FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) plans to double staff numbers at its charging and energy division, roll out new payment technology next year and strike more alliances to take on Tesla (TSLA.O) in a key electric vehicle (EV) battleground: power infrastructure.
By ensuring there are enough fast-charging plugs – and enough power – for the EVs it wants to sell, Europe’s biggest carmaker hopes to convince drivers worried about battery ranges that they can ditch their fossil fuel cars for good.
Underlining its electric ambition, Volkswagen has drafted in power industry veteran Elke Temme, who spent nearly two decades at German energy companies RWE (RWEG.DE) and Innogy, to help the carmaker get in better shape to take on Tesla.
In the job since January, Temme, 53, has been tasked with bundling the carmaker’s various power activities such as procuring energy, enabling customers to charge their cars at home, and on the road, and selling the electricity required.
Getting this done will require a bigger workforce and Temme plans to double the staff at Volkswagen’s European charging and energy division, known as Elli, to about 300 in 2022, having already tripled it this year, she told Reuters in an interview.
“We’re investing in huge growth areas that don’t always have to be profitable right away. We always see these investments in the overall context of our group strategy,” she said. “That’s why building up a comprehensive infrastructure is key.”
Temme declined to specify the budget she has been given but said Volkswagen, led by Tesla admirer Herbert Diess, has approved the investment requests for the division, which also sells home battery storage systems similar to Tesla’s Powerwall.
Volkswagen leads the pack worldwide by far with its investment plans for EVs and batteries through 2030, according to a Reuters analysis, and it is planning to spend 35 billion euros on battery EVs by 2025.
PLAYING CATCH UP
But when it comes to the networks of fast-chargers that many analysts believe are crucial for bringing EVs into the mainstream, VW has some catching up to do.
Tesla has been rolling out high-performance Superchargers for years and has a global network of about 30,000 fast-chargers that it says can give a 200 km (125 mile) boost in 15 minutes.
The company said in October that its own network has doubled in the past 18 months – and will triple over the next two years.
Volkswagen, meanwhile expects its network of fast-chargers to nearly quadruple to about 45,000 by 2025 – when it aims to overhaul Tesla as the global EV market leader – with 18,000 EV pumps in Europe, 17,000 in China and 10,000 in North America.
Volkswagen in March said it plans to spend 400 million euros on expanding its fast-charging network on the continent by then.
But that’s a drop in the ocean compared with the 5 billion euros the European Union reckons is needed every year until 2040 to expand charging infrastructure on the continent, and it is raising the pressure on utilities and governments to step up.
In Europe, the Volkswagen group is a shareholder in the EU’s fast-charging venture Ionity, along with rival carmakers BMW (BMWG.DE), Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz, Ford (F.N) and Hyundai (005380.KS).
It has also teamed up with energy firms such as Italy’s Enel (ENEI.MI), Britain’s BP (BP.L) and Spain’s Iberdrola (IBE.MC) to plug geographical gaps and form the blueprint for how funding for EV infrastructure can be split across industries.
“Various models are conceivable, from product partnerships and joint ventures to M&A,” said Temme.
CARS AND POWER
Tesla has already shown that when it comes to EVs, just selling cars no longer cuts it. It has adopted a model that offers customers everything from cars to battery storage to solar panels as well as electricity in some U.S. states.
Volkswagen is now selling power to retail clients that drive an EV or plug-in hybrids. One of its tariffs – which is available to customers who don’t own a VW – has attracted more than 10,000 clients since its launch in July, Temme said.
She said VW was planning to make its fast-chargers available for all EV drivers, unlike Tesla which has so far kept its supercharging network just for Tesla drivers – with the exception of a pilot programme in the Netherlands. read more
“We are pursuing a different approach than Tesla when it comes to charging infrastructure roll-out,” said Temme.
“We want an open, non-discriminatory charging network and will develop our services to make our offer more comfortable, simpler, more attractive.”
Volkswagen says its open-for-all approach means buyers of its EVs can charge at more than 250,000 existing public charging points across Europe – from various providers with various charging speeds.
The problem is that charging protocols and payment methods can vary across vendors, potentially turning the act of refueling an EV into a time-consuming and messy undertaking.
From the first quarter of 2022, Volkswagen plans to offer “Plug & Charge” technology in Europe to make the process smoother.
The car will store the owner’s payment details and make a contactless payment when the charging plug is attached to the EV at refuelling stations set up for the service.
While these are new challenges for established carmakers, Temme, who witnessed first-hand the abrupt shift of Germany’s utilities away from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, believes they can be mastered.
“Utilities must reinvent themselves and transition from nuclear and coal to renewables. In the automotive industry, including at Volkswagen, the question is currently how to consistently shift the focus from conventional vehicles to sustainable mobility,” she said.
