Digitalization for Sustainability

digital product development of sustainable electric drives


Dr.-Ing. Said Jamei

Mercedes-Benz Group AG

Daniel Holder


Daniel Holder is research coordinator at the research campus and the link between the project and ARENA2036.


Digitalization for Sustainability

The research project DigiTain (Digitalization for Sustainability) for fully digital product development of sustainable electric drive architectures is in high gear

After the kick-off meeting in Stuttgart on January 31, 2023, about 100 participants of the consortium met on July 6, mostly on site in Dresden at the project partner Institute for Lightweight Construction and Plastics Technology (ILK) of the Technical University of Dresden, but also partly virtually. Opened by Dr. Norbert Dölle (Mercedes-Benz, project coordinator) and Prof. Niels Modler (ILK TU Dresden, host & project partner), the focus was on the current status of the work packages as well as the report of the first goals achieved by the WP leaders. In addition, the project partners had the opportunity to coordinate and discuss in workshops on the days surrounding the project meeting. Here, the further research work and interfaces could be deepened, and the next steps planned, so that exciting interim results can be expected at the next DigiTain project meeting in January 2024 at the Fraunhofer Institutes EMI and IWM in Freiburg.

Picture: Florian Lehmann

The research project DigiTain (Digitalization for Sustainability) for fully digital product development of sustainable electric drive architectures gains momentum

The research project DigiTain started on 01.01.2023 and consists of 26 funded as well as 2 associated partners from industry and science. With a duration of 36 months, DigiTain develops processes, methods and models for the fully digital product development and certification of sustainable electric drive architectures. In the process, the project team is testing these approaches using a technology carrier.

The German government and the European Union are funding DigiTain as part of the economic stimulus package, section 35c in module b "New, innovative products as the key to vehicles and mobility of the future." According to Stefan Heidemann of the BMWK, DigiTain is characterized by a holistic approach that integrates multiple technological innovations, cross-value-added networking of partners and their technical expertise, and high transfer potential to industry and society.

TÜV Rheinland Consulting GmbH has assumed project management responsibility for DigiTain.

The importance of ecologically and economically sustainable criteria in vehicle and drive architecture development is growing continuously in politics, society and industry. Consequently, classic product development and optimization, which only consider ecological product assessments in later phases, are no longer sufficient.

Developers face great challenges in the development-accompanying sustainability assessment during the product development process. There is a lack of suitable digital processes, methods and tools for the ecological optimization of the entire vehicle and the drive components. In addition, there are no binding standards for fully digital product development and assessment, which means that many experimental validation tests are necessary for certifications.

Holistic development process and knowledge transfer

DigiTain develops processes, methods and models for the fully digital product development and certification of electric drive architectures that take into account competitive drives as well as environmental and economic sustainability criteria from the outset. The goal is holistic total vehicle and drive architecture development that incorporates all product-relevant areas. The application and validation of the sustainability-oriented development process as well as the developed methods and models is carried out using the example of an electric vehicle with a hybrid drive strategy consisting of a fuel cell unit and HV battery system.

In the DigiTain project, ARENA2036 is responsible for the knowledge transfer and dissemination work package. The goal is to exploit the generated results and tools beyond the consortium and to enable scientific exchange. At the same time, this work package serves as an interface to society in order to sensitize the general public to technological developments in terms of sustainability.

Project partners in DigiTain

Project structure of DigiTain

The cross-organizational project consists of work packages, each of which is assigned to different project participants. The individual packages can be viewed below:

WP0: Project management

Responsible: Mercedes-Benz AG
Objective: To support the project partners so that the project objectives are fully achieved within the project duration with the available resources.

WP1: Sustainability

Responsible: iPoint-systems GmbH
Objectives: Development of a sustainability-oriented product development process (NEP) as a generic framework that enables the concretization and optimization of the LCA at the component and overall vehicle level along the product development process. Thus, selected sustainability indicators can be used as additional optimization variables in product development in the future.

WP2: Digital methods and models

Responsible: DYNAmore GmbH
Objectives: The new methods in spatial discretization (further developed classical finite elements and IGA) are intended to improve efficiency, robustness and predictive capability in the respective load case configurations and to enable a faster and more sustainable CAE design in the future due to lower simulation efforts. For the developed methods, a level of maturity is to be reached that enables a prognosis-capable application in virtual homologation.

WP3: Digital certification

Responsible: SGS-TÜV Saar GmbH
Objectives: A procedural methodology for the digital certification of mechanical and ecological legislation is to be developed. The standardized simulation environments, methods and models developed for this purpose can be used in the future in the area of legal homologation, among other things, in such a way that a resource-saving virtual certification process can be used.

WP4: Digital complete vehicle

Responsible: Mercedes-Benz AG
Objectives: A digital complete vehicle model that includes the HV battery, fuel cell, hydrogen tank and electric axle components while complying with road safety laws and regulations. An ecologically sustainable solution shows the development possibilities for future vehicle models.

WP5: Fuel cell system

Responsible: Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (ZSW)
Objectives: Development and demonstration of a sustainable fuel cell system with regard to resource use, recycling, CO2 emissions and service life. To optimize the latter, the operation and aging of the cells used will be modeled and tested experimentally. The data will be used to draw conclusions on optimized operation with regard to efficiency and service life.

WP6: Hydrogen tank system

Responsible: Hexagon Purus GmbH
Objectives: Development of a new tank design for 700 bar H2 flat storage and system weight savings by means of linerless tanks and secondary lightweight construction with regard to force transmission and integration into the vehicle structure. Development of sustainable and economical material and manufacturing concepts for tank and liner technologies as well as the digital representation of the tank system in the form of validated tank component models.

WP7: HV battery system

Responsible: BMW AG
Objectives: Holistic development, implementation and validation of innovative HV battery systems based on existing systems, taking into account mechanical, thermal and electrical behavior as well as selected sustainability indicators.

WP8: Electric axis

Responsible: ZF Friedrichshafen AG
Objectives: Development of axially scalable physically and virtually validated electric axes as well as improvement of the life cycle assessment through consistent lightweight construction, structural improvements and use of novel material mix in subsystem architectures, rotor shafts and hybrid lightweight housing components.

WP9: Technology carrier

Responsible: EDAG Engineering GmbH
Objectives: Prototype approval of a vehicle that allows approved test drivers to test defined driving maneuvers on public roads. In addition, the aim is to test charging and refueling scenarios close to the market. The data collected during the basic application and testing will be used to validate and optimize the model.

WP10: Knowledge transfer and dissemination

Responsible: ARENA2036 e.V.
Objectives: To ensure the utilization of the generated results and tools also beyond the consortium and to enable the interdisciplinary scientific exchange. At the same time, this work package forms the interface to society in order to sensitize the general public to technological developments in the sense of sustainability.