Electromobility: Where is the journey taking us?
Sep 25, 2009
Photo © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark

Climate change has no longer been a phantom of the future for some time now. Many are aware of the fact that they will inevitably have to rethink the way they do things, even if it is not easy putting this into practice. Renewable energies, sustainable business methods and global warming have long since become buzzwords in a discussion involving the whole of society. In the debate about climate goals and CO2 reduction the automobile industry in particular has become the focus of attention. Work is currently going ahead at full speed on new drive technologies and more economical engines. Just whether this will result in a new automobile legend no one can really know at the moment; however, the change to an ecological approach certainly means a chance for a new alignment.

Electric and hybrid vehicles in particular are high on the list. However; with energy groups such as RWE and Vattenfall present at the world's largest car show, currently being held in Frankfurt, in order to present electric charging points and the associated concepts, it also becomes clear that in order to build a car fit for the future and establish it in the market there is a call for an interplay between various areas of expertise: car manufacturers, battery producers and energy providers will have to get together and overcome the difficulties together. As several factors play a role in possible solution scenarios the question as to what the automobile of th future is going to be like can no longer in a single dimension.

With regard to which mobility concepts are currently being discussed Claudia Beckmann and Nancy Jehmlich first spoke to Gerhard Wagner, head of Software Development at AUDI Electronics Venture GmbH and responsible for the electronics side to the company's ePerformance project. In two subsequent sections we shall be discussing with Fabian Kley and David Dallinger from Fraunhofer ISI, who address technical and economical aspects of electromobility, the infrastructure the latter requires and how the automobile can be integrated in renewable de-central energy systems.

Electromobility is the talk of the town. What are the different concepts being discussed and as of when can we expect to see the products coming on the market?
Gerhard Wagner: Audi is at present working full steam ahead on electrifying drive systems - be it a mild hybrid, a fully hybrid engine, or a thoroughbred electric drive. Here, not only does a sportscar concept fit the Audi marque superbly, but also sits sweetly with an electric drive. Because the constant increase in the power of high-torque electric motors when starting from a standstill and the immense range of possible revolutions per minute offered mean drivers will enjoy spontaneity and highly dynamic cars. Among other things, owing to the costs structure, the introduction of the new technologies will frequently be from the top down, i.e., from the more expensive models to the mass-market cars. A powerful sportscar is prime terrain for developing new technologies and establishing our expertise, because we can later derive from it the technology for the less cutting-edge mass-market models.

What are the major challenges facing the development of electric cars today?
Wagner: The launch dates will be determined primarily by how far development work on the batteries progresses. But they are only one of the modules. Our goal is to offer our clients mobility that they can afford. For this reason, Audi is devoting great attention to the total cost of ownership and factoring this into its business models.

What will change for users of an electric car?
Wagner: It will no longer be possible to spontaneously use your car, the way you do today. You will need to plan ahead for the route you take, and have decided when you are departing and want to arrive.

Audi has presented its new "e-tron", a powerful sportscar powered solely by an electric drive. VW highlighted "up", the alternative for those with less money in their wallets. In your opinion, what target group will be the first to buy an electric car?
Wagner: The target group will consist of people in the higher income bracket who are thrilled by innovation and highly interested in technology and like a sporting feel.

Gerhard Wagner is Head of Software Development at AUDI Electronics Venture GmbH and responsible for the electronics side to the company's ePerformance project.

To read more about electromobility, please click for part two "charging infrastructure" and for part three "energy systems".

Photo © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark