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All because of a storm

3/30/2009 | Words: Lucie Maluck | Pictures: MTU Archive, Archiv der Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH

100 years MTU

Whether it’s the first supercharged aircraft engine, the first large high-speed turbocharged diesel engine or the first large diesel with common-rail fuel injection – where forward-looking propulsion and engine developments are concerned, there’s no need to look any further than MTU. In the past as today. As has been the case for 100 years.

A passion is born – Zeppelins conquer the skies.
Astonished faces as far as the eye can see. On 2nd July 1900, the fascination of the airship holds every onlooker in its spell. On that day, the first ever zeppelin, the “LZ 1”, piloted by its inventor, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, takes off from a pontoon on Lake Constance near the town of Friedrichshafen. Majestically, it glides through the air appearing to confound all the laws of gravity. But eight years later it seems that disaster has struck. On 5th August 1908, Count Zeppelin is hoping to persuade the Imperial Government to support his endeavours with more development funds by completing a 24-hour test flight. In the event, he comes within a hair’s breadth of seeing all his dreams disappear forever. Because of an engine failure, the zeppelin has to make an emergency landing at Echterdingen near Stuttgart. And if that were not bad enough, a few hours later the airship is ripped from its moorings by an enormous gust of wind, catches a nearby group of trees and comes down in flames. The dream destroyed. The Count and the vision he has been working towards for over 30 years appear to be ruined.

The dream of flying is as old as the human race itself and the fascination of the zeppelin has hardly diminished over time.?
The dream of flying is as old as the human race itself
and the fascination of the zeppelin has hardly diminished over time.

But then a wave of support sweeps the country. Hundreds of thousands make donations. Count Zeppelin sees his coffers swelled by 6.25 million marks and is able to continue his life’s work. Wilhelm Maybach contributes to the cause in a very special way. He offers the count a new engine designed by his son Karl. Zeppelin takes up the offer and on 23rd March 1909, the airship-engine company Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH and original predecessor to MTU Friedrichshafen is founded.

On 26th June 1911, the first zeppelin powered only by Maybach AZ engines, the LZ 10 airship “Schwaben”, ascends skywards for the first time. It ultimately completes a total of 218 flights, carrying over 4,000 passengers without a single accident. The engine is a six-cylinder unit adapted especially for the needs of an airship and distinguished by an outstanding powerto-weight ratio. That means high performance from an engine that weighs relatively little – a characteristic that is to become the trademark feature of the company’s power units. In addition, a new floatless carburettor allows the engine to cope easily with the pitch and roll of an airship, thus offering much greater fire safety. And a convincing argument in view of the use of hydrogen as the means of achieving lift. Karl Maybach’s engine design takes airship travel a decisive step forwards.

The First World War is a significant episode in the life and work of Karl Maybach. Though he hopes for a speedy end to the horrific war and the suffering it causes, he nevertheless occupies himself with the technical challenges it brings. Due to their size and lack of speed, the airships now used for military purposes are a perfect target for enemy aircraft and consequently very soon no longer employed. Karl Maybach recognizes this at an early stage and so concentrates on developing airplane engines. As they need to develop their full power at altitude, Maybach compensates for the loss of performance with decreasing air density by increasing engine capacity and compression. His aeroplane engine thus retains its rated power of 250 hp even at an altitude of 1,800 meters. He is considerably in advance of other designers with this solution. In a test flight, a reconnassaince plane reaches an altitude of 5,000 meters in only 24 and a half minutes with the Maybach engine. Using a rival power unit with the same performance at ground level, the aircraft takes 42 minutes to reach that height. The world’s first modern aircraft engine, the Mb IVa, has arrived and goes into volume production from 1917. It is also used in planes made by Gotha, Dornier and Rumpler.

In the First World War, zeppelins were easy targets – so aeroplane engines were in greater demand. The Maybach Mb IVa was a major step forwards in the history of the aircraft engine.?
In the First World War, zeppelins were easy targets – so aeroplane engines were in greater demand.
The Maybach Mb IVa was a major step forwards in the history of the aircraft engine.

