Core competence "energy and drive systems"

A sustainable, safe and affordable energy supply, and efficient energy use, are the focal points of current research policy, which aims to complete the energy transition and phase out fossil fuels.

Within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, our institute is defined by holistic, systemic approaches to combine energy and drive systems. Our main areas of expertise are energy converters such as combustion engines and fuel cells, chemical and thermal energy storage systems such as batteries and heat storage systems, and electric powertrain components and their application in various powertrain topologies in the energy sector. This expertise enables us to research and develop solutions for sustainable energy storage and conversion for various application areas - including portable, mobile and stationary systems and complete drive systems - from the concept through to validation on material, component and system level.

Facilities and equipment

Drive systems for mobility

In the area of electric engines we develop high-voltage drive systems for hybrid as well as purely electric mobility. We focus on technologies with a high gravimetric specific power density and high efficiency. Our research and development activities in the area of internal combustion engine drive systems address technical solutions for increasing efficiency in the entire drive train of mobile and stationary applications, and thus also the reduction of pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions across sectors. We research and develop combustion engines both as the sole drive unit and in combination with an electric engine, within a hybrid drive system.


To store electrical energy, we are researching new storage options and also investigating and further developing commercially available batteries. Our focus is on lithium-ion batteries, redox-flow batteries and on so-called ”next-generation“ systems, such as solid-state batteries, sodium batteries, and metal/air and metal/sulfur systems. We emphasize material development and the material characterization of electrodes, electrolytes, separators and their thermal and electrical characterization in battery cells and battery modules up to complete battery systems. Furthermore, cells and battery modules are simulated and modeled thermally and electrically, and cells and modules are optimized in terms of their electrical, thermal and mechanical properties for different applications and requirement profiles.

Fuel cells and electrolysis systems

In the area of electrical energy storage, hydrogen production by electrolysis is an important topic. We work on material development to reduce the use of critical raw materials. The most important approach here is to improve electrode structures by developing suitable support materials for catalytically active components, for example for oxygen evolution. Our material development in the field of fuel cells addresses not only the reduction of critical raw materials but also the possibility of converting liquid fuels into electricity. Our technological focus is on high-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (HT-PEMFCs) and anion exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFCs). Our aim in the area of HT-PEMFCs is to enhance the electrode structure through improved catalyst support materials and the incorporation of ionomeric binders, which reduce the phosphoric acid content and thus the resulting performance losses and aging processes. In the field of AEMFC and the corresponding anion exchange membrane electrolysis, we develop cells based on platinum-free or lowplatinum catalysts.

Thermal storage devices

In addition to energy storage and conversion, development work to improve energy efficiency plays an important role. We emphasize the development and production of thermal storage systems based on phase change materials (PCMs) and zeolites. Our expertise covers physico-chemical sorption storage systems based on zeolites, and their basic physico-chemical characterization including their model description. We also characterize adsorption and desorption phenomena using thermoanalytical methods, and design, construct and test sorption storage systems. Further topics include heat storage systems based on phase-change materials as well as the design, construction and testing of latent heat storage systems.

Battery and hydrogen safety

Our main research focus in the area of battery safety is safety, abuse and aging investigations with in-operando gas analysis, post-mortem investigations on cells and battery modules, and the development and validation of safety concepts for battery operation, transport and storage.

We also investigate hydrogen as an energy source. Using highpressure hydrolysis, we study the production of hydrogen for the material storage of excess electrical energy, characterize the conversion efficiency of membranes, and investigate the stability and aging mechanisms of membranes under specific electrolysis conditions. In the field of hydrogen safety, activities relate mainly to the handling and especially the safe storage and transport of hydrogen, the development and performance of specific tests and the evaluation, concept and design of hydrogen storage systems.


