Espar develops highly-efficient fuel cell-based APU

HANNOVER, Germany — Espar parent company Eberspaecher introduced at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show a new fuel cell-based auxiliary power unit (APU), which can provide a more efficient power supply to the truck and reduce the load on the primary engine by also powering other functions such as the air compressor or water pump.

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Independent of the engine, the system concept of the fuel cell APU.

The groundbreaking new development will be launched to the North American market first in 2017, announced Dr. Klaus Beetz, COO, Eberspaecher Climate Control Systems.

North America will be the first market to see the new system, “Because there are distinct hot and cold climate zones in the region, for which very powerful and energy-intensive heating and climate control solutions are required,” Beetz explained. “It is precisely the scenario where our new product comes into play: unlike a conventional diesel engine APU, with our fuel-cell APU we don’t just want to solve the energy problem during break and idle periods. No, we want to establish a completely new energy management system in the commercial vehicle. An energy management system that reliably meets the power demand both in driving and in stationary mode, effectively reduces the load on the alternator when generating electricity and reduces fuel consumption.”

The fuel cell APU will generate 90% less CO2 and soot emissions compared to a traditional diesel APU, Eberspaecher claims. It can also be up to 50% more efficient than a traditional APU, since no mechanical losses occur during energy conversion. When rolling down the road the fuel-cell APU can be used to power the water pump or air compressor system, which could generate fuel consumption savings and weight optimization for the operator while reducing the load on the alternator.

“Many components that were previously coupled with the engine…could in the future be operated considerably more efficiently by electric means which, besides a reduction in consumption, could also result in optimized weight distribution of the truck,” Beetz explained.

Eberspaecher fuel-cell APU interior
An interior view of the fuel-cell APU.

This is because many mechanically-powered components today could be run with the electricity generated by the fuel-cell APU, allowing truck makers to eliminate the associated belts, pulleys, etc.

“One major advantage: the output of the drive engine would then almost exclusively take care of propulsion, which reduces consumption further,” Beetz said.

The new system will be able to produce a net electrical output of 3 kW. Eberspaecher says it’s the first manufacturer in the world to achieve this using a fuel cell-based energy management system. A “well-known commercial vehicle manufacturer” will be testing the system this year.



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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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