7th eMobility Summit in Berlin: German manufacturers’ “model offensive” until 2020
“The German automotive industry is a technological leader in both classical and alternative powertrains. This is shown by a recent study of powertrain patents conducted by the ifo Institute that specializes in economic research. It reveals that worldwide, one third of all patents in the field of electric mobility (34%) and hybrid propulsion (32%) comes from Germany. And German companies actually account for 40 percent of the patents for gasoline and diesel vehicles,” said Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the beginning of the 7th eMobility Summit that is being organized by the “Tagesspiegel” newspaper in Berlin on May 9 and 10, 2017.
The reason for this result was the huge expenditure by the industry on research and development. “By 2020, our companies will have invested a total of 40 billion euros in the development of electric mobility alone. During this period the German automotive manufacturers will more than treble their range of e-cars – from the current 30 models to nearly 100,” the VDA president stated. According to the latest Electric Vehicle Index from McKinsey, Germany is already the second largest producer of electric vehicles, behind China but ahead of the US. McKinsey forecasts that in five years Germany will be the largest producer – its 1.3 million e-cars will put it far ahead of the US and China with around 850,000 vehicles each.
Today there are over 55,000 electric cars on Germany’s roads. Wissmann commented: “We expect the sales of e-models to rise even more due to the ‘environmental subsidy’ and the tax exemptions for electric vehicles. But it is also true to say that the lack of a charging infrastructure to date has hampered the success of electric mobility.” At present Germany has 7,407 normal public charging points and 292 rapid charging points. The Government’s promotional funding of 300 million euros will make it possible to install about 15,000 public charging points and several thousand rapid charging stations.
Furthermore, Wissmann added, politicians had to make more adjustments in order to regulate the installation of charging pillars pragmatically: “From our point of view a situation must be prevented in which customers with a private parking space have no right to a charging point even if they pay for the installation. The German Government should amend the rules and rapidly create the necessary conditions enabling smooth establishment of a charging infrastructure that is accessible both privately and publicly,” the VDA president stated.
Wissmann stressed that the automotive industry was adding to the German Government’s investments in a public charging infrastructure by means of its own measures on major European transport routes. BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche are planning together with the Ford Motor Company a rapid charging network on freeways. This initiative indicates how seriously the German manufacturers take electric mobility, and that they wish to tackle this joint project as a group of manufacturers, similar to the purchase of Nokia Here.
The success of electric mobility was important not only for the automotive industry, Wissmann said, and explained that “The switch to electric mobility is in full swing. This is primarily not only about the future of the automotive industry, but also about a strategic choice for Germany as a location for technology and industry.”
The VDA president went on to say that electric mobility was part of a comprehensive, broad-based strategy that envisages – in addition to the alternative systems – further improvements in classical drivetrains. “Alongside massive promotion of alternative propulsion, the German automotive industry is also aiming to make savings in fossil fuels by optimizing gasoline and diesel systems.” Wissmann continued: “We expect that in the coming years we will be able to increase the efficiency of gasoline and diesel vehicles by at least another 10 to 15 percent.” Petroleum-independent synthetic fuels might be an option in the future for securing CO2 neutral mobility even with combustion engines.
Wissmann used Berlin as an example to highlight future problem areas in urban mobility and drew politicians’ attention to their responsibility: “Inner-city traffic is growing, and with it the challenges. However, the solution to increasing transport tasks cannot be a regulatory policy of prohibitions that adds more speed limits and intentionally restricts the existing infrastructure.” According to Wissmann the necessary balance between ecology and economy would be possible only if the various modes of transport were intelligently linked.
The German automotive industry’s 58 percent of worldwide patents on connected and automated driving was a testament to its technological know-how, Wissmann declared. Here, too, political flanking measures were needed: “This field is developing at a great pace. Therefore legal regulations must also take account of technological progress. It is not an easy task to establish rules for a technology, part of which does not even exist yet.”
Wissmann explained that connectivity and the associated infrastructure were not absolutely essential for automated driving, but additional external information about potential hazards could support the automated driving functions. The objective of the current test routes was to detect all traffic situations automatically and develop a flexible, holistic solution for all associated technologies. Yet new technologies were above all also a European topic. Wissmann continued: “Four Directorates General in the European Commission are still working simultaneously on the topic of connectivity. Each Directorate General is pursuing its own objectives. The first necessary step would appear to be to ensure ‘intelligent connectivity’ in Brussels.”