Industry interview: Diesel is only part of the future

12 June 2020

If you needed more evidence that the world of power systems is changing (and you shouldn’t), the Deutz exhibit at the recent ConExpo-Con/Agg exhibition in Las Vegas, US, underscores that point rather strongly.


Dr. Frank Hiller, chairman of the board of management of Deutz AG

One of world’s oldest manufacturers of diesel engines, Deutz had eight displays in its booth at the show, only two of which were new diesel engines. The diesels were the company’s TCD 2.2 and the newly introduced model TCD 13.5. There was also a remanufactured Deutz Xchange diesel.

The biggest part of the Deutz display was an all-electric model G5-18A telescopic handler concept, developed in collaboration with JLG. The G5-18A has a 360V drive system that uses a split drive comprising two, 40kW electric motors – one for driving and one for the hydraulics in the telescopic arm. The battery is from the EDeutz modular toolbox and offers 42 kWh of capacity. The 6.6kW charging system can restore the battery charge to 80% within four hours.

Hybrids and batteries

Deutz also presented an electric hybrid drive system designed specifically for use with aerial work platforms in low-load applications. The new Deutz D 1.2 hybrid combines a 1.2L, three-cylinder diesel engine and a 48V electric motor.

A battery drive system, developed in collaboration with Futavis, now ready for pilot production, was also shown. Deutz acquired Futavis, a German battery specialist, in 2019 to strengthen its inhouse expertise in battery technology. Also on display was a hydrogen-fuelled Deutz TCG 7.8 engine, as well as an LNG or gasoline-fuelled G 2.9 model.

“When tackling the challenge of making drive solutions sustainable for the future, we always keep our minds open to all technologies,” said Dr. Frank Hiller, chairman of the board of management of Deutz AG. “Our approach builds on 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.”

Hiller said the diversification of Deutz’ portfolio was part of a strategy that the company began about two years ago called ‘Innovative Drive Systems.’ Deutz, he said, would continue pursuing internal combustion engine technologies, but also other technologies that were important not only for the company, “but also must present a strong business case for our customers.”

Electrification investment

A big part of the new strategy was a major investment in electrification, both acquisitions and technology development.

“We created two paths,” Hiller said. “On one side is electrification and on the other side is combustion technology, which will continue to be a technology for the future. There are things we see for further optimising combustion technology.” He added that all Deutz diesel engines are Stage 5 certified.

ConExpo 8

Illustrating the evolution of Deutz from strictly a diesel engine manufacturer was its recent showing of an all-electric powertrain telescopic handler concept, developed in collaboration with JLG

Hiller detailed Deutz’ two path strategy further, saying the combustion technology side does, or will, include diesel, gasoline, biodiesel, LPG, CNG, leading to multi-fuel engines, as well as hydrogen-fueled engines. Beyond that, Deutz continues to research synthetic fuels.

On the other path, Deutz started on the road to electrification with its 2017 acquisition of Torqeedo. According to Hiller, this gave Deutz not only an electrification development center for the company but also experience.

“The thing with Torqeedo was that they were not only talking about electrification, they had several thousand units in the field. They brought experience with electrification. The learning curve they had already gone through, we could use on our side.”

From there Deutz also developed a 48V ‘mild’ hybrid system, followed by a 360V full hybrid drive system.

Then came the acquisition of Futavis GmbH, a development service provider for battery management hardware and software. This acquisition, Hiller said, allows Deutz to incorporate batteries into its electrification strategy. Futavis brings technical expertise in electronics, software, battery technology, and battery testing and in ensuring functional safet.

Hiller added that the systems knowledge of Torqeedo in electric drives will now be complemented with Futavis’ with high-voltage battery technology.

This led to the developments of concept battery electric vehicle systems such as shown at ConExpo-Con/Agg and last year at Bauma in Germany. Further down the line, Hiller said, Deutz continues to research the use of renewable electricity sources for its product range.

A serious investment

“We have spent around US$100 million on developments and acquisitions in electrification. These are products and technologies we can use throughout our entire product portfolio, so it is a good investment for us.”

All of which means there are a lot of propulsion technology pieces for Deutz to juggle in the coming years.

“On the diesel side,” Hiller added, “the activities of Stage 5 are done. This gives us new capacity; it frees up engineering capacity. So, we are changing the focus in engineering more in the direction of electrification. We have hired a lot of new electrical engineers.”

Interestingly, on the engine side, Hiller sees the developments of different forms of propulsion as also changing the internal combustion landscape.

“I think we also start to look more at co-operations for bio-methane and hydrogen engines. But also on the diesel side, our new sub-two-liter diesels were done in cooperation with Kukje, above nine liters it was done with Liebherr,” he said.

“Then if you look at fuel cells, fuel cells are not a core business for Deutz,” Hiller said. “To design and produce fuel cells requires skills and technologies far away from the technology we have today. But to buy fuels cells and to integrate them into our electrified systems, that is feasible.”


Finally, the timeline for production of electrified propulsion systems and all the other alternatives is literally the multi-million-dollar question. Here, Hiller had some surprising news.

“By the end of this year or early next year we will introduce our first completely electrified serial production products.” He added that applications would include telehandlers, mini-excavators, and possibly aviation ground support equipment uses and that 2020 marks the beginning of marketable hybrid and fully electric products. In 2021, Hiller predicted the start of relevant revenue from these technologies, and by 2022 he estimated that 5 to 10% of Deutz revenue would be generated by electrified drive systems.

This article is used courtesy of Diesel Progress magazine, a sister title of International Construction magazine. Its author, Mike Osenga, is editor-at-large for Diesel Progress. For more information visit:

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