The Maybach legend – gliding serenely over the roads.
Some years later in the early 1920s, a large crowd of people with incredulous looks on their faces line a roadside. A Dutch Spyker motor car is returning from a 37-day endurance test during which the engine was not even switched off for refueling or when changing tires, and by the end of which it has 30,000 kilometers on the clock. That is over 10,000 kilometers more than the record held until now by Rolls-Royce. Its motive power: a Maybach Type W 2 petrol engine. But how is it that Mybach is now producing engines for automobiles instead of for aeroplanes?

The Versailles Treaty has banned Germany from making aeronautical equipment of any kind, and that includes aicraft engines. Trading since 1918 under the name of Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH, the firm is forced to develop new tactics and modify its product range. The demand now is for smoothness, reliability and comfort on the road rather than high performance at elevated altitudes. Maybach develops the Type W 2 automobile engine. It combines proven qualities with innovative design. From his aircraft engines, Maybach adopts the principle of oversizing, for example. With its 70 hp at 2,200 rpm, the engine thus has prodigious power for the standards of the day and previously unachievable acceleration.

But because it is not easy to sell engines on their own at the time, Maybach soon decides to move into motor car production himself. At the Berlin Motor Show in September 1921, he unveils his first venture into automobile design – the Type W 3 driven by a W 2 engine and featuring an innovative four-wheel braking system with brake balancing and a planetary gearbox of his own design. Eight years later, Maybach introduces the Type 12, Germany’s first twelve-cylinder motor car. The engine carries the designation DS 7 – meaning “double six” with a capacity of 7 liters – and reveals a number of distinct similarities with the 12- cylinder airship engine developed in 1924: high torque at low revs, lightweight design and smooth, vibration-free running characteristics. Karl Maybach is thus following in the footsteps of his famous father who, as technical director of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft played a definitive role in the design of the first modern automobile.

Of course, gliding over the roads in a vehicle made by Karl Maybach has a substantial price tag. Maybach motor cars are more expensive than any others on the market. But nevertheless – or precisely for that reason – anyone who can afford to, drives a Maybach. Like the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Prince Estherházy, Werner von Siemens, Carl Bosch or heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Max Schmeling.

The Second World War brings an end to that age of elegance and glamour. Car production is not restarted when the war is over. Economically it was never a money-maker, but it assured Maybach a legendary reputation that has never dimmed.

Flying trains and the first high-speed diesels.
The year is 1933. Cheering crowds and incredulous faces at Hamburg’s central railway station. They have all come to see the unimaginable with their own eyes. Less than two and a half hours ago, the world’s first streamlined diesel train set off from Berlin. Mounted on the front and rear bogies are Maybach Type GO 5 engines. Driven by the equivalent power of  820 horses, the train reaches the incredible speed of 160 kilometers an hour and completes the 268-kilometer trip in precisely 138 minutes – a sensational achievement which earns it the name “Fliegender Hamburger”. It will be another 64 years before the record for that journey is finally beaten by a Deutsche Bahn ICE (Inter City Express) train – and then only by three minutes!

Some years before, at the 1924 International Railway Show in Seddin, Karl Maybach has already presented the first high-speed diesel engine to offer high performance: the 150-hp G 4a fitted in a railcar jointly developed by Maybach and the rolling stock producer EVA Wismar.

As early as 1924, Maybach introduced the first large hig-speed diesel engine, which was fitted in a railcar jointly developed with EVA Wismar.?
As early as 1924, Maybach introduced the first large hig-speed
diesel engine, which was fitted in a railcar jointly developed with
EVA Wismar.

