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World premiere: KEYOU presents 18t truck and 12m city bus with hydrogen engine for the first time at IAA Transportation

Hydrogen mobility is gradually taking shape. Numerous well-known manufacturers are developing hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles, working at full speed on fuel cells and hydrogen engines. New consortia are emerging, and investments in H2 infrastructure are increasing. As the first company worldwide, the hydrogen specialist KEYOU is simultaneously presenting an 18t truck and a 12m city bus with hydrogen engine - based on an already existing diesel engine platform. At the heart of both vehicles is KEYOU's proprietary KEYOU-inside system, which, in the future, will be primarily used to convert existing vehicles.

Successful "engine wedding" at the beginning of the year, first "on-road" tests in spring.

Already since 2015, KEYOU has been developing H2-specific technologies, components, and combustion processes that can be used to transform conventional combustion engines into emission-free hydrogen engines. In the process, KEYOU successfully developed the world's most efficient H2 engine from a diesel engine platform. Both prototype vehicles presented are equipped with an 8-liter hydrogen engine based on KEYOU-inside technology. A Daimler Actros chassis forms the basis for the 18t truck. The integration work started in January and was carried out by Paul Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH from Vilshofen, the European market leader for special vehicle construction. After the successful "wedding" - i.e., the integration of the engine into the vehicle - KEYOU already started its first test drives at the test track of the Bundeswehr University in Neubiberg. The next step is to obtain test vehicle status in the fall so that the 18t truck can also be driven on public roads for demonstration purposes. The individual operating permit is then targeted for the first quarter of 2023. The European Innovation Council (EIC) is also convinced by the technology and the team, supporting the project financially via the EIC Fund. 

With the 12m city bus, based on a chassis from a leading European bus manufacturer, KEYOU presents another zero-emission vehicle with a "KEYOU-inside hydrogen engine." Development and construction of the vehicle are supported by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs. Paul Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH is also responsible for the integration work on this vehicle. A special feature of this vehicle is that the hydrogen engine is operated here as a mild hybrid variant, thus fulfilling the requirements that a transport company places on a city bus.

Prominent test drivers: ex-MAN board member Holger Mandel takes first laps in KEYOU truck with ex-Rally World Champion Christian Geistdörfer

During the test phase in the summer, KEYOU received prominent support from two "old hands." Holger Mandel, ex-MAN board member, and ex-Rally World Champion Christian Geistdörfer, Walter Röhrl's congenial co-driver, visited KEYOU at the test track in Neubiberg to drive a few laps in the prototype truck. Both "test drivers," avowed supporters of the drive technology, were very impressed at the end by the degree of maturity of the vehicle: "As an old trucker, I'm really excited about the driving characteristics, the engine noise, the torque. Honestly, great feeling, a great engine, and great work. I expect many more things to come," said Holger Mandel at the end of the test drive. Christian Geistdörfer summarized the chances of the vehicle and the hydrogen engine: "Personally, I think this is the only technology that has a chance to get on the road in the future. Electric drive technology cannot be the key for the future."

Four weeks earlier, a small group of potential end customers had already been KEYOU's guests at the test site in Neubiberg to take their first laps in the truck. Although "only" a prototype, the fleet operators - including textile service provider MEWA, freight forwarder Ansorge, and Schuon GmbH - clearly enjoyed their drives. Many participants from the round signaled great interest in being among the first pioneer customers.

Both prototype vehicles live for the first time at IAA 2022

The 12m city bus and the 18t truck will be presented live to a broad audience for the first time in September at this year's IAA Transportation. "With our prototype vehicles, we are demonstrating that hydrogen engine technology also works in real life and is a cost-effective and robust alternative to battery electric or fuel cell vehicles," explains Thomas Korn, CEO, and co-founder of KEYOU GmbH.

The engine – close to the diesel but CO2-free and without expensive exhaust gas after-treatment.

Most vehicles used by fleet operators, whether in the logistics sector or by urban transport companies, still consist of classic diesel trucks and buses. To be on a par with these, vehicles with hydrogen engines must meet numerous parameters. Because the benchmark is and remains the diesel. In addition to price, the focus here is on the range, robustness, refueling time, and suitability for everyday use. This is the only way fleet operators can go "green" without having to give up their business model. The way KEYOU converts hydrogen engines and vehicles closes the gap between "zero emissions" and cost-effectiveness. For example, the two vehicle types offer range potentials of over 500 kilometers.  With an output of 210 kW, not only is sufficient power provided but the bus and truck also remain below the zero-emission CO2 limit defined by the EU in the demanding WHTC reference cycles and at the same time easily meet the EURO 6 emissions standard without the need for expensive exhaust gas after-treatment. This is a novelty, as it was previously assumed that this was absolutely necessary.

Outlook: First pilot projects with pioneering customers, increased focus on retrofitting existing vehicles

To achieve the climate protection targets in the commercial vehicle sector, a solution for existing vehicles is also essential. A big plus for the technology developed by KEYOU is that it can also be applied to the existing market. "This is where we see," Thomas Korn continues, "the greatest leverage for the hydrogen engine or vehicles with hydrogen engines." The technology is not only durable, robust, and independent of "rare earths" but also offers - especially when looking at the overall costs - a diesel-equivalent cost structure for the end customer. Not least because only minor modifications to the underlying base engine are required. Moreover, existing combustion engine infrastructure can be used for the production of engines and vehicles. "So it can be said: customers get a zero-emission vehicle at diesel-equivalent operating costs without making any sacrifices," emphasizes Thomas Korn. Unlike other manufacturers, KEYOU does not plan to produce its own vehicles and engines. Instead, the Munich-based hydrogen specialists are concentrating on the further development and conversion of new and existing vehicles. "In the next ten to 15 years, millions of diesel vehicles will still be produced worldwide, especially for the commercial vehicle sector. So we are facing a huge market here, which we want to serve with our 'zero-emission' technology," says Thomas Korn.   

After this year's vehicle tests, KEYOU plans to conduct an intensive field test phase together with pioneering customers at the end of 2023. Here, various application scenarios will be mapped and technology and vehicle will be tested under real conditions. In 2024, two more engine platforms will be added, which will then be used to increasingly address the existing market.


KEYOU is a successful clean mobility company based in Munich. With the help of its KEYOU-inside system, existing diesel commercial vehicles are converted into climate-neutral hydrogen vehicles. KEYOU thus enables its customers to be emission-free, efficient, and economical - without compromising on performance, capacity, or range.         

In addition to pure conversion and a climate-neutral "second life" for existing vehicles, the "Hydrogen Mobility as a Service" approach offers customers a fully comprehensive hydrogen mobility solution - from conversion and provision of fuel and infrastructure to insurance and service and maintenance. "Zero Emission Mobility" thus becomes a reality with KEYOU.