Hydrogen Combustion Engine Trucks (HyCET) develops and tests hydrogen trucks with combustion engines in transport logistics // Sustainable solution for long-distance transport // The Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV) is providing a total of 11.3 million euros funding for the research and development project

A sustainable transport project with long-distance potential: In September 2022, the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV – Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr) approved the funding application for the consortium research project HyCET (Hydrogen Combustion Engine Trucks) led by the BMW Group. Other HyCET consortium partners are DEUTZ AG, DHL Freight GmbH, KEYOU GmbH, TotalEnergies Marketing Deutschland GmbH and Volvo Group.

The research project aims to demonstrate the sustainability potential of trucks with hydrogen combustion engines in transport logistics. In the context of HyCET, the focus is not only on developing the technology, but also on the necessary infrastructure such as publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling stations. In principle, hydrogen is a promising energy carrier in transport logistics due to short refuelling times, high payloads and operational flexibility as well as attractive ranges. The use of green hydrogen, which is produced on the basis of renewable energies, therefore enables zero carbon long-distance logistics in the future. Due to the low emissions that result from the combustion of hydrogen, the trucks are also considered zero-emission vehicles according to EU regulations.

Backed by the partners and funded by the BMDV

The HyCET research project will have an investment volume of 19.5 million euros at its disposal, of which 11.3 million euros will be provided by funding from the Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV – Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr). Furthermore, in the course of the HyCET project, the BMDV has provided funding of 5.7 million euros for the construction of two public hydrogen refuelling stations with a focus on heavy goods vehicles.

Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Digital and Transport: “Hydrogen technology offers us the opportunity to rethink mobility. The diverse requirements of transport logistics in particular call for suitable solutions. Hydrogen as an energy storage medium to complement battery-electric mobility is a good solution for making transport climate-friendly. The HyCET project, which we are supporting, is evaluating the technology of the hydrogen combustion engine in heavy goods transport. The results obtained in practical operation will therefore contribute to the technology competition of alternative drives in logistics.”

Interdisciplinary cooperation as a pledge for success

The network has set itself ambitious goals for the four-year project period. Two 18-tonne trucks as well as two 40-tonne trucks with hydrogen combustion engines are to be developed and tested in regular BMW Group and DEUTZ logistics services. For the daily operation of these trucks, two new hydrogen filling stations will be built in Leipzig and Nuremberg, for heavy commercial vehicles, among others.

The project will therefore not only advance research into the development and use of hydrogen trucks, but also the refuelling standards for commercial vehicles and the implementation of the necessary infrastructure. As this is one of the first research projects in which vehicles of this class are used in regular logistics operations, the trucks will be subjected to a comprehensive technology assessment.

Bundled expertise in the consortium

Expertise from different areas is bundled in the consortium project. As the end user, the BMW Group is defining important requirements for the subsequent series deployment of hydrogen-powered trucks in its transport logistics. As consortium leader, the company also sees to the framework conditions for a successful project implementation and assumes the control of the pilot deployment of an 18-tonne truck at the BMW Group plant in Leipzig as well as the coordination of the technology evaluation in order to benchmark the advantages and disadvantages of the hydrogen combustion engine against other innovative drive concepts for trucks.

Michael Nikolaides, Head of BMW Group Production Network and Logistics, explains: “By leading the consortium for this project, the BMW Group not only confirms its pioneering spirit, but also its understanding of how to think about sustainability across all areas of the company. This includes testing technologies in transport logistics at an early stage and adapting products and infrastructure to new requirements.”

As one of the world’s leading engine manufacturers and pioneers of sustainable mobility in the off-road sector, the drive specialist DEUTZ has developed a 7.8-litre hydrogen engine. The first application is already successfully running in pilot operation in a stationary generator. As part of the HyCET project, this engine is to be installed in an 18-tonne truck to prove its practicality in a mobile application.

KEYOU GmbH, an acknowledged expert in the field of hydrogen, develops innovative hydrogen technologies, specific H2 components and combustion processes that can be used to transform conventional engines into emission-free hydrogen engines in a cost-efficient way. Together with the Volvo Group, KEYOU is developing a 13 litre hydrogen engine in the HyCET project. Volvo is integrating the engine and hydrogen tanks on two 40-tonne Volvo trucks, which are used in the BMW Group’s transport logistics by DHL Freight. As one of the leading providers of road transport in Europe, DHL Freight will contribute its many years of experience in road freight transport as well as requirements from the user’s perspective to the project. In addition, as a transport partner of the BMW Group, the company will use the first developed vehicles in practical tests for shuttle transports to supply the BMW Group plant in Leipzig.

The global multi-energy company TotalEnergies is aiming to operate up to 150 hydrogen refuelling stations directly or indirectly in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France by 2030. The two new hydrogen filling stations to be built as part of the HyCET consortium in Leipzig and in the Nuremberg area on the A9 motorway will be an integral part of this European hydrogen network for long-distance transport.