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One irrevocable milestone on the road to a climate-friendly future is the decarbonization of the transport industry. The path itself, however, seems less clearly defined. Although not all possible paths lead there - like the proverbial road to Rome - some do. Wilhelm Rehm, member of the Board of Management at ZF Friedrichshafen responsible for Commercial Vehicle Solutions, Industrial Technology, and Materials Management, is certain that "fuel cell technology will play a decisive role in this. This is also the reason why ZF has now agreed on a partnership with the fuel cell and battery system supplier Freudenberg e-Power Systems. The collaboration between the two companies is intended to combine their respective core competencies in order to develop highly integrated complete solutions for fuel cell-based e-drive trains - so-called "powerpacks" - for heavy commercial vehicles.

The best of both worlds

While the subsidiary of the Weinheim-based Freudenberg Group intends to contribute its modular fuel cell and battery kits with application-specific services, ZF will contribute its expertise for innovative e-mobility solutions, i.e. the complete electric driveline including inverters, converters, compressors, and software for energy management systems. The technology group from Lake Constance is using its expertise to efficiently integrate the systems into the vehicle - with the aim of reducing development, production, and ongoing operating costs for vehicle manufacturers and users.

"We are investing massively in the mobility of the future. In battery, hydrogen and fuel cell technology as well as in the development of high-tech components for electric vehicles. The long-term cooperation with ZF agreed today underscores the strategic importance and growth potential we at Freudenberg see in this area," explained Dr. Mohsen Sohi, CEO of the Freudenberg Group.

And Dr. Max Kley, CEO of Freudenberg e-Power Systems, adds: "Freudenberg and ZF are long-standing, experienced players in the industry and have complementary technology know-how. In our cooperation, we are pooling this experience to develop clean e-drive solutions and thus specifically support the industry in achieving its climate targets."

The state of play

Currently, the joint project is in the pilot phase, in which various truck and bus prototypes are being developed. The first concrete test vehicle is expected as early as 2023. This project also includes the already announced "HyFleet" collaboration between ZF, Freudenberg and Flixbus, which aims to design and test a purely electrically driven coach.

Open technology approach for sustainable mobility

Thanks to higher ranges combined with shorter refueling times, the fuel cell seems to be particularly attractive as an energy source for the commercial vehicle industry. ZF even sees this as a global trend: By 2030, the Group estimates, the worldwide share of this type of drive in heavy commercial vehicles will increase to 20 percent. In view of this forecast, ZF is determined to continue its flexible and open-ended approach to fuel cell technology in order to effectively support the transformation of the transport industry towards sustainable mobility.

This technology-open approach to energy sources also underlies the cooperation between ZF and Freudenberg to offer manufacturers worldwide the widest possible benefits. ZF's comprehensive e-mobility portfolio is therefore also to be supplemented by a jointly developed integrated fuel cell drive - this means that all the key electrified hardware and software solutions customers need to transform their product portfolio will then come from a single source. The highly integrated e-drive technology eliminates the need for costly research and development and project management for manufacturers, reduces integration effort and thus helps to lower the total cost of ownership.

"Together with Freudenberg, we can offer a 'one-stop-shop' solution that enables manufacturers to bring e-mobility solutions to market quickly and support the industry's transformation to a more sustainable future," concludes Rehm.


ZF Friedrichshafen AG (D-88046 Friedrichshafen)