Unimog WaVe.

Hydrogen-powered Unimog as a climate-neutral commercial vehicle when in operation.

How do you reduce a heavyweights carbon footprint without compromising on its performance? The engineers at Daimler Truck are dealing with this question. In order to help shape a sustainable future, only climate-neutral commercial vehicles are to be offered in the global core markets of Europe, the USA and Japan by 2039. An exciting direction in terms of propulsion with low emissions: hot hydrogen combustion. As part of the publicly funded "WaVe" pilot project, Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks has developed a hydrogen-powered Unimog together with its project partners. It was first presented to the public at the demopark 2023 trade fair.

Several paths into the future.

In order to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2039, Daimler Truck is pursuing a clear development strategy in the transformation towards CO2-neutral transport. In addition to converting to battery operation, the team at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Wörth is also actively exploring the possibility of drastically reducing CO2 emissions by using hydrogen as the propulsion system.

The highest standards.

The compactness of the implement carrier is one of its main advantages. So solutions had to be found that make optimal use of the limited installation space available – without sacrificing the proven concept of different attachment and body mounting spaces.

In addition, the aim was to continue to guarantee the diverse application areas for which the Unimog is particularly valued by municipal service providers. For this purpose, it was necessary both to preserve the high payload and to ensure the powerful performance required for operating various implements

In contrast to other heavy-duty transporters and tractor vehicles, the area of operation of a Unimog is not limited to the road, since it also extends to challenging terrain where it is often exposed to heavy soiling from grass, dust or soil.

The WaVe project.

The aim of the WaVe joint project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, is to develop a hydrogen-based drive system for commercial vehicles in the medium-duty sector and to test and demonstrate it in various field trials.


At the heart of the drive system is a new type of hydrogen combustion engine, which is supplemented with all system components required for operation.

Project duration: Mid 2021 – Mid 2024


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On the way to operating as a commercial vehicle.

An important milestone: On 17 March 2023, a prototype based on the Unimog implement carrier with a hydrogen engine and an integrated exhaust gas cleaning system rolled across the test track. This was developed as part of the WaVe project (WaVe comes from the German "Wasserstoff-Verbrennung", meaning hydrogen combustion in English), which started in July 2021 and which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the Next Generation EU programme of the European Union.

It was a long journey to get there. To make the Unimog fit for the future and maintain its uniqueness, a number of challenges had to be mastered.

We want to demonstrate that working with an implement carrier with a hydrogen engine actually works.

Steffen Fertig, Pre-Development, Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks

Daimler Truck used a natural gas engine, familiar from the Mercedes-Benz Econic, as the basis for the hydrogen combustion engine. This was supplemented by diesel and special hydrogen components. The Unimog has already passed its first test drive since its commissioning in January – including at the Development and Test Centre in Wörth.

The WaVe Unimog demonstrated at the demopark 2023 trade fair is a unique prototype. A Unimog U 430 with a medium wheelbase and short platform was chosen for this purpose. The installation space gained as a result provides space for the compressed hydrogen tank system. The 12.4 kg of hydrogen on board the Unimog is stored at 700 bar and passed on to the engine via an electric pressure reducer.

The experts have already tackled the next key topic of the project: "We want to demonstrate that working with an implement carrier with a hydrogen engine works," explains Steffen Fertig, who works in pre-development at Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks. His colleague Ulrich Isecke went into more detail: "Our goal is to achieve a mission time of eight to ten hours."

This has already been tested with a mowing operation as a test case. The WaVe Unimog, equipped with a mowing attachment from Gerhard Drücker GmbH & Co. KG, left the Wörth plant for a test drive in August 2023 and hit the road.

In time, will there be a truck?

Whether the Unimog with a hydrogen combustion engine will ultimately roll off the production line in series production is still an open question. In any event, with its broad product portfolio, Daimler Truck offers a wide range of vehicle options for individual requirements.

CO2-saving, hydrogen-based drives can be the better solution for very flexible and demanding applications – especially for vehicles such as the Unimog, which as pieces of working equipment are subjected to hours of continuous loads. Be it in a municipal context, in forestry and agriculture, in construction, or in disaster management. However, where regular use on predictable routes with suitable distances and charging options is required, as is often the case with distribution and long-distance haulage, battery-electric trucks can certainly be the right choice.

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