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The future of mobility in a carousel of interests

Something that’s as comprehensive and defines society as much as mobility does, always involves the interaction of many planners and doers. An overview of the players and their motives and objectives – plus the resulting opportunities and challenges.

by Christian Heinrich

The Innovators

 

The future of mobility is not being shaped by traditional automotive brands such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, but rather by companies like Alphabet (formerly Google), Schaeffler and numerous startups that determine the direction in which mobility is headed. At least, this is the impression that has recently emerged. In terms of innovations, it’s suppliers, versatile internet companies and ingenious startups that are at the very front of the field. While some automakers haven’t launched even a single electric vehicle yet, self-driving Google cars were already traveling the roads of the U.S. state of Nevada as early as in 2013 with a human in the driver’s seat only to intervene in case of an emergency. And with a bio-hybrid pedelec – a mix of a car and an electric bicycle combining the benefits of both – Schaeffler defines alternative options for people to move from A to B in the future. The innovators, as we refer to this group of companies, are the ones driving the technological development of mobility most intensively of all. (By contrast, many of them usually leave it up to others to recognize risks and emerging safety issues.)

Cities and local government

 

Mobility is always only as good as the environment in which it’s embedded. In a medieval-age Germany, the cards would have been stacked against motorists: practically nothing but dirt roads full of potholes, mud and no asphalt. Only the modern autobahn and road network, and car-friendly urban layouts facilitated the utilization of the automobile so that it soon evolved into a symbol of freedom. Now the impending changes in mobility are making new demands on cities and communities, and their planners and architects who are charged with embedding mobility in them. Smart Cities are a hot topic in this context. Cities that are networked from traffic lights to solar panels on high-rise buildings “know” to a certain degree what’s happening and needed at a particular point of time, and can systematically guide information and even control mobility streams to some extent. This may even go as far as a fleet of autonomous cars waiting to pick up guests at the end of a birthday party. But architects also have to create space for the diversity of available transportation options. Thanks to e-bikes, bicycle paths will likely become even more important than they already are today. Plus, there’s a need for charging stations for electric vehicles, no matter what they’ll look like. In a modern city of the future, the charging station will be what the phone booth was at the end of the 20th century: omnipresent. But why should cities and local governments invest so intensively and why should urban planners and architects pay so much attention to mobility? The answer is because it serves their best interests. Cities paving the way for mobility of the future become more attractive – because their quality of life increases.

Research institutions

 

Why not use a completely different approach to all this? Couldn’t flying single-occupancy objects be the solution to traffic jams? As part of the EU’s “myCopter” project, the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are conducting exactly this kind of research. Aren’t there alternatives to the lithium-ion battery after all? Material scientists from Gießen University are performing research on sodium-oxygen batteries. How can rechargeable batteries be re-used in meaningful ways when they become weaker after years of service? Researchers at TU are working on particularly sustainable methods to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The role universities and research institutions play in the future of mobility corresponds to the one they’ve defined for themselves and their function in society. They attempt to expand the boundaries of knowledge to some extent. Particularly in those sectors where field use is still in the distant future and which therefore tend to be neglected by companies that conduct research, universities and research institutions can provide decisive new impulses.

The Government

 

Enormous responsibility: this is how the role of the government with respect to mobility of the future could be put in a nutshell. In the face of diverse resistance, the government has to guide the development of mobility in an environmentally compatible and sustainable direction, and to thus nudge Germany’s automotive industry to embark on the journey to the future. The tools available to this guiding process are powerful ones: they’re called laws. Laws make it possible to create environmental zones permitting only low-emission vehicles to enter and to levy special taxes on older cars that emit particularly large amounts of pollutants. The catalytic converter, for instance, can only be found in practically every car today because it has been mandatory in Germany since 1984. Now the government is trying to achieve the breakthrough for electric mobility. At the moment, electric vehicles are exempt from road tax for ten years and consumers buying a new electric car – thanks to the industry chipping in – receive 4,000 euros from the government. While, so far, the hoped-for run on battery-electric vehicles has not taken place, the way has at least been paved for it to some extent. Now the ball just needs to get rolling. When that happens, the government will be taxed to act in another respect. By means of laws, it has to ­establish boundaries and a framework where the technology of automated driving enters new dimensions. It can be expected that the legal situation regarding accidents and the rules to avoid them will soon be fueling an intensive debate – resulting in even more responsibility for the government.

