How electric vehicles fit with automakers' future mobility plans, explored by Simmi Sinha.

Electric powertrains are the recent trend in automotive domain and that could begin to put the internal combustion engine on back foot. Some recent proclamations from the biggest automakers has put electric vehicle (EV) expansion and progress front and centre.

Future of mobility

According to Ola Källenius, responsible for group research at Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz Cars: “When it comes to the future of mobility, Daimler is relying on different technologies continuing to coexist. These are optimally tailored to the particular customer needs and vehicle models. We are placing our emphasis on highly efficient high-tech combustion engines, systematic hybridisation and battery-electric or fuel-cell drive systems. Our approach is deliberately broad in view of our extensive vehicle portfolio and our customers’ mobility requirements.”

Plug-in hybrids represent a key technology on the road to a locally emission-free future for the motor vehicle, Källenius believes. He explains: “This is because they offer customers the best of both worlds; in the city they can drive in fully electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the combustion engine's range.

“Intelligently networked charging solutions form an integral part of the vehicles electro-mobility initiative, as customer acceptance is closely associated with the availability of a comprehensive infrastructure. Whether at home, via a wall box charging system, while shopping, at work or on the street, the possibilities for powering electric vehicles are already very diverse nowadays. From 2018, direct current charging based on the CCS (combined charging system) standard will gradually find its way into the electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.”

Benefits and challenges

Amos Haggiag, CEO and co-founder of Optibus says: “With electric vehicles come great benefits but also hurdles for their successful adoption. The advantages are huge for both transit and non-transit users, in both the private vehicle and mass transit sectors. Financially, owners of EVs will enjoy a significantly lower operating and maintenance cost. Improved air quality- especially critical as transport was just named the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the US will reduce long-term health problems and their associated costs.”

In the same way that private vehicle owners will benefit, public transportation operators and agencies can also benefit from EV fleets, says Haggiag. “EVs cost less per mile the more your drive, so mass transit vehicles that drive 100,000 miles annually will see the biggest improvement over diesel-powered vehicles. Reduced operating costs for city-wide mass transportation will ultimately lower a city’s transportation budget, re-allocating valuable resources. Moreover, a quieter and more spacious electric bus offers a more pleasant riding experience, giving passengers an additional incentive to leave their cars behind and avoid the frustrating gridlock experienced in most cities today,” adds Haggiag.

However, challenges remain, Haggiag admits: “With new vehicles come new parameters for operation and challenges. Cities manage their transit with outdated, low-tech systems that do not have the capacity to accommodate EVs as part of the automotive landscape. Software and technology are needed to account for battery levels and locate charging stations to efficiently optimise battery levels and longevity and give cities the infrastructure to support and encourage EVs as the norm.”

Way forward

Long term, electro-mobility represents the only way forwards, thinks Hermann-Josef Stappen, spokesperson for technology communications at Porsche. So how does a sports car brand such as Porsche, which is steeped in tradition, position itself strategically in the face of all this change? How and with which drive concepts can the fascination of a sports car be carried forwards into the future, into the age of electro-mobility?

According to Stappen: “Porsche sees electro-mobility as a fantastic opportunity. The challenge lies in bringing the new technology to the road in the manner that has come to be expected of Porsche. The company can rely on 70 years of experience in building sports cars with future-oriented innovations that have been tried and tested on the race track. In the short and medium term, we need to follow a diversified approach and be flexible, which is why we are employing a combination of further enhanced combustion engines, hybrid drives and pure electric drives.

“In the longer term, the future belongs to electro-mobility. Initially, electro-mobility will be represented by models with plug-in hybrid technology, which we see as a bridge to the technology of the purely electric drive and, crucially, it will be represented by Porsche.”

[Mob. Sinha.2017.01.05]

Smart Transport & Mobility

12 Jun 2018 - 14 Jun 2018, London, UK

Innovations in autonomous vehicles, data & AI, electric vehicles and shared mobility are set to revolutionise the transportation sector. However, before sustainable, seamless, intermodal transportation can be realised, a brand new ecosystem of cities, automakers, tech & infrastructure companies and MasS providers needs to develop.