Baden-Württemberg in Germany is known as a centre of cutting-edge automotive technologies. The state is leveraging the presence of a high concentration of automotive OEMs and Tier 1 companies is e-mobil Baden-Württemberg.
Formed in 2010, e-mobil BW is promoting electromobility, with a focus on small and medium-sized companies. It supports regional energy policy turnaround and promotes the industrialisation and market introduction of future-oriented mobility solutions through a network of business, science and public sector partners. One of the lead projects is SmartLoad, which is spearheaded by AVL Deutschland GmbH. Announced in October 2018, the objective of the project is to make cars safer.
Vehicles of the future will increasingly be electric and autonomous. One way to avoid failures is to have duplicate components in safety critical functions such as driver and brake assistance systems. This is common practice in fly-by-wire aircraft. SmartLoad is, however, following a different route by finding ways to immediately detect and react to damage or failure of critical equipment. “We want to develop completely new methods of fault prevention and prediction,” says Albert Albers from the IPEK Institute of Product Engineering at Karlsruhe Institut of Technology (KIT), one of the eight project partners. Researchers can use a total of seven test stations in the XiL network in Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Wangen. New electronic components will be developed based on the test results. “Our ultimate goal is to make autonomous vehicle functions less complex and, as a result, more robust,” says Michael Frey from the Institute of Vehicle System Technology (FAST) at KIT. “Current series models have been equipped with additional technology, with the result that the cars have many more components. Our approach is to develop vehicles that manage without the baggage of additional components. And, of course, fewer components means lower costs and a lower weight, which would be beneficial for the range and would therefore also lead to greater acceptance by the customer.” Funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), the project will run for three years, during which time eight partners from Baden-Württemberg will contribute their expertise under the direction of AVL Deutschland. The project idea was developed in the Cluster Electro-mobility South-West research network.
The cluster includes the local authorities who must pave the way for electromobility on roads throughout the state. The goal of the cluster Electro-mobility South-West, which was established in 2008 and has been coordinated by e-mobil BW since 2010, is to play a key role in the implementation of the vision of strong, low-emission and market-driven mobility. The focus is on the strategic fields of market and costs, handling and comfort, and interlinked mobility, says the agency. The cluster exploits the unique opportunity offered by its region Karlsruhe – Mannheim – Stuttgart – Ulm to link together leading large, medium-sized and small enterprises in the technological fields of vehicle construction, energy engineering, information and communication technology (ICT), and the interdisciplinary field of production engineering with local research institutes. According to e-mobil BW, electromobility offers a multitude of opportunities. “Through the reduction of CO2 emissions and its potential as storage technology, electro-mobility has a direct influence on the transition to alternative energies and helps protect the environment. In terms of the economy, the change in technology promises enormous potential for jobs by linking different branches together and exploiting new fields of work. In order to exploit this potential Baden-Wuerttemberg must remain a relevant location for production, even as it moves into the future,” says the agency.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Franz Loogen, Director, e-mobil BW how digitization has become a game changer in the automotive industry. Loogen: In addition to far-reaching changes to their products, companies in the automotive industry have to accommodate the structural changes driven by smart production and Industry 4.0. The introduction of completely new production methods is set to radically alter the way the sector works, produces and behaves on the market. The technological innovations to products and production as a result of electrification and digitization will go hand-in-hand with global changes in customer behaviour and market demand. Instead of owning a vehicle, there is already a growing demand in the “sharing economy” for “mobility on demand” or “mobility as a service”. This will fundamentally alter our traffic systems and the social, cultural and economic aspects of (car-based) mobility.
AI: Similarly, what impact have technologies such as artificial intelligence, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and the Internet of Things had on the automotive landscape? Loogen: These technologies are crucial for developing the mobility of the future. We see new human-machine interfaces – voice-operated control in combination with always-on communication services via apps. Autonomous driving and vehicle-to vehicle-communication will improve vehicle safety significantly. The domination of the current OEMs of the automotive landscape will change. New players with high competencies in the new technologies are entering and changing the rules of the market. “Mobility providers” like Uber or “big data Players” such as Apple, Alphabet and Baidu are forming a new auto universe with new rules and market mechanisms.
AI: How has e-mobil BW helped Baden-Württemberg remain relevant in the fast-evolving automotive sector? Loogen: With much shorter innovation cycles today, companies and research institutions are under considerable pressure to deliver. As a result, they are constantly increasing the volume of funding they channel into development. Industrywide intensive cooperation amongst partners from science and industry in the Cluster Electro-mobility South-West has already succeeded in bringing innovative topics such as autonomous or electric driving to the attention of the general public. Cooperation in the cluster enables members to pool their strengths, build up their know-how as a team and so leverage key synergies. Indeed, the changes in technology and the resulting domino effect on innovation and value chains are set to impact supply sector SMEs first and foremost. Conventional components such as diesel injection pumps, valves, pistons, gearboxes or clutches are relinquishing their special status and becoming obsolete. And this is where cooperation in the cluster network comes into its own. The cluster empowers SMEs to take timely advantage of the opportunities afforded by new technologies such as battery and fuel cell systems, electric power trains, power electronics and vehicle digitalisation, automation and connectivity. Using the framework of the “Mittelstandsoffensive Mobilität” – the SME mobility initiative backed by Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Economic Affairs – the cluster is steadily intensifying activities in support of small and medium-sized enterprises. Its aim is to help them gain a foothold on the new electro-mobility value chain.
AI: What technologies are coming out of the region in the field of renewable energy systems? Loogen: Baden-Württemberg companies are active in all important electro-mobility technologies. In the field of energy systems companies are developing intelligent solutions for charging infrastructure and fast charging. As an example, the region presented storage-based 320 kW fast-charging technology for e-mobility in the low-voltage grid at the Baden-Wurttemberg pavilion of the Hannover Fair. Various companies in the region have built up big competencies developing and optimising battery modules as well as intelligent storage solution-systems. Modular approaches to electric axle drives – one of the top issues for electro-mobility – are offered by various suppliers in Baden-Württemberg.
AI: What about battery cells? Loogen: Recently the state of Baden-Wurttemberg started to fund a big project to develop the large-scale production of individualized battery cells. This project is based on industry 4.0 principles to scale up from pilot production to fully-automated mass production. The efficient interlinking of production processes worldwide is an important issue with a big innovation potential.
AI: What is the response to mobility newcomers such as Amazon and Uber? Loogen: The target is ultimately to keep the strategically important interface to the end-user intact. This means the OEM has to control whole customer journey from the initial contact to advisory service, sales, delivery, maintenance, service-data and, ultimately, scrapping.