The energy sector

 

From car sharing to flying single-occupancy drones there are many conceivable variants for mobility of the future. There’s one thing that’s common to all of them: transportation requires energy. Today, it’s still primarily supplied by gasoline and diesel fuel, but there are many indications that electricity will someday be the dominant source of propulsion. If this should actually be the case in the future, then even today a crucial detail poses the question of “when” it will be. While gasoline and diesel are available practically anywhere via an extensive network of filling stations, electric mobility is struggling with the issue of its availability via a network of charging stations. Obviously, every normal household socket supplies electric current – it’s just that an electric vehicle has to be plugged in overnight to fully charge its battery. That’s much too slow – and thus not practical. The solution is charging stations that reduce the charging process to 20 minutes. But in all of Germany, there aren’t even 6,000 of them. By contrast, there are three times as many, 15,000, conventional filling stations – where refueling, by the way, takes only one to two minutes. But thousands of charging stations can’t be built just like that. The capital expenditures required to catch up with the normal filling station network are enormous. So the great challenge posed to the energy sector and many of the other players mentioned here is this: the electricity is in the grid and now it has to be sent to where it’s needed – to the electric vehicles. At the end of the day, availability will be the factor that determines how long it will take for electric mobility to achieve its breakthrough.

Privacy protectors

 

The following scenario has in part already become reality on several test routes in Germany: a traffic jam starts behind a corner and the cars braking and stopping transmit their information to oncoming vehicles which, in turn, after a few hundred meters, “warn” the cars that are just approaching the traffic jam. Because the cars know the driving styles of their operators, they issue particularly loud and intensive warnings to those that tend to drive aggressively. Meanwhile, a traffic light has been informed about the traffic jam and the control center is aware of the situation as well. Such car-to-car and car-to-x communication in a so-called Smart City provides the vehicle and its driver with timely information and a feeling of maximum safety. A brave new world of mobility – that also has its downsides because those who communicate a lot reveal a lot about themselves as well. Driving styles could be of interest to insurance companies. And what about tampering attempts? Even today, there are cars on the market that to a limited extent can be controlled by smartphones. What if someone who’s not authorized to do so takes control? And how can self-driving cars actually be protected against hacking? Data protection and security experts are challenged to keep an eye on all the downsides that progress entails. In doing so, they always have to assume worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t necessarily make their role any easier in a world that increasingly embraces technology. Yet especially because of the wide-spread enthusiasm for the future, their objective assessments will be crucial.

Mobility services providers

 

The days are gone in which mobility still meant boarding a bus or getting into one’s own car to move from A to B and back. Anyone who steps out of their house today or has flown to a new city has various mobility options to choose from and will select the one best suiting them under the circumstances. Particularly in big cities, besides public transportation for short- and long-distance travel such as buses and trains, car sharing options like car2go or DriveNow, city bike rentals, electric bikes or, abroad, the ride-sharing service Uber that hauls people from A to B in privately owned vehicles, are available. Or, quite in keeping with the current trend, a combination of several of these options is chosen. In a few years’ time, there’ll additionally be the autonomous cars from Google and company as another important, if not the most important, player in this field. Most mobility services providers couldn’t care less about what source of propulsion will be used, be it gasoline, electricity or hydrogen. The connecting lines of the mobility network are the crucial elements. Some of them are heavily frequented with many people being hauled at the same time, for instance on subway lines, but create only a coarse net. The very fine branches on the other hand are the result of the practically personal mobility of individuals, for instance those using car sharing services or rental bikes. Both, large nets and small branches are being shaped in large part by the mobility services providers.

Users

Assuming a train service between Berlin and Munich takes an hour longer than usual but, instead, is operated using one hundred percent electricity generated by a particularly sustainable solar park. The eco-conscious user will gladly accept this because the environmental footprint is okay in this case. For a business executive standing in line at the ticket counter, the longer transit is a waste of time as he or she is mainly interested in fast travel. A third passenger may primarily be interested in price. He or she will accept longer transit times if that makes the tickets cheaper. All users have their own sets of values and priorities. But taken in isolation, they exert little influence. However, all users with similar interests as a group not only have power, but also make a crucial difference as, to some extent, they will determine the ­future. After all, it’s the users who by utilizing or rejecting options decide if something is adopted or not. In addition, their purchasing decisions make a statement about the option – in terms of how practical, moral, praiseworthy and rewarding it is.