Ten years after the death of Rudolf Diesel, large diesel engines are still running at speeds no faster than 600 rpm prior to Maybach’s breakthrough. He more than doubles that figure to 1,300 rpm and in so doing gives birth to the very first large high-speed diesels. But the diesel engine does not become a big seller until 1930 when the railways decide to use diesel railcar multiples on main lines as well as branch lines. They want a 300-hp engine to power them. Maybach improves the design of his twelve-cylinder engine to produce the GO 5 offering 410 hp at 1,400 rpm. When developing the diesel, he recognizes that a good engine is not enough on its own to make trains faster. Thus the Maybach engineers take account not only of the immediate engine peripherals such as its mountings, air and fuel supply, exhaust and cooling systems, but also of the train cooling system and the transmission. And Maybach makes use of the Zeppelin airship company’s wind tunnel to develop an aerodynamic power car. Those tests result in the streamlined shape that helps the “Fliegender Hamburger” set its record and which is later copied by many other manufacturers. That system engineering approach demonstrated by Maybach all those years ago forms a continuous thread through the company’s history right up to the present day.

In May 1933, the “Fliegender Hamburger” is greeted with great jubilation when it arrives at Hamburg station. Powered by two Maybach GO 5 engines, it completes the journey from Berlin in less than two and a half hours – a sensational achievement in those days.?
In May 1933, the “Fliegender Hamburger” is greeted with great jubilation when it arrives at Hamburg station.
Powered by two Maybach GO 5 engines, it completes the journey from Berlin in less than two and a half hours – a sensational achievement in those days.

Another task that Maybach-Motorenbau is obliged to take on due to the lack of suitable suppliers is the development of systems for monitoring and displaying engine and train functions and even controlling multiple train units from one cab. In that regard, the company is a long way ahead of its time and lays the foundations for a section of its operations that to this day produces advanced technical solutions for engine and complete system management – MTU Electronics.

In October 1954, a GTO 6, an advanced version of the GO 6 engine, is dismantled after completing 553,000 kilometers. Inspection reveals that a complete overhaul will not be required until it has the not insubstantial figure of a million kilometers on the clock.?
In October 1954, a GTO 6, an advanced
version of the GO 6 engine, is dismantled
after completing 553,000 kilometers.
Inspection reveals that a complete overhaul
will not be required until it has the not insubstantial
figure of a million kilometers on the clock.

In 1934, only a year after the record-breaking feat of the “Fliegender Hamburger”, Maybach and Swiss engineer Alfred Büchi jointly develop the first large high-speed diesel engine with turbocharger aspiration, the GO 6. It is yet another engine that goes down in technological history. Turbocharging remains one of the corporations key technologies today. And it is not least due to their highly efficient turbochargers that MTU engines have earned their reputation as “compact and powerful”. 

The railways go for diesel and Maybach has his first production rail engine.
Bright red and with distinctive curves – the V 200 locomotive brings a glint to the eye of railway enthusiasts all over the world. Virtually no other Deutsche Bundesbahn locomotive so perfectly reflects the image of the German railways in the post-war period. It is the symbol of the modern railway and the structural transformations in the period of the “economic miracle”. And it becomes a massive commercial success. In the 1950s, British Railways’ Western Region modernizes its stock with a fleet of diesel-hydraulic locomotives based on the V 200 and driven by twin Maybach MD 650 engines, Mekydro gearbox and axle reduction boxes.

The MD 650 is in volume production from the early 1950s, initially as a 12-cylinder delivering 1,200 hp at 1,500 rpm. Over the years it is followed by a whole series of variations with 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 and finally 20 cylinders in both V and inline configurations. All models have the same bore and stroke dimensions. That means that a large number of identical components can be used for all engine versions, making for faster and more economical production. Maybach-Motorenbau has created its first modular engine design. Another new feature of the MD Series is its unit injector system developed jointly with L’Orange GmbH – a ground-breaking fuel injection system in which the pump and injector form a single unit. But it isn’t only in the past that such advances have decisively influenced the development of the diesel engine and made fuel injection a key technology. Today it is even more the case. And it is still L’Orange GmbH, now a subsidiary of the Tognum Group along with MTU Friedrichshafen, that is setting the standards with its innovative high-pressure injection systems.