“These challenges are of similar magnitude.”
($1 = 0.8738 euros)
Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by David Clarke
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The year of the app: five transport predictions for 2023
Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo
In 2009 Apple trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that” to showcase the growth of app availability on its iOS app marketplace. Since then, the app boom has revolutionised lifestyles and, over the space of a decade, apps have become commonplace and vital for daily functions, with downloadable technology on smartphones intrinsic to leisure, business, retail, and transport services.
Drilling down into transport, we can see that sweeping changes in app culture are impacting the way we travel. Traditionally transport has been commodity-based: you purchase a car to go from A to B. Now apps enable the servitisation of mobility, with solutions facilitating everything from e-mobility and ride-sharing, to practical features such as mapping, locating charging points, and paying for parking, all underpinned by data networks and simplified user experience.
Looking further ahead to 2027, Gartner predicts more than 50% of the global population will be daily active users of multiple super apps. These are platforms ‘like a Swiss army knife’ that house a variety of services in one ecosystem, deploying modular micro-apps for a personalised experience. With super apps, tapping on one icon will manage multiple aspects of your day, and the acceleration towards this new era of app technology demonstrates how deep the impact of apps has been so far.
With apps in mind, I am looking at the next 12 months to predict the ways transport will change for the better, the ways automation and technology will improve lives, and how apps will play an integral role in radically shifting the needle toward enhanced mobility.
- Smartphone technology will be engineered with all demographics in mind
Despite preconceptions of ageism, technology-enabled solutions are used by all types of drivers, with demographics across the nation taking advantage of technology’s benefits to convenience. Focusing specifically on the elderly, 9 in 10 (86%) UK pensioners believe smartphones make their lives significantly better according to OnePoll.
Almost two-thirds (64%) believed their depiction in media was either negative or ambivalent, while almost half (45%) have been made to feel frustrated (37%), silly (29%), or angry (27%) by younger people patronising their ability to use their phone. With this in mind, in 2023 I predict that more companies will take an inclusive approach when it comes to engineering technology for smartphones. This will involve ensuring that solutions cater to their needs with three user experience points in mind: accessibility, functionality, and mobility.
When planning journeys from A to B, and rounding off a route by paying for parking, drivers in the UK can expect to see improvements to practical usage and integration of technology in their daily lives.
- There will be more competition in the market and app choice for motorists
The opening of the market to competition outside of the confines of the traditional single-supplier model will begin to gather momentum, and this will mean a wider choice of preferred apps for motorists. In 2022, Open Market pilots in Manchester City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, using the DfT-funded National Parking Platform, showed that it is possible to have multiple providers competing at the same location, bringing more choice and reliability to consumers and councils alike. And now, new entrants that provide services outside of the parking ecosystem will come into play.
With motorists free to use their app of choice this will reduce costs to the motorist and increase digitisation. Evidence from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP), who made the move to multiple cashless parking providers in 2021, shows that digital penetration grew by more than 250% over 2 years with the introduction of multiple phone parking providers so app parking now accounts for more than 55% of all parking transactions. This is a trend that I expect to see grow, as more authorities adopt the Open Market construct.
- 3G sunsetting will increase reliance on app-based transport services
The unprecedented growth of 5G, outpacing 3G and 4G uptake, represents the quickest generational rollout for the mobile industry. As 5G is setting new standards of hyperfast connectivity and its star is rising, 3G is fading into obsolescence, which will cause trickle-down effects that mark significant changes in the way we park.
Network providers will be retiring band services, and as this happens hardware will be affected. In parking, chip and pin services for payment reliant on 3G modem hardware will stop working. 3G sunsetting presents challenges for physical payment methods, and potentially costly upgrades to machines to stay connected. Many people are still unaware of these changes, as 79% of people have no idea that the 3G network is being phased out, according to a 2020 survey.
App-based solutions will remain unaffected by network alterations, as these services rely on device connectivity to mobile networks across 4G, 5G, or IVR for those paying via phone call. Apps circumvent these challenges and I predict they will be more attractive to Councils and operators in 2023.
- Digitalisation positively impacting transport strategy for Councils and operators
The main dimension of the impact of digitalisation is around the end-user experience, but the advent of technological solutions also provides useful back-end data. For Councils and operators, with increased digitalisation comes more data points and information about vehicle types, emissions, and dwell times. Armed with this information authorities can use this data to make informed decisions around environmental policies and wider parking controls to make our cities more liveable and more manageable.
Trends in the transport industry are part of a moving picture, and how much is changed in this space is dependent on investment and strategy. Forward-thinking Councils and operators have already seen the benefits of harnessing technology advancements, as well as data-driven insights from Mobility-as-a-Service providers.