Clusters

 

At first glance, we’re living in an age of ideas. An individual with a brilliant idea can set a lot of things in motion in very short time. Matternet, for instance, is a company that was “born” in a university course at Stanford. Today, it produces drones intended to deliver pharmaceuticals in Africa. But when it comes to transformation of mobility as a whole, for instance the switch from gasoline and diesel to electricity, in view of the large number of players involved, it takes more than just a single idea, but a good and, above all, common plan to smoothly bring fundamental change into society. For instance, regional standards for the design of plugs at charging stations are a prerequisite for the success of electric mobility. Other challenges, like increasing battery capacity that is still perceived as being too low and new approaches to light-weight design, are easier to master as collaborative efforts as well. In the German “cluster” billed as “National Platform for Electric Mobility,” for instance representatives of automobile manufacturers, mobility services providers, research institutions, universities, the government and others have teamed up in six working groups. Such clusters can be expected to play a key role in the further development of mobility.

Megatrend Mobility

In projects billed as Mobility for tomorrow, Schaeffler, today, is already researching and developing intelligent answers to the future challenges in the mobility sector (pictured: Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid), with a particular focus on electric mobility. But with IC engines, as well, Schaeffler still sees optimization potential of up to 30 percent and regularly presents innovative improvements. And, obviously, the combination of ICEs and e-motors – in other words hybrids – is a hot topic too. Here Schaeffler is working on diverse concepts – from micro hybrids to high-voltage solutions. The topic of mobility also plays a role for Schaeffler in the motorcycle, bicycle, rail vehicle and aerospace markets.

Schaeffler at the 2017 CES:

Sustainable Solutions for Tomorrow’s Mobility

Intermodal traffic in areas where space is at a premium will be a highly significant factor in tomorrow’s urban centers. This is where the technical solutions that Schaeffler is in the process of creating and is presenting at CES are required. One innovative mobility solution is Schaeffler’s Bio-Hybrid. This concept is intended as a source of inspiration when considering new forms of mobility.

The Author

Christian Heinrich works as a freelance science journalist in Hamburg. He has driven all-electric vehicles on several occasions from car sharing plans and is thrilled. Incidentally, there are two quick-charging stations in immediate proximity to his home. Now he’s toying with the idea of buying an electric car – but not before prices have significantly dropped.

Photo credits Steve Proehl/Getty, Schaeffler, Monty Rakusen/Getty, mbbirdy/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Paul Taylor/Getty, Thomas Trutschel/Getty, Jekaterina Nikitina/Getty

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The online version of Schaeffler’s technology magazine

The future of mobility in a carousel of interests

Something that’s as comprehensive and defines society as much as mobility does, always involves the interaction of many planners and doers. An overview of the players and their motives and objectives – plus the resulting opportunities and challenges.

by Christian Heinrich

The Innovators

 

The future of mobility is not being shaped by traditional automotive brands such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, but rather by companies like Alphabet (formerly Google), Schaeffler and numerous startups that determine the direction in which mobility is headed. At least, this is the impression that has recently emerged. In terms of innovations, it’s suppliers, versatile internet companies and ingenious startups that are at the very front of the field. While some automakers haven’t launched even a single electric vehicle yet, self-driving Google cars were already traveling the roads of the U.S. state of Nevada as early as in 2013 with a human in the driver’s seat only to intervene in case of an emergency. And with a bio-hybrid pedelec – a mix of a car and an electric bicycle combining the benefits of both – Schaeffler defines alternative options for people to move from A to B in the future. The innovators, as we refer to this group of companies, are the ones driving the technological development of mobility most intensively of all. (By contrast, many of them usually leave it up to others to recognize risks and emerging safety issues.)

Cities and local government

 

Mobility is always only as good as the environment in which it’s embedded. In a medieval-age Germany, the cards would have been stacked against motorists: practically nothing but dirt roads full of potholes, mud and no asphalt. Only the modern autobahn and road network, and car-friendly urban layouts facilitated the utilization of the automobile so that it soon evolved into a symbol of freedom. Now the impending changes in mobility are making new demands on cities and communities, and their planners and architects who are charged with embedding mobility in them. Smart Cities are a hot topic in this context. Cities that are networked from traffic lights to solar panels on high-rise buildings “know” to a certain degree what’s happening and needed at a particular point of time, and can systematically guide information and even control mobility streams to some extent. This may even go as far as a fleet of autonomous cars waiting to pick up guests at the end of a birthday party. But architects also have to create space for the diversity of available transportation options. Thanks to e-bikes, bicycle paths will likely become even more important than they already are today. Plus, there’s a need for charging stations for electric vehicles, no matter what they’ll look like. In a modern city of the future, the charging station will be what the phone booth was at the end of the 20th century: omnipresent. But why should cities and local governments invest so intensively and why should urban planners and architects pay so much attention to mobility? The answer is because it serves their best interests. Cities paving the way for mobility of the future become more attractive – because their quality of life increases.

Research institutions

 

Why not use a completely different approach to all this? Couldn’t flying single-occupancy objects be the solution to traffic jams? As part of the EU’s “myCopter” project, the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are conducting exactly this kind of research. Aren’t there alternatives to the lithium-ion battery after all? Material scientists from Gießen University are performing research on sodium-oxygen batteries. How can rechargeable batteries be re-used in meaningful ways when they become weaker after years of service? Researchers at TU are working on particularly sustainable methods to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The role universities and research institutions play in the future of mobility corresponds to the one they’ve defined for themselves and their function in society. They attempt to expand the boundaries of knowledge to some extent. Particularly in those sectors where field use is still in the distant future and which therefore tend to be neglected by companies that conduct research, universities and research institutions can provide decisive new impulses.

The Government

 

Enormous responsibility: this is how the role of the government with respect to mobility of the future could be put in a nutshell. In the face of diverse resistance, the government has to guide the development of mobility in an environmentally compatible and sustainable direction, and to thus nudge Germany’s automotive industry to embark on the journey to the future. The tools available to this guiding process are powerful ones: they’re called laws. Laws make it possible to create environmental zones permitting only low-emission vehicles to enter and to levy special taxes on older cars that emit particularly large amounts of pollutants. The catalytic converter, for instance, can only be found in practically every car today because it has been mandatory in Germany since 1984. Now the government is trying to achieve the breakthrough for electric mobility. At the moment, electric vehicles are exempt from road tax for ten years and consumers buying a new electric car – thanks to the industry chipping in – receive 4,000 euros from the government. While, so far, the hoped-for run on battery-electric vehicles has not taken place, the way has at least been paved for it to some extent. Now the ball just needs to get rolling. When that happens, the government will be taxed to act in another respect. By means of laws, it has to ­establish boundaries and a framework where the technology of automated driving enters new dimensions. It can be expected that the legal situation regarding accidents and the rules to avoid them will soon be fueling an intensive debate – resulting in even more responsibility for the government.

The energy sector

 

From car sharing to flying single-occupancy drones there are many conceivable variants for mobility of the future. There’s one thing that’s common to all of them: transportation requires energy. Today, it’s still primarily supplied by gasoline and diesel fuel, but there are many indications that electricity will someday be the dominant source of propulsion. If this should actually be the case in the future, then even today a crucial detail poses the question of “when” it will be. While gasoline and diesel are available practically anywhere via an extensive network of filling stations, electric mobility is struggling with the issue of its availability via a network of charging stations. Obviously, every normal household socket supplies electric current – it’s just that an electric vehicle has to be plugged in overnight to fully charge its battery. That’s much too slow – and thus not practical. The solution is charging stations that reduce the charging process to 20 minutes. But in all of Germany, there aren’t even 6,000 of them. By contrast, there are three times as many, 15,000, conventional filling stations – where refueling, by the way, takes only one to two minutes. But thousands of charging stations can’t be built just like that. The capital expenditures required to catch up with the normal filling station network are enormous. So the great challenge posed to the energy sector and many of the other players mentioned here is this: the electricity is in the grid and now it has to be sent to where it’s needed – to the electric vehicles. At the end of the day, availability will be the factor that determines how long it will take for electric mobility to achieve its breakthrough.

Privacy protectors

 

The following scenario has in part already become reality on several test routes in Germany: a traffic jam starts behind a corner and the cars braking and stopping transmit their information to oncoming vehicles which, in turn, after a few hundred meters, “warn” the cars that are just approaching the traffic jam. Because the cars know the driving styles of their operators, they issue particularly loud and intensive warnings to those that tend to drive aggressively. Meanwhile, a traffic light has been informed about the traffic jam and the control center is aware of the situation as well. Such car-to-car and car-to-x communication in a so-called Smart City provides the vehicle and its driver with timely information and a feeling of maximum safety. A brave new world of mobility – that also has its downsides because those who communicate a lot reveal a lot about themselves as well. Driving styles could be of interest to insurance companies. And what about tampering attempts? Even today, there are cars on the market that to a limited extent can be controlled by smartphones. What if someone who’s not authorized to do so takes control? And how can self-driving cars actually be protected against hacking? Data protection and security experts are challenged to keep an eye on all the downsides that progress entails. In doing so, they always have to assume worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t necessarily make their role any easier in a world that increasingly embraces technology. Yet especially because of the wide-spread enthusiasm for the future, their objective assessments will be crucial.