The MD Series engines are the last creation of the gifted engine designer Karl Maybach. On 7th February 1960, he dies in Friedrichshafen at the age of 80.

The MD Series was essentially designed for rail applications. But soon they are to be found in industrial installations and ships as well. When the cruise liner “Wappen von Hamburg” sets out on its maiden voyage on 28th May 1955, it is propelled by five 12-cylinder MD 650 diesels with a combined output of 6,000 hp. It is a sign that the high-speed diesel engine has established a foothold in the marine sector, a market that will subsequently become the chief application for the model later renamed the Series 538. It secures the products an outstanding position for many years, especially in fast patrol boats.

The Series 331/396 – trendsetting, multicapability, trademark design.
The night is dark in Paris, but a searchlight beam is clearly visible right across the city. It is shining from the top of the Eiffel Tower, tonight as every other night. The tower itself is brightly illuminated too – the symbol of romance. To make sure it always stays that way even if the city’s power grid fails, there are three emergency backup generators in the basement driven by MTU Series 396 engines.

The biggest dump truck in the world at the time is driven by the Series 396 engine first introduced in 1973.?
The biggest dump truck in the world at the time is driven by the Series 396 engine first introduced in 1973.

What a record! In 1986, Virgin boss Richard Branson’s “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II” crosses the Atlantic in a new fastest time of three days, eight hours, 31 minutes. The craft is powered by two standard Series 396 diesel engines.

The year is 1982. The biggest dump truck in the world dubbed the “king of the mines” is the Liebherr T-262. Its job is to transport ore-rich rock and rubble. With a payload of 216 tonnes, it marks the advent of “volume production” of dump trucks in the 200-tonne class. Its engine is an MTU Series 396 unit.

The 331/396 twin series first launched in 1973 is MTU’s first universal development – a genuine multipurpose design that for the first time is not built primarily for rail applications. It is represented in all sectors where power outputs of between 375 and 2,150 kilowatts (510 – 2,900 hp) are required: heavyduty vehicles, high-speed ocean-going motor yachts, government vessels, industrial locomotives, static power generators and oil-field installations.

Because of its greater power capacity – due to a longer stroke and, therefore, a larger cylinder capacity – development in the 1980s concentrates on the advancement of the Series 396 model, which achieves a maximum output of 2,150 kilowatts (2,924 hp) in its 16-cylinder guise. With unit sales of over 35,000, the 331 and especially the 396 become the bestsellers in the MTU range and decisively shape the company in the first 30 years of its existence.

Series 956 and 1163 – power for everything that stands vor anything.
China in 1972: the NY7, a locomotive built by Hentschel, enters service. It is the most powerful diesel-hydraulic locomotive in the world – and remains so today. Its motive power? Two 12-cylinder MTU Series 956 engines that in combination put out 3,970 kilowatts (5,400 hp).

Another world record, this time in 2008: the car ferry “Shinas” reaches a top speed of nearly 56 knots (103.5 kilometers per hour) during sea trials. She derives her propulsive power from four 20-cylinder MTU Series 1163 engines, each of which delivers 6,500 kW (8,840 hp).

In 1970, MTU begins development of a new design for the upper performance bracket, the Series 956. Its distinctive features are a crankcase initially made of welded cast steel sections and direct fuel injection using high-pressure unit pumps. To be able to cover the full spectrum of customer requirements, the engine is also produced as a long-stroke version designated the 1163. It is continuously improved and, for many years until the arrival of the Series 8000, remains the most powerful fast-running marine diesel with its 7,400 kilowatt output (over 10,000 hp) at 1,300 rpm. The engine weighs only around 23 tonnes and so has an unsurpassed power-to-weight ratio in its performance class. Following that lead, the Series 956 is also further improved in 1983 and produced as a standard model for genset applications. Today it offers a range of power outputs extending to 6,250 kilowatts (8,500 hp).

