Deutz Takes Open Approach to Propulsion
CEO sees combination of sustainable-fuel combustion engines and electric drive systems powering the off-highway market.
The economic climate has fast soured in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Deutz has reason to be optimistic about the coming months and years. Prior to temporarily halting large parts of its production in Europe in April, the German drive-systems manufacturer showcased at ConExpo/Con-Agg 2020 a range of advanced technologies that it believes are necessary for future competitiveness.
“It is vital that we make the necessary investment in order to secure the long-term success of the company, and that includes steadfastly pursuing the growth projects that we have already initiated,” said Dr. Frank Hiller, CEO and chairman of the Deutz AG board of management, in a recent statement about the negative impact of the coronavirus crisis on its engine business.
Sustainable drive systems in the off-highway sector are one of the company’s key growth areas for research and development. “When tackling the challenge of making drive solutions sustainable for the future, we always keep our minds open to all technologies,” Hiller said. “Our approach builds on intelligent combinations of electric drives and internal-combustion engines that offer the potential to be operated in a carbon-neutral manner in the future using sustainable fuels.”
Customized drive systems will depend on work cycle and power requirements. “If you have a high operating range and high energy demand, we see diesel engines still as the best choice,” Hiller said. Hybrid-electric systems will find versatile use in medium-load applications, while battery-electric solutions will grow in low-load and urban use. For example, about 70% of forklifts are already electrified, he noted, adding that a migration from lead-acid batteries to high-voltage systems will accelerate.
‘Open technology’ strategy
Deutz implemented a new two-pronged development strategy two years ago with the eventual goal of helping to deliver CO2-neutral operation of mobile machinery. “On the one side, combustion engines for sure will be a technology for the future,” said Hiller at the company’s ConExpo press conference in March.
Alternative fuels are at the heart of this approach. All of Deutz’s engines are certified for biodiesel, multi-fuel solutions are available, and gas engines including LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas) are part of the equation for the near term. “In the long run it will be synthetic fuels,” Hiller said. “Here we also need the strong support of the petrochemical industry.”
Hydrogen combustion engines are another longer-term prospect that Deutz is exploring with its Munich-based partner Keyou. On display at ConExpo was a Deutz TCD 7.8 base engine converted to hydrogen operation using prototype Keyou-inside technology. Modified and customized features of the 180-kW (240-hp) 6-cylinder engine include an intake section with H2 rail and injection system, cylinder head with ignition system, piston and ring package, exhaust-gas turbocharger, exhaust-gas manifold and exhaust-gas recirculation cooler, and ECU software data input.
The H2 package offers a high degree of scalability and is “extremely cost-efficient,” making it an attractive alternative to other zero-emission technologies like electric and fuel-cell drives, according to Hiller. Deutz and Keyou intend to bring carbon-neutral hydrogen engines to production readiness for off- and on-highway applications as well as for power generation.
“We are now deeply into the details and investing for hydrogen technology,” said Hiller, noting that the H2 engine in its booth was “more or less ready” for serial production. “The big challenge of hydrogen solutions is always the infrastructure. But with our applications, especially stationary applications, we think we can go very quickly into that solution with some of our customers.”
Not surprisingly, the second prong of Deutz’s sustainable-drive strategy is electrification. The company began its E-Deutz portfolio three years ago after acquiring Torqeedo, an electric-propulsion system developer largely in the marine industry. Since then, Deutz has invested more than $100 million in electrified solutions, Hiller said.
“At that time, Torqeedo already had 70,000 systems running in the field. This gave us the opportunity to transfer electrified solutions to our applications very quickly,” he said. Within a half year Deutz revealed its first prototypes for a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, followed by a 360-volt full-hybrid drive. More recently, Deutz acquired Futavis at the end of 2019, a German company that develops and produces battery management systems. “This is the way for the future. It’s not only a system technology and system integration for electrified solutions, it’s also going deeper in the value chain to produce our own batteries,” Hiller explained.
Proving that it’s beyond merely “PowerPoint engineering,” Deutz revealed actual hybrid and electric battery systems at ConExpo, including the new D 1.2 hybrid that was designed specifically for aerial working platforms in low-load applications. The hybrid pairs Deutz’s new 1.2-L three-cylinder diesel engine – now the smallest in its engine portfolio – with a 48-volt electric motor and a 20-kWh battery system developed with Futavis, which is now ready for pilot production. Hundreds of these “market-ready” systems have already been built, according to Hiller.
Taking center stage in the Deutz booth was a customer application of an all-electric drive system: the JLG compact telehandler concept G5-18A. Developed in collaboration with JLG, the 360-V system uses a split drive comprising two 40-kW electric motors – one for driving and one for the hydraulics in the telescopic arm. Weighing 330 kg (728 lb), the Li-ion battery offers 42 kWh of capacity and a lifetime of up to 3,000 cycles. The 6.6-kW charging system can restore the battery charge to 80% within 4 hours.
The next step in the company’s E-Deutz strategy is introducing “our first completely electrified serial-production products” by the end of 2020 or early 2021, Hiller said. First applications will include telehandlers, mini excavators, and airport ground-support equipment such as luggage carriers. Deutz expects electrified drive systems to account for 5 to 10% of its revenue share by 2022.