Mobility services providers

 

The days are gone in which mobility still meant boarding a bus or getting into one’s own car to move from A to B and back. Anyone who steps out of their house today or has flown to a new city has various mobility options to choose from and will select the one best suiting them under the circumstances. Particularly in big cities, besides public transportation for short- and long-distance travel such as buses and trains, car sharing options like car2go or DriveNow, city bike rentals, electric bikes or, abroad, the ride-sharing service Uber that hauls people from A to B in privately owned vehicles, are available. Or, quite in keeping with the current trend, a combination of several of these options is chosen. In a few years’ time, there’ll additionally be the autonomous cars from Google and company as another important, if not the most important, player in this field. Most mobility services providers couldn’t care less about what source of propulsion will be used, be it gasoline, electricity or hydrogen. The connecting lines of the mobility network are the crucial elements. Some of them are heavily frequented with many people being hauled at the same time, for instance on subway lines, but create only a coarse net. The very fine branches on the other hand are the result of the practically personal mobility of individuals, for instance those using car sharing services or rental bikes. Both, large nets and small branches are being shaped in large part by the mobility services providers.

Users

 

Assuming a train service between Berlin and Munich takes an hour longer than usual but, instead, is operated using one hundred percent electricity generated by a particularly sustainable solar park. The eco-conscious user will gladly accept this because the environmental footprint is okay in this case. For a business executive standing in line at the ticket counter, the longer transit is a waste of time as he or she is mainly interested in fast travel. A third passenger may primarily be interested in price. He or she will accept longer transit times if that makes the tickets cheaper. All users have their own sets of values and priorities. But taken in isolation, they exert little influence. However, all users with similar interests as a group not only have power, but also make a crucial difference as, to some extent, they will determine the ­future. After all, it’s the users who by utilizing or rejecting options decide if something is adopted or not. In addition, their purchasing decisions make a statement about the option – in terms of how practical, moral, praiseworthy and rewarding it is.

Clusters

 

At first glance, we’re living in an age of ideas. An individual with a brilliant idea can set a lot of things in motion in very short time. Matternet, for instance, is a company that was “born” in a university course at Stanford. Today, it produces drones intended to deliver pharmaceuticals in Africa. But when it comes to transformation of mobility as a whole, for instance the switch from gasoline and diesel to electricity, in view of the large number of players involved, it takes more than just a single idea, but a good and, above all, common plan to smoothly bring fundamental change into society. For instance, regional standards for the design of plugs at charging stations are a prerequisite for the success of electric mobility. Other challenges, like increasing battery capacity that is still perceived as being too low and new approaches to light-weight design, are easier to master as collaborative efforts as well. In the German “cluster” billed as “National Platform for Electric Mobility,” for instance representatives of automobile manufacturers, mobility services providers, research institutions, universities, the government and others have teamed up in six working groups. Such clusters can be expected to play a key role in the further development of mobility.

Megatrend Mobility

In projects billed as Mobility for tomorrow, Schaeffler, today, is already researching and developing intelligent answers to the future challenges in the mobility sector (pictured: Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid), with a particular focus on electric mobility. But with IC engines, as well, Schaeffler still sees optimization potential of up to 30 percent and regularly presents innovative improvements. And, obviously, the combination of ICEs and e-motors – in other words hybrids – is a hot topic too. Here Schaeffler is working on diverse concepts – from micro hybrids to high-voltage solutions. The topic of mobility also plays a role for Schaeffler in the motorcycle, bicycle, rail vehicle and aerospace markets.

The Author

Christian Heinrich works as a freelance science journalist in Hamburg. He has driven all-electric vehicles on several occasions from car sharing plans and is thrilled. Incidentally, there are two quick-charging stations in immediate proximity to his home. Now he’s toying with the idea of buying an electric car – but not before prices have significantly dropped.

Photo credits Steve Proehl/Getty, Schaeffler, Monty Rakusen/Getty, mbbirdy/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Paul Taylor/Getty, Thomas Trutschel/Getty, Jekaterina Nikitina/Getty

The future of mobility in a carousel of interests

Something that’s as comprehensive and defines society as much as mobility does, always involves the interaction of many planners and doers. An overview of the players and their motives and objectives – plus the resulting opportunities and challenges.

vy Christian Heinrich

The Innovators

 

The future of mobility is not being shaped by traditional automotive brands such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, but rather by companies like Alphabet (formerly Google), Schaeffler and numerous startups that determine the direction in which mobility is headed. At least, this is the impression that has recently emerged. In terms of innovations, it’s suppliers, versatile internet companies and ingenious startups that are at the very front of the field. While some automakers haven’t launched even a single electric vehicle yet, self-driving Google cars were already traveling the roads of the U.S. state of Nevada as early as in 2013 with a human in the driver’s seat only to intervene in case of an emergency. And with a bio-hybrid pedelec – a mix of a car and an electric bicycle combining the benefits of both – Schaeffler defines alternative options for people to move from A to B in the future. The innovators, as we refer to this group of companies, are the ones driving the technological development of mobility most intensively of all. (By contrast, many of them usually leave it up to others to recognize risks and emerging safety issues.)