Series 2000 and 4000 – engine design enters the 21st century.
It is considered one of the most beautiful sporting arenas since the Colosseum in Rome – the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium built for the 2008 Games in Beijing. The full filigree beauty of its tangled steel structure is revealed only after dark. Here, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt sets world records at both 100 and 200 meters, and here the Chinese hosts dazzle the onlooking world with phantasmagorical opening and closing ceremonies. Two MTU Series 4000 engines ensure that the lights never go out in this stadium of superlatives.

Vistors to the world’s biggest open-cast copper mine, the Chuquicamata Mine in northern Chile, are wideeyed in amazement. Not just at the vast excavation but at the sight of another example of engineering on a truly gargantuan scale: the Liebherr T-282 dump truck is nearly nine meters high and 14 meters long. Since May 2003, the 240-tonne monster truck has been shifting payloads of up to 345 tonnes a time. Its 2,750 kilowatts (3,700 hp) of motive power is provided by a 20-cylinder MTU Series 4000 engine.

At anchor off the southern French coast near sunny St. Tropez lies the gleaming white, timelessly elegant, 31-meter 100-tonne “Leopard” RG512. Its owner’s pride and joy, this is a luxury cruiser of a very special kind. Within 28 seconds it can accelerate from 0 to 46 knots (74 kilometers an hour) propelled by the power of its three 12-cylinder Series 2000 engines equipped with common-rail fuel injection.

The year 1996 is the start of a new chapter in the company’s history – a chapter that opens with the launch of two engine models – the Series 2000 and Series 4000. They have been designed with the commercial market in mind. Because the end of the cold war brings with it a contraction of defense budgets. In addition, the diesel engines business can not isolate itself from the globalization of the economy. It is evident that internationally oriented suppliers with a broad range of products are better placed to succeed in a global market. But that requires the development of new products, because with its existing portfolio, MTU is serving only half the worldwide off-highway market.

The Series 2000 (power outputs from 720 to 1,790 kilowatts / 980 to 2,430 hp) extends the range at the lower end so that the engines are also suitable for motor yachts, onboard power generators, construction machinery and static gensets. The Series 4000 extends the range at the top end (maximum power output 4,300 kilowatts / 5,850 hp at 2,100 rpm). And so MTU meets the demand for increasingly high performance in the large, high-speed ferries sector and in so doing secures itself the position of market leader. The new designs are developed jointly with American engine maker Detroit Diesel. The firm is one of the three big industrial engine manufacturers in the USA and known especially for its two-stroke engines.

Both new series set standards in terms of economy, performance and environmental credentials when introduced. The guiding principles behind their design were maximum reliability and ease of maintenance for economical operation in ships, trains and heavy-duty off-road vehicles or driving pumps and generators.

The Series 4000 is the world’s first high-performance diesel engine to feature the advanced common-rail fuel injection system that can infinitely vary injection timing, volume and pressure. As a consequence, fundamentally improved control and management of combustion is possible, particularly with regard to optimizing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. The common-rail version of the Series 2000 makes its debut in 2000. The system, now in its second generation, has been a defining component of all new MTU developments since then.

The Series 8000 – the most powerful fast-running diesel on the globe.
Looks of amazement to the accompaniment of much “oohing” and “aahing” greet a vision on the holiday paradise of Tenerife on the Canary Islands. Appearing over the horizon is the ferry that has been conveying passengers and vehicles from Tenerife to La Gomera since 2005. Almost unreal in its futuristic resemblance to a science-fiction spacecraft, the “Benchijigua Express” approaches the harbor. It is a trimaran, 127 meters in length and 30 meters across the beam with space for 1,350 passengers, 340 cars and numerous trucks or buses. Its power units are four MTU 20V-8000 engines. Together, they produce a combined output of 32,800 kilowatts (44,600 hp) and propel the ship to a maximum speed of more than 40 knots (74 kph). That makes the ferry faster than many megayachts and frigates.