Facilities and equipment

The equipment of the institute in the competence area of energy and drive systems includes:

  • A swivel test stand for testing electric drive systems for urban air mobility (UAM) applications
  • Thermodynamics test benches (VBM, ATL) for combustion engine measurement, analysis and evaluation technology and a 1-cylinder research unit for combustion process and component development
  • A hot-gas test bench for complex thermodynamic and mechanical turbocharger development as well as systems for residual heat utilization and exhaust gas aftertreatment
  • Application center for redox-flow batteries and stationary energy storage with a 1 MW/10 MWh RFB battery storage system in conjunction with a 2 MW wind turbine
  • Electrochemical test stands for testing fuel cell stacks at elevated operating pressure up to 5 bar
  • Safety test equipment for batteries
  • Special measuring cells for material development for batteries, electrolysers and fuel cells
  • Extensive laboratory and workshop infrastructure


"With our excellent facilities, we can offer a wide range of applicationoriented research services for technology transfer.”

Application-oriented research on energy storage and conversion, and on drive systems

We develop new, efficient options for electrical energy storage, and investigate systems that are already available on the market. Our emphasis is on lithium-ion batteries, all-solid-state batteries, redox-flow batteries and so-called post-lithium-ion systems, such as lithium-sulfur or sodiumbased batteries. Cells and battery modules are characterized and simulated thermally and electrically, to tailor them for specific applications. We also carry out safety and abuse tests with accompanying gas analysis, post-mortem investigations on cells and battery modules, and the development and validation of safety concepts for operation, transport and storage. In the field of redox-flow batteries we investigate various cost-effective and sustainable storage materials, and are working to reduce the cost of the overall system, in particular the stack structure and materials.

Our research in the field of converters is divided into three main topics: material development, testing and system development. As regards material development, we focus on catalyst systems for water electrolysis, materials for oxygen evolution/(OER) catalysts for PEM electrolysis and supported catalysts and noble-metal-free OER catalysts for AEM electrolysis, starting from MOF precursors. We are also developing electrocatalysts for use in HT-PEMFCs and DMFCs. In fuel cell testing, we develop methods to investigate degradation processes, in particular carbon and ionomer corrosion, using online mass spectrometry. We optimize the operation of commercial fuel cell stacks for special applications in the military and civil sectors and develop the systems required for this, including the selection of suitable peripheral components and control systems.

We continue to research hydrogen as a fuel to power fuel cells in mobile and stationary applications. The main topic here is hydrogen safety in the respective system. We investigate various operating states up to the worst-case scenario. For this purpose we calculate possible leakages and errors, and conduct trials on our test site - which is designed for up to three kilograms of TNT equivalent - to validate the conversion
of hydrogen. In addition, we examine issues relating to the safety distance in the refueling area and the pressure protection of fuel tanks. For energy supply in residential quarters with regeneratively produced hydrogen, we design the overall layout of the system including fuel cells for reconversion, the use of waste heat from the fuel cells, and demand-oriented distribution via local heating networks.

Thermal storage devices based on phase-change materials (PCMs) or zeolites are developed and characterized. This involves basic physical and chemical characterization, including the modeling and characterization of adsorption and desorption phenomena using thermoanalytical methods. The design, construction and testing of sorption storage and sorption cooling systems, heat reservoirs based on phase-change materials, and hybrid components combining thermal mass and insulation, are strongly market-oriented and complement our fundamental research activities.

In the field of electric drive train concepts, we research and develop electric engines and transmission systems for battery electric vehicles. We focus on technologies with a high weight-specific power density and high efficiency. In the field of traction battery system development, our research centers on safe, lightweight solutions with integrated functions, which meet future demands for high energy and power densities and safety requirements during fast charging and discharging. In the area of combustion engine concepts, we aim to develop technical solutions in the entire drive train for mobile applications. We research and develop combustion engines both as the sole drive unit and in combination with an electric engine, as a hybrid drive system. We provide design and simulation support for all developments relating to drive systems, and validate them through experimental trials on our test stands.

"In this competence area, our institute has accumulated more than 30 years of scientific know-how, laying the foundations for the development of efficient and cost-effective storage devices and converters.”


Jens Tübke

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr. Jens Tübke

Spokesman of the core competence

Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie ICT
Joseph-von-Fraunhofer-Straße 7
76327 Pfinztal

Phone +49 721 4640-343

Fax +49 721 4640-800343

Lars-Fredrik Berg

Contact Press / Media

Dr.-Ing. Lars-Fredrik Berg

Spokesman of the core competence

Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie ICT
Rintheimer Querallee 2
76131 Karlsruhe

Phone +49 721 91503814