Cities and local government

 

Mobility is always only as good as the environment in which it’s embedded. In a medieval-age Germany, the cards would have been stacked against motorists: practically nothing but dirt roads full of potholes, mud and no asphalt. Only the modern autobahn and road network, and car-friendly urban layouts facilitated the utilization of the automobile so that it soon evolved into a symbol of freedom. Now the impending changes in mobility are making new demands on cities and communities, and their planners and architects who are charged with embedding mobility in them. Smart Cities are a hot topic in this context. Cities that are networked from traffic lights to solar panels on high-rise buildings “know” to a certain degree what’s happening and needed at a particular point of time, and can systematically guide information and even control mobility streams to some extent. This may even go as far as a fleet of autonomous cars waiting to pick up guests at the end of a birthday party. But architects also have to create space for the diversity of available transportation options. Thanks to e-bikes, bicycle paths will likely become even more important than they already are today. Plus, there’s a need for charging stations for electric vehicles, no matter what they’ll look like. In a modern city of the future, the charging station will be what the phone booth was at the end of the 20th century: omnipresent. But why should cities and local governments invest so intensively and why should urban planners and architects pay so much attention to mobility? The answer is because it serves their best interests. Cities paving the way for mobility of the future become more attractive – because their quality of life increases.

Research institutions

 

Why not use a completely different approach to all this? Couldn’t flying single-occupancy objects be the solution to traffic jams? As part of the EU’s “myCopter” project, the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are conducting exactly this kind of research. Aren’t there alternatives to the lithium-ion battery after all? Material scientists from Gießen University are performing research on sodium-oxygen batteries. How can rechargeable batteries be re-used in meaningful ways when they become weaker after years of service? Researchers at TU are working on particularly sustainable methods to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The role universities and research institutions play in the future of mobility corresponds to the one they’ve defined for themselves and their function in society. They attempt to expand the boundaries of knowledge to some extent. Particularly in those sectors where field use is still in the distant future and which therefore tend to be neglected by companies that conduct research, universities and research institutions can provide decisive new impulses.

The Government

 

Enormous responsibility: this is how the role of the government with respect to mobility of the future could be put in a nutshell. In the face of diverse resistance, the government has to guide the development of mobility in an environmentally compatible and sustainable direction, and to thus nudge Germany’s automotive industry to embark on the journey to the future. The tools available to this guiding process are powerful ones: they’re called laws. Laws make it possible to create environmental zones permitting only low-emission vehicles to enter and to levy special taxes on older cars that emit particularly large amounts of pollutants. The catalytic converter, for instance, can only be found in practically every car today because it has been mandatory in Germany since 1984. Now the government is trying to achieve the breakthrough for electric mobility. At the moment, electric vehicles are exempt from road tax for ten years and consumers buying a new electric car – thanks to the industry chipping in – receive 4,000 euros from the government. While, so far, the hoped-for run on battery-electric vehicles has not taken place, the way has at least been paved for it to some extent. Now the ball just needs to get rolling. When that happens, the government will be taxed to act in another respect. By means of laws, it has to ­establish boundaries and a framework where the technology of automated driving enters new dimensions. It can be expected that the legal situation regarding accidents and the rules to avoid them will soon be fueling an intensive debate – resulting in even more responsibility for the government.

The energy sector

 

From car sharing to flying single-occupancy drones there are many conceivable variants for mobility of the future. There’s one thing that’s common to all of them: transportation requires energy. Today, it’s still primarily supplied by gasoline and diesel fuel, but there are many indications that electricity will someday be the dominant source of propulsion. If this should actually be the case in the future, then even today a crucial detail poses the question of “when” it will be. While gasoline and diesel are available practically anywhere via an extensive network of filling stations, electric mobility is struggling with the issue of its availability via a network of charging stations. Obviously, every normal household socket supplies electric current – it’s just that an electric vehicle has to be plugged in overnight to fully charge its battery. That’s much too slow – and thus not practical. The solution is charging stations that reduce the charging process to 20 minutes. But in all of Germany, there aren’t even 6,000 of them. By contrast, there are three times as many, 15,000, conventional filling stations – where refueling, by the way, takes only one to two minutes. But thousands of charging stations can’t be built just like that. The capital expenditures required to catch up with the normal filling station network are enormous. So the great challenge posed to the energy sector and many of the other players mentioned here is this: the electricity is in the grid and now it has to be sent to where it’s needed – to the electric vehicles. At the end of the day, availability will be the factor that determines how long it will take for electric mobility to achieve its breakthrough.

