Within the framework of the research project "ULAS-E-VAN" ("UltraLeicht AufbauStruktur eines Elektrischen VANs" - UltraLightweight Body Structure of an Electric Van), 9 partners are developing lightweight solutions for the body structure and a modular battery carrier system of battery-electric powered light commercial vehicles (Nfz, class N1 - Ford Transit - BEV). Ford is coordinating the research project with a total volume of 5.8 million euros, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK):

  • Altair Engineering GmbH, Böblingen
  • BENTELER Automobiltechnik GmbH, Paderborn
  • C-TEC GmbH, Blaustein
  • Ford-Werke GmbH, Cologne
  • Franken Guss GmbH + Co KG, Kitzingen
  • MORPHOTEC, Aachen
  • RWTH Aachen University, Chair and Institute for Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design (SLA)
  • RWTH Aachen University, Institute for Automotive Engineering (ika)
  • voxeljet AG, Friedberg

If a light commercial vehicle is equipped with an electric drive, the unloaded weight increases due to the high battery weight and the possible payload shrinks. To counteract this, it is imperative to reduce the weight decisively through lightweight construction measures, especially in the case of battery-powered delivery vehicles. Lightweight construction makes it possible to increase the range, but also to reduce the battery size, the secondary weight and thus the battery costs if the range remains unchanged. However, in the targeted e-vehicle sector, the need for cost-effective lightweight construction is even more acute due to the high-cost sensitivity of the potential clientele and the relatively low unit numbers.

This is where the project comes in. The consortium aims to develop ultra-lightweight solutions for the body and superstructure of such battery-electric light commercial vehicles with the help of modern CAE methods such as "simulation-driven design" and innovative manufacturing methods. In addition to a special 3D printing process - 3D sand mould printing - to produce moulds for the iron casting process, large-area structural plastic parts are also used.

The design of the superstructure is to be based on a frame-stringer construction, thus transferring the construction method proven in aircraft construction to light commercial vehicle construction with higher production figures per year. The frames are to be designed as one-piece and bionically optimised as possible. The outer skin is formed by prefabricated plastic panels that are connected to the load-bearing structure. A load bearing, ultra-light, scalable and modular battery carrier system is to be integrated in the underbody, which will functionally support the body structure in terms of rigidity, fatigue strength and crash.

The technologies used are intended to achieve a weight saving of up to 150 kg on the overall vehicle level and thus enable an increased range or payload.

In the project, the Institute for Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design is developing efficient structural-mechanical models for optimisation in the predesign process. The challenge is to couple different models in the optimisation and design process (multi-scale optimisation) and to evaluate the designs with the help of multidimensional objective functions.


The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action under the funding code 03LB3086H.



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