Another MTU engine that sets standards in the high-speed ships market. With a power output of 9,100 kilowatts (12,370 hp), it is the most powerful MTU engine ever built. Simultaneously powerful, economical and ecologically sound, it is based on a new and distinct concept, that nevertheless incorporates proven technologies from other models. A new feature is the so-called “Power Unit” consisting of cylinder head, liner, con rod and piston, which are fitted and – when required for servicing – replaced as a single assembly. Another outstanding feature for an engine of this power class is the common-rail fuel injection, which has been used successfully on the Series 4000 for years. With an average pressure of 27.3 bar at maximum power, the Series 8000 is entering realms previously unachievable in a single stage. What makes that possible are the high-performance turbochargers and sequential turbocharging developed in house by MTU which produce a broad power band and consequently excellent acceleration. Plus, more turbocharger boost pressure and more air combined with the common-rail system also mean significantly better fuel consumption and exhaust emission figures compared with conventional arrangements, especially at mid-range power outputs.

Power units don't come any more compact than MTU military vehicle engines.
Flashback to the mid-1930s when Maybach engines were first used in military vehicles. They are based on the HL Series straight-six petrol engines but are soon joined by new, larger, inline 6 and V12 versions developed especially for tracked vehicles. HL stands for ”Hochleistung” – high performance.

Twenty years later, a new generation of engines for armored vehicles is developed at Daimler-Benz in the shape of the Series 837. In contrast with the Maybach engines, these are diesels. The second generation, the Series 870, appears in the late 1960s. In comparison with their predecessors, the new turbocharged, intercooler engines have a substantially better power-toweight ratio. From 1979, the 12-cylinder version is fitted in the Leopard 2 tank.

The next development, and thus the third generation, is the Series 880, which is considerably smaller again. The 12-cylinder MT 883 produces the same installed power output of 1,100 kilowatts (1,500 hp) as the Leopard 2 engine but requires only 60 percent of the space. However, its full potential of more than 2,000 kilowatts (2,700 hp) is revealed by a special version for an amphibious tank in water-going mode. And in the EuroPowerPack, a drivetrain module based on the MT 883 and capable of up to 1,200 kilowatts (1,650 hp), MTU once again demonstrates its outstanding system engineering skills. Cooling system and air filters are packed into the smallest of spaces together with the side-by-side engine and gearbox. Which makes the module the most compact available in its power class.

But they still come more compact than that. In 2004, MTU unveils the Series 890. Weight and overall space requirement have been reduced by almost half compared with the preceding model, the Series 880. A key component is an exceptionally powerful starter/generator integrated in the flywheel. Available in seven cylinder configurations with power outputs ranging from 360 to 1,100 kilowatts (490 to 1,500 bhp), The Series 890 is suitable for diesel-mechanical or dieselelectric power trains and makes highly advanced installation and drive system concepts possible. Another advance is the introduction of the starter/generator with disengageable clutch, MTU’s mbrid concept. It makes drivetrain systems with full hybrid functionality possible - in other words the vehicles can be driven electrically using battery power when operating in stealth mode.

Series 1600 – continuing the tradition.
In its centenary year, MTU introduces a new engine generation – the Series 1600. It extends the range of models for MTU Onsite Energy applications, completing the product portfolio in the lower output bracket from 275 to 650 kVA. It is the only engine in its class to be developed specially for non-vehicular applications. Other potential uses apart from localized power generation can ultimately be expected in agricultural and industrial machinery or railway rolling stock.

As great as the differences may be between then – the day it was founded on 23rd March 1909 – and now – 100 years later – the company has always remained true throughout its long and successful history to Karl Maybach’s ambition to produce technologically innovative populsion systems of the highest quality.

The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

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