Privacy protectors

 

The following scenario has in part already become reality on several test routes in Germany: a traffic jam starts behind a corner and the cars braking and stopping transmit their information to oncoming vehicles which, in turn, after a few hundred meters, “warn” the cars that are just approaching the traffic jam. Because the cars know the driving styles of their operators, they issue particularly loud and intensive warnings to those that tend to drive aggressively. Meanwhile, a traffic light has been informed about the traffic jam and the control center is aware of the situation as well. Such car-to-car and car-to-x communication in a so-called Smart City provides the vehicle and its driver with timely information and a feeling of maximum safety. A brave new world of mobility – that also has its downsides because those who communicate a lot reveal a lot about themselves as well. Driving styles could be of interest to insurance companies. And what about tampering attempts? Even today, there are cars on the market that to a limited extent can be controlled by smartphones. What if someone who’s not authorized to do so takes control? And how can self-driving cars actually be protected against hacking? Data protection and security experts are challenged to keep an eye on all the downsides that progress entails. In doing so, they always have to assume worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t necessarily make their role any easier in a world that increasingly embraces technology. Yet especially because of the wide-spread enthusiasm for the future, their objective assessments will be crucial.

Mobility services providers

 

The days are gone in which mobility still meant boarding a bus or getting into one’s own car to move from A to B and back. Anyone who steps out of their house today or has flown to a new city has various mobility options to choose from and will select the one best suiting them under the circumstances. Particularly in big cities, besides public transportation for short- and long-distance travel such as buses and trains, car sharing options like car2go or DriveNow, city bike rentals, electric bikes or, abroad, the ride-sharing service Uber that hauls people from A to B in privately owned vehicles, are available. Or, quite in keeping with the current trend, a combination of several of these options is chosen. In a few years’ time, there’ll additionally be the autonomous cars from Google and company as another important, if not the most important, player in this field. Most mobility services providers couldn’t care less about what source of propulsion will be used, be it gasoline, electricity or hydrogen. The connecting lines of the mobility network are the crucial elements. Some of them are heavily frequented with many people being hauled at the same time, for instance on subway lines, but create only a coarse net. The very fine branches on the other hand are the result of the practically personal mobility of individuals, for instance those using car sharing services or rental bikes. Both, large nets and small branches are being shaped in large part by the mobility services providers.

Users

 

Assuming a train service between Berlin and Munich takes an hour longer than usual but, instead, is operated using one hundred percent electricity generated by a particularly sustainable solar park. The eco-conscious user will gladly accept this because the environmental footprint is okay in this case. For a business executive standing in line at the ticket counter, the longer transit is a waste of time as he or she is mainly interested in fast travel. A third passenger may primarily be interested in price. He or she will accept longer transit times if that makes the tickets cheaper. All users have their own sets of values and priorities. But taken in isolation, they exert little influence. However, all users with similar interests as a group not only have power, but also make a crucial difference as, to some extent, they will determine the ­future. After all, it’s the users who by utilizing or rejecting options decide if something is adopted or not. In addition, their purchasing decisions make a statement about the option – in terms of how practical, moral, praiseworthy and rewarding it is.

Clusters

 

At first glance, we’re living in an age of ideas. An individual with a brilliant idea can set a lot of things in motion in very short time. Matternet, for instance, is a company that was “born” in a university course at Stanford. Today, it produces drones intended to deliver pharmaceuticals in Africa. But when it comes to transformation of mobility as a whole, for instance the switch from gasoline and diesel to electricity, in view of the large number of players involved, it takes more than just a single idea, but a good and, above all, common plan to smoothly bring fundamental change into society. For instance, regional standards for the design of plugs at charging stations are a prerequisite for the success of electric mobility. Other challenges, like increasing battery capacity that is still perceived as being too low and new approaches to light-weight design, are easier to master as collaborative efforts as well. In the German “cluster” billed as “National Platform for Electric Mobility,” for instance representatives of automobile manufacturers, mobility services providers, research institutions, universities, the government and others have teamed up in six working groups. Such clusters can be expected to play a key role in the further development of mobility.