Progression of a data strategy is planned for the Government, as over 90% of senior civil servants will be upskilled on digital and data essentials, with learning embedded into performance and development standards, as part of the ‘Transforming for a digital future‘ policy. In 2023, on a local level, I hope to see continued progression of digitalisation ambitions, which will have noticeable and important impacts on the ground level, for the drivers who can take advantage of new transport developments.
- There will be a shift from manual to automatic services in transport
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen some great examples of automatic solutions for transport in the UK, with automatic number plate recognition technology playing a part in optimising parking payments. As adoption continues, more drivers will be able to benefit from touch-free solutions.
When travelling into a town or city centre, it’s often the process that motorists would locate a space, and pay for parking via an app. Should the motorist need more time, they can potentially top up their parking session via extending on the app. Collaboration between parking providers and operators means that camera technology can completely automate the process and charges are calculated separate to manual management.
Automatic payment facilitates touch-free entry and exit to parking facilities, and solutions are being trialled in the UK currently. The parking transaction starts and ends completely autonomously, bypassing pay machines. In 2023 we will see an expansion of these high-quality technology solutions for drivers, allowing for new and exciting levels of convenience for urban travellers.
Looking at the horizon
In 2023 I believe we’ll see great strides made toward Mobility-as-a-Service models for motorists, with digital channels enabling better flow in transport. There will be more elements of disposability when moving from A to B, and transport service providers will look at becoming holistic one-stop shops. The popularity of the likes of Uber and Lime attests to the fact that mindsets are already shifting towards service-based transport.
Within the microcosm of parking, providers are linking up mobility services for motorists using apps, and there will be scope to manage a journey in its entirety from one point of contact; mapping, location, payment, and charging services can be housed in one space. We’re also seeing app-based services create actionable data streams for Councils and operators to improve transport management in local areas. These benefits are ticks in the pro column for choosing apps, as they herald an age for more liveable towns and cities.
Electric buses are the World Cup winners? Investment in greener transport could be positive legacy of Qatar 2022
Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there are many things that make this event unique and unprecedented. One less remarked upon aspect of the tournament is the role of electric buses in getting fans to and from stadiums. Here, Roger Brereton, Head of Sales at bus steering parts manufacturer Pailton Engineering, argues that investment in greener buses could be a positive legacy of the tournament.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be a tournament of firsts. The first World Cup to be hosted by an Arab nation and the first World Cup to take place in the Middle East. The first World Cup to be held during the winter months. It is also the first World Cup claiming to be carbon neutral.
That claim, made by the tournament’s organisers, is certainly open to question. Some have questioned the sustainability credentials of the event and others have accused Doha of greenwashing. Regardless of where one stands on this controversial debate, there is no doubt that delivering this major sporting spectacle in a more sustainable way has been a key part of the agenda. There are surely lessons we can all learn from this experience.
A boost for buses
One area worth considering is the investment in public transport and electric buses specifically. An estimated 1.2 million football fans will descend on the small island state to witness the World Cup and they will be escorted to the eight stadiums via a fleet of buses that are integrated with the country’s metro system.
In preparation for this event, Qatar has extended its existing fleet of 1,000 buses to approximately 4,000 in total. As part of this investment, Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong has delivered 741 battery powered electric buses, giving Qatar one of the largest electric bus fleets in the world. Although electric buses were used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this will be the first time electric buses have been used to support public transport during a major global event on this scale.
In addition to the buses themselves, there has been a corresponding investment in infrastructure. The new bus depot in Lusail, which has capacity for 478 buses, entered the Guiness World Records as the world’s largest electric bus depot. It is the first of its kind in the region to rely on solar energy and includes 11,000 PV solar panels to generate 4MW of power every day.
This investment is not seen as a temporary indulgence but has been planned as part of a long-term agenda. The buses and the new infrastructure have been designed to be carefully integrated with the country’s metro system, home to one of the world’s fastest driverless trains which became operational in 2019. Yutong will also be investing further in Qatar by building a factory for manufacturing.
There is widespread agreement around the world about the need for greater investment in public transport and electric buses in particular. One of the potential barriers to electrification of bus fleets has always been the high start-up costs and the need for significant infrastructural changes. Major sporting events like the World Cup can potentially provide the impetus for a much needed shift toward greater investment in public transport.
While the World Cup itself may be short lived, it can be hoped that the legacy is more sustainable transport. Those of us interested in buses in other parts of the world will watch the football no doubt, but we will also be watching for what we might learn from this extra investment in e-mobility.
