Modular E-drive System for Commercial Vehicles Goes into Production

Pollutant-free, quiet and efficient – this is what citizens want for tomorrow’s private and public urban transportation. To ensure that Europe can meet its climate targets in line with the Paris agreement, the German government is also promoting the use of e-buses, among other things. The range of products offered by OEMs does not yet cover all market niches. IAV offers an innovative and flexible solution that could make a major contribution towards environmentally friendly local public transportation in a relatively short time: converting from diesel to electricity. The modular e-drive conversion kit can also be installed in other commercial vehicles such as trucks and mobile machinery and will be available to customers from starting in fall 2020.

For the majority of the population, climate change is one of the most urgent problems facing society. A major contribution towards solving the greenhouse gas issue falls to the transport sector, which is responsible for a large proportion of CO2 emissions. Many cities and municipalities are working on making their transport systems climate-friendly – but there is still a long way to go. Merely converting car fleets to partially or fully electric drive systems is not enough to make the change in transportation a success. It is just as important to develop new mobility concepts, strengthen public transport and switch the energy supply to renewable energy sources. All these things have one thing in common – they do not happen overnight.

For this reason, IAV has developed a further building block for climate-neutral mobility that can take immediate effect: with the IAV modular e-powertrain conventional diesel commercial vehicles can be converted into state-of-the-art e-vehicles.

«We are making environmentally friendly transportation tangible in its most ecological form and bringing the CO2-neutral age a great deal closer.»

Utz-Jens Beister — Managing Director of IAV Cars GmbH

IAV presented the modular e-powertrain in a double-decker bus for the first time at the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018 with the intention of equipping vintage double-decker buses for Berlin tourists with this technology. The system is in keeping up with the zeitgeist of the environmental debate that has reached the heart of society.

Authority approval for on-road operation in July

Since its presentation two years ago, the technological basis of the E-modules has been developed to production level maturity and a comprehensive safety concept has been integrated into the overall vehicle in accordance with the international ISO 26262 standard, which has been part of the State-of-the-Art Commercial Vehicle Development process since 2018. This also includes the subsequent implementation of an ABS system in a vehicle from the 1970s.

Following a trial and test phase that has now been completed, the double-decker bus received its approval from official authorities and will start travelling on public roads fall time this year.

“We are making environmentally friendly public transportation a tangible experience in its most ecological form and bringing the CO2-neutral age a good deal closer”, says Utz-Jens Beister, Managing Director of IAV Cars GmbH, after a test drive with the open sightseeing bus on the Lausitzring. “Emissions no longer play a role, so you can experience your city without annoying exhaust and noise emissions. All in all, an extremely positive driving experience – for tourists and residents alike.”

«With the flexible IAV modular e-powertrain kit we can realize almost all commercial vehicle applications by leveraging fully developed modules.»

Florian Brandau — Director of Commercial Vehicles E-Mobility at IAV

The technology is appealing for many reasons. Retrofitting a diesel bus is significantly less cost intensive than buying a new electric bus and would therefore be an additional possible option for public transport organizations, given the tight situation of public finances. In addition, the existing vehicle fleet can be converted to zero-emissions in parallel to new vehicle purchases, thus avoiding production-related CO2 emissions.

Flexible forms of application, new distribution channels

The components for the e-drive conversion kit are supplied as a complete set of parts by IAV Cars GmbH. The modular e-powertrain was developed with the support of IAV engineers and partners and is integrated individually as a system into the target vehicle, in order to ensure smooth interaction between the electric drive and the other systems and components.

The modular system can be adapted to enable various power and range setups, if required, add a fuel cell range extender to the e-drive for buses and trucks to prevent range losses.

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“With the flexible modular e-powertrain, we can realize almost all commercial vehicle applications by leveraging fully developed modules”, says Florian Brandau, Director of Commercial Vehicles E-Mobility at IAV.

The company is currently investigating possible new sales channels with potential partners, including the option of selling the modular e-powertrain for additional vehicle variants under a partner’s brand. In addition, a powerful maintenance and spare parts network is being built up through cooperative ventures.

“This drive system, which has been tested at OEM level, offers intelligent and flexible solutions for all kinds of needs in the transportation of people and goods”, says Beister.

Strategic significance – IAV as a system developer

In addition to its applicability and technical possibilities, the product is also of particular strategic importance for IAV as a company.

The transformation of the industry with its increasing requirements and costs for e-mobility means that OEMs and suppliers, instead of developing and validating products themselves as they used to in the past, are now increasingly asking IAV for turnkey technical solutions including tailored approval processes and homologation, says Brandau. As a strong partner with system development capabilities, IAV is perfectly positioned in this respect.

«System development means more responsibility for us, but it leaves us the freedom to be creative ourselves in order to develop additional value into the product for the customer»

Florian Brandau — Director of Commercial Vehicles E-Mobility at IAV

Comprehensive development services of this kind, as it was the case with the concept of the IAV modular e-powertrain for commercial vehicles require coordinated work across domain boundaries, pooling expertise from individual IAV divisions and integrating the corresponding development scopes completely and in a balanced manner, says Brandau.

For reasons of capacity and competence, OEMs will in the future assign even more topics that do not contribute towards brand topics to EDLs that do not according to a study commissioned by the VDA on the future value-added contribution of EDLs in April 2020. This also includes the development of driver assistance systems and energy management concepts – here, the scope of development is often too large to be handled independently by OEMs, the study says.

“System development means more responsibility for us, but it leaves us the freedom to be creative ourselves in order to develop additional value into the product for the customer”, says Brandau. “We have also successfully implemented the modular e-powertrain thanks to a special product mindset in the team and specially set up processes from the early economic business model to the finished product.”

The article was published in automotion 02/2020, the automotive engineering magazine of IAV. Here you can order the automotion free of charge.

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