DLR concept vehicle with a range of up to 1000 kilometers

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has developed a long-distance concept vehicle that is to drive up to 1000 kilometers purely electrically with a fuel cell plug-in hybrid. The Interurban Vehicle (IUV) is five meters long, two meters wide and offers space for five people. In addition, the test vehicle demonstrates a combination of different lightweight construction approaches and new interior designs through autonomous driving functions.

The drive of the IUV combines a fuel cell with an output of 45 kilowatts, a 700 bar hydrogen pressure tank and a battery with a capacity of 48 kWh. The electric motors with a total output of 136 kilowatts accelerate the car to up to 180 km/h. Filling up at a hydrogen filling station should take about as long as with conventional drives. The battery can also be charged separately. The fuel cell is in the front end, the battery in the rear. The hydrogen tank is built into the underbody and holds around 7.5 kilograms of hydrogen.

Last but not least, the IUV owes its long range to its low weight, which, including the energy storage, is less than 1600 kilograms when empty. “The body-in-white weighs just 250 kilograms, around a quarter less than is currently the case in this vehicle segment,” says project manager Sebastian Vohrer from the DLR Institute of Vehicle Concepts in Stuttgart. This was achieved through the high proportion of fiber-reinforced plastics, but structures made of aluminum or sandwich materials are also used in some cases – especially where the components have to be very rigid in a crash and have to absorb a lot of energy.

Side skirts below the side doors protect the hydrogen tank in the vehicle floor and the occupants in the event of a side impact. Because the IUV does not have a center pillar, which connects the floor and roof of conventional bodies and serves as a crash element. Large door openings were created for this purpose, which, in conjunction with sliding doors that open in opposite directions, make it easier to get in and out.

The DLR science team also investigated how a high degree of automation (SAE Level 4), where the car drives itself permanently, affects the vehicle concept and vehicle architecture. One result is the seat arrangement of the IUV, which adapts variably to the driving mode: The two front seats can be rotated so that the occupants can also sit with their backs to the direction of travel in autonomous mode. Appropriately, the specially developed air conditioning is no longer controlled centrally via the dashboard, but rather individually via interfaces in the roof liner, similar to aircraft.

The IUV is currently set up as a rollable body demonstrator, with which central components and technologies can be further developed, measured and tested on test benches. At the same time, it shows “which aspects we can further develop and implement with partners from industry and research in the future,” says project manager Sebastian Vohrer. (aum/Frank Wald)

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