Pailton Engineering designs and manufacturers custom steering parts for heavy vehicles, included the bus and coach sector. Discover more at pailton.com
The battery technology driving sustainable change in the EV industry
Konstantin Solodovnikov, CEO, Innolith
A common belief in the e-mobility industry is that Lithium-ion batteries have reached their full potential. But this is where the EV market’s most damaging crisis is rooted. Because if true, what was meant to make electric vehicles (EVs) a critical part of our future has played a pivotal role in stunting adoption – battery sustainability.
Current EV battery production and disposal methods harm the environment more than their internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles counterparts. The use of cathode materials and the resulting environmental footprint is a core factor, and Lithium-ion batteries not being fully recyclable only exacerbates the situation.
Some have looked for alternative sources to spearhead battery cell innovations, like Solid State and Silicon Anode. Over the past 12-18 months the former proved to have manufacturing and cost issues, and the latter performance challenges. Others in the industry have turned to battery cells powered by iron, magnesium and silicon.
Breakthrough battery innovation to power e-mobility
But it’s the development of the first Li-ion battery to use the only fully recyclable inorganic electrolyte that is set to free EVs from the key barriers to mass adoption.
This breakthrough in battery chemistry innovation means EV battery cells containing fully recyclable electrolytes are now a reality. As such, EV battery production can become a significantly cleaner process than previously thought. These new cells will reduce the use of key components lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese by 20% per kWh and offers an unforeseen opportunity to reuse sulphur dioxide (SO2), a by-product of mining and related polluters.
Championing a circular economy
At the current rate, landfill sites will be filled with 250,000 tons of battery over the next 15 years. These new inorganic electrolytes help address this problem as they can be recycled repeatedly. In addition to supporting a circular economy, they reduce waste management requirements, which come with their own environmental and financial costs.
If used worldwide, inorganic electrolyte battery cells could reuse up to 10% of manmade SO2 pollution by 2035. Furthermore, the huge reduction in raw materials will significantly diminish the EV industry’s environmental impact. Together, these factors complement six of the UN’s sustainability goals, including, making EVs more accessible to all, lowering costs and leveraging the circular economy.
Mass adoption is certainly possible. Inorganic electrolyte battery cell technology can be easily integrated into 99% of the e-mobility market and all EV manufacturer production lines where cylindrical batteries are used. It is also highly compatible with existing and future supply chains, production equipment, and processes
But this isn’t the limit of the benefits for EV manufacturers. Via better production processes, raw material integration and improved efficiency of the use of the energy inside of a battery pack, these new battery cells will achieve 10-20% improved performance.
Rolling with the climate
One often-overlooked barrier to EV adoption is temperature range. This has hindered car buying markets and the adoption of EVs in areas like warehouse logistics, transport and manufacturing.
At 0°C, conventional EV batteries experience a drop in performance that gets significantly worse as temperatures fall. The new inorganic non-flammable electrolytes provide vastly improved temperature ranges – from -40°C to +60° C for discharge and -20°C to +60°C for charging – allowing batteries to operate in extreme conditions.
All-weather battery cell technology opens up the possibility of e-mobility entering space travel and delicate earthbound ecosystems, with new EV batteries supporting scientific discoveries as they fuel vehicles through environments ICE emissions would damage.
A greener, safer, longer dive
These environmental credentials have been developed without sacrificing battery performance too. Inorganic electrolytes provide higher energy density, superior charging times, and a 40% reduction in heat release in case of a thermal runaway for better safety.
EVs will now be able to deliver on their promise of addressing the environmental issues created by ICE vehicles. With the new breed of cells overcoming the limitations of conventional Li-ion batteries, it provides an economical alternative that reduces costs and EVs that need less maintenance and service support – encouraging adoption.
Building European momentum
Global demand for Li-ion battery demand is to increase ten-fold with China and Europe expected to be the largest contributors. And EV sales are rising globally, with 52% of consumers looking to buy according to the recent EY Mobility Consumer Index (MCI).
Here, we find China is still dominating the global battery race. EVs rely on Li-ion batteries of which China produces 76%, while the U.S. makes only 8% and Europe even less at 3%. As such, China leads EV battery supply (76%) and the world EV market.
Developed and produced in Switzerland and Germany, recyclable electrolyte batteries mean Europe can close the gap in China’s dominance in the EV battery market and control of the supply chain.
Europe has a heritage in the automotive industry and an economy that prides itself on environmental leadership. Batteries with increased performance and sustainability credentials are critical for the mass adoption of EVs but thus far most of the innovation has come from Asia. Europe needs to have a seat at the table.
Good things happen when there’s competition – it spurs further innovation.
Breakthroughs and advances in Li-ion battery tech have given it a new lease of life and one that means EVs can fulfil their true potential in the next few years, not in the future. This presents an opportunity to advance sustainable change, encourage EV adoption and champion European innovations on a global stage.