electric motor to replace their diesel engines.

Deutz is making a major effort to transform its longstanding image as one of the first diesel engine suppliers to a company that’s meeting today’s sustainability requirements. It’s a rapid transition, begun about a year ago when the company acquired Torqeedo, a developer of electric power systems for boats. It has shipped more than 80,000 electric motors, according to Christoph Ballin, CEO at Torqeedo.

Electric and diesel will work together in Deutz hybrid systems. (Terry Costlow)

These maritime systems range up to 100 kW, going up to 200 kW for dual-engine systems. Though the operating environments of boating and commercial vehicles is vastly different, the ruggedization need for boating meshed well with the commercial vehicle markets Deutz focuses on, Ballin added.

“There is a lot of difference in the regulations between boating and off-highway equipment,” Ballin said. “Once you get past that, it’s a matter of engineering, meeting the requirements for performance, reliability, EMC [electromagnetic compatibility] and thermal performance.”

Accelerated development

Once the Torqeedo acquisition was finalized, the merger of electric and diesel power moved swiftly. An Innovation Center was opened early this year at the behest of employees—not management—and combines staffers from Torqeedo and Deutz. They were able to quickly convert the telehandlers.

“An interdisciplinary team of Torqeedo and Deutz design engineers succeeded in integrating our drive concept into two prototype machines in just six months,” said Frank Hiller, Chairman of the Deutz AG Board of Management. “We have two routes for hybrids—48V hybrids and 360V full hybrids—and we have a full electric powertrain.”

Tighter emissions and fuel economy regulations in Europe, China and the U.S. make electric power more viable. The market seems to be responding well to the new focus on electrification.

“When we acquired Torqeedo and started to discuss our electrification plan, our customers’ perception changed,” said Michael Wellenzohn, a Deutz Board of Management Member. “All of a sudden the order books opened up.”

For the Liebherr hybrid, the 74-kW combustion engine was downsized to a 56-kW Deutz TCD 2.2. A 48V 20-kW electric motor was added to provide a combined power output of 76 kW.

A Liebherr telehandler has been converted to a hybrid system. (Terry Costlow)

The mechanical connection between the e-motor and the diesel engine is achieved by means of a transmission with integrated decoupler. As an option, the diesel engine can be disconnected so the vehicle is powered only by electricity. The system has a 10-kW·h capacity battery. Though potential fuel savings depend on the load cycle, consumption can be trimmed by up to 15%, yielding an investment payback period of two years.

One of the important market drivers for the 48V hybrid is to augment diesels so smaller engines can perform the same level of work. For example, a 75-kW system could combine a 50-kW diesel engine with a 25-kW electric system.

“Hybrids can allow for downsizing, keeping engines below 56 kW so equipment makers don’t have to deal with the complexity of aftertreatment systems,” said Markus Muller, Senior Vice President, Product Development. “If you stay below 56 kW, things are a lot easier.”

The Manitou and Liebherr full-electric vehicles employ a 360V electrical system and a 60-kW electric motor. The battery’s 30 kW·h capacity is designed to power the vehicle through a typical workday. Deutz has also designed a 48V hybrid Manitou telehandler. They are likely to be the first of several electrified Manitou vehicles.

In a press release, Manitou Group CEO Michel Denis said, “The integration of electric drives into our telehandlers is very encouraging for the future. This telehandler enables Manitou to enhance our existing hybrid and electric ranges.”

The road ahead

Board members Frank Hiller and Michael Wellenzohn predicted that electrified powertrains may represent 10% of Deutz revenue by 2023. (Deutz)

Deutz executives said the applications for electrified powertrains will begin at the lower end of the market. Currently, the company is focusing on starters and selective replacement of attachments as well as diesel downsizing for smaller equipment like telehandlers and forklift trucks with power demands of 56 kW or lower. In the next two to 10 years, that will extend to full replacement of mechanical attachments and diesel downsizing for equipment that needs more than 56 kW. Later in that timeframe, that diesel downsizing level will increase to 160 kW.

Hiller said batteries can be recharged by the diesel engine or by plugging the machines in. The service life of the battery packs range up to 4,000 charging cycles, which translates to five or six years at 800 hours per year.

The electrified powertrains are important for the future of Deutz, but their market impact won’t be significant over the next few years, executives said. A modular system will be unveiled next year, giving customers a way to upgrade existing equipment. Hybrids and all-electric systems will emerge in 2020. Diesels will remain the company’s dominant revenue generator for several years.

“Diesel will not disappear,” Wellenzohn said. “There is a portion of the market that will be electrified, probably 5 to 10% of our market by 2022 to 2023. Customers want to shop for complete solutions.”

Alternative fuels

Though Deutz is focusing a lot of its research on electrification, diesel engines will remain its flagship technology for some time. Engineers continue to explore ways to further improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

“We are not pursuing electrification to replace diesel; we see a long life for diesel, especially in off-highway applications,” Hiller said. “Diesel has great power density for certain applications. It’s almost impossible to envision things without diesel.”

Wellenzohn noted that from 1999-2019, Duetz has reduced NOx emissions by 95.7%, with a 97.9% reduction of particles. Going forward, the company’s diesel engines will utilize a range of fuels. Researchers are examining a broad range of alternatives as Deutz looks towards sustainability and minimizing emissions.

“We’re working towards a CO2 neutral future, that’s the last gas we need to work on,” Muller said. “We’ve got reliable engines for bio-diesel, multi-fuels, compressed natural gas and gasoline; we’re making engines that are flexible. When you look at CNG, 27% of the CO2 is reduced without doing anything, it’s the nature of the fuel. We’re also doing a lot with synthetic fuels.”

Hiller noted that hydrogen will also be addressed, though its implementation won’t be for at least five years.