In late August Siemens and the Swedish automobile manufacturer Volvo announced a comprehensive strategic partnership to promote the development of electric cars. Now Siemens presents its huge range of products in the field of e-mobility at the International Motor Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany. At this important fair which will last until 25 September I met Michael Valentine-Urbschat, CEO of Siemens Business Unit “Inside Electric Car” and Roland Edel, Vice President and CTO for Innovative Mobility Solutions at Siemens.
Editor: Siemens is a sponsor of The Energy Collective. The post author is an independent TEC contributor and is not associated with Siemens AG.
Currently from the approximately 42.3 million vehicles registered in Germany only 2300 are pure electrical ones, probably because their range is limited and they are too expensive compared to combustion engines. Where do you see possibilities to improve the market access?
Roland Edel: It all starts with the car manufacturers, who will have to prepare their portfolios for the European Union’s forthcoming CO2 limits. The social need to reduce global and local emissions will lead to more rigorous CO2 limits between today and the year 2020. From the point of sustainable development of urban areas, I can well imagine that big cities will introduce zero-emission zones within that timeframe, where only electric cars are allowed do drive for free, while all others will have to pay a city toll. It is also conceivable that some cities will only allow the delivery traffic in the downtown area for electric vehicles. Generally we believe that the market entry of electric vehicles has to be made by fleets in the city area – for example corporate fleets or car-sharing models. Car-sharing ideas are also pushed forward by the fact that especially young people define themselves less and less by owning their own car.
To be suitable for everyday use recharging has to be quick and comfortable, especially outside the own garage. What solutions exist in this area?
Roland Edel: Here at the IAA we show, for example, new parking lot charging stations, which can recharge up to two electric cars with conventional battery capacity within one hour at the same time. We also present a direct current charging station, which reduces the charging time to about 20 minutes. Principally, a wireless inductive charging is possible, but for true practicality there still has to be done a lot of development work. In addition to the hardware of the charging stations, we also provide smart grid-capable software solutions for control rooms. Apart from technology and infrastructure, also economic aspects have to be considered. For example, it is getting more and more foreseeable that only by selling the electricity the investment of a charging station can’t be refinanced. Therefore our proposal to municipalities and parking operators is to combine the charging offer with a parking lot.
For organizing such a large project, you will need many more partners …
Roland Edel: That’s right! The consistent introduction of electric vehicles will whirl the conventional business models and roles of automobile manufacturers, system suppliers, energy companies and municipalities. Will car manufacturers also sell the charging boxes for home garages, or will they be provided by the electricity supplier? Can energy companies make up business models, in which the e-car is provided as part of the electricity supply contract – like telecommunication providers do it with cell phones? Generally, in the field of infrastructure it isn’t easy for us and the other market participants to distinguish between partners and competitors, as well as between customers and supplier.
Will large organizations like Siemens diversity into car manufacturing or car-sharing operator?
Michael Valentine-Urbschat: Certainly not. We are and will continue focusing on components and systems for electric cars, like electric motors, inverters and on-board chargers. We are aiming at positioning ourselves as the leading system provider for the automotive and electricity market, but we will not build our own cars.
What are your time expectations for electric mobility market?
Roland Edel: The electric mobility market is currently in a phase of “incipient experimentation”. From 2015, the market with the concepts and partnerships found up to this point will really begin to expand, and by 2020, we expect that a mass market for electric vehicles will exist.
Photo by author: part of Siemens’ “Boulevard of the Future” booth at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.