Megatrend Mobility

In projects billed as Mobility for tomorrow, Schaeffler, today, is already researching and developing intelligent answers to the future challenges in the mobility sector (pictured: Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid), with a particular focus on electric mobility. But with IC engines, as well, Schaeffler still sees optimization potential of up to 30 percent and regularly presents innovative improvements. And, obviously, the combination of ICEs and e-motors – in other words hybrids – is a hot topic too. Here Schaeffler is working on diverse concepts – from micro hybrids to high-voltage solutions. The topic of mobility also plays a role for Schaeffler in the motorcycle, bicycle, rail vehicle and aerospace markets.

The Author

Christian Heinrich works as a freelance science journalist in Hamburg. He has driven all-electric vehicles on several occasions from car sharing plans and is thrilled. Incidentally, there are two quick-charging stations in immediate proximity to his home. Now he’s toying with the idea of buying an electric car – but not before prices have significantly dropped.

Photo credits Steve Proehl/Getty, Schaeffler, Monty Rakusen/Getty, mbbirdy/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Paul Taylor/Getty, Thomas Trutschel/Getty, Jekaterina Nikitina/Getty

The future of mobility in a carousel of interests

Something that’s as comprehensive and defines society as much as mobility does, always involves the interaction of many planners and doers. An overview of the players and their motives and objectives – plus the resulting opportunities and challenges.

by Christian Heinrich

The Innovators

 

The future of mobility is not being shaped by traditional automotive brands such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, but rather by companies like Alphabet (formerly Google), Schaeffler and numerous startups that determine the direction in which mobility is headed. At least, this is the impression that has recently emerged. In terms of innovations, it’s suppliers, versatile internet companies and ingenious startups that are at the very front of the field. While some automakers haven’t launched even a single electric vehicle yet, self-driving Google cars were already traveling the roads of the U.S. state of Nevada as early as in 2013 with a human in the driver’s seat only to intervene in case of an emergency. And with a bio-hybrid pedelec – a mix of a car and an electric bicycle combining the benefits of both – Schaeffler defines alternative options for people to move from A to B in the future. The innovators, as we refer to this group of companies, are the ones driving the technological development of mobility most intensively of all. (By contrast, many of them usually leave it up to others to recognize risks and emerging safety issues.)

Cities and local government

 

Mobility is always only as good as the environment in which it’s embedded. In a medieval-age Germany, the cards would have been stacked against motorists: practically nothing but dirt roads full of potholes, mud and no asphalt. Only the modern autobahn and road network, and car-friendly urban layouts facilitated the utilization of the automobile so that it soon evolved into a symbol of freedom. Now the impending changes in mobility are making new demands on cities and communities, and their planners and architects who are charged with embedding mobility in them. Smart Cities are a hot topic in this context. Cities that are networked from traffic lights to solar panels on high-rise buildings “know” to a certain degree what’s happening and needed at a particular point of time, and can systematically guide information and even control mobility streams to some extent. This may even go as far as a fleet of autonomous cars waiting to pick up guests at the end of a birthday party. But architects also have to create space for the diversity of available transportation options. Thanks to e-bikes, bicycle paths will likely become even more important than they already are today. Plus, there’s a need for charging stations for electric vehicles, no matter what they’ll look like. In a modern city of the future, the charging station will be what the phone booth was at the end of the 20th century: omnipresent. But why should cities and local governments invest so intensively and why should urban planners and architects pay so much attention to mobility? The answer is because it serves their best interests. Cities paving the way for mobility of the future become more attractive – because their quality of life increases.

Research institutions

 

Why not use a completely different approach to all this? Couldn’t flying single-occupancy objects be the solution to traffic jams? As part of the EU’s “myCopter” project, the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are conducting exactly this kind of research. Aren’t there alternatives to the lithium-ion battery after all? Material scientists from Gießen University are performing research on sodium-oxygen batteries. How can rechargeable batteries be re-used in meaningful ways when they become weaker after years of service? Researchers at TU are working on particularly sustainable methods to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The role universities and research institutions play in the future of mobility corresponds to the one they’ve defined for themselves and their function in society. They attempt to expand the boundaries of knowledge to some extent. Particularly in those sectors where field use is still in the distant future and which therefore tend to be neglected by companies that conduct research, universities and research institutions can provide decisive new impulses.

The Government

 

Enormous responsibility: this is how the role of the government with respect to mobility of the future could be put in a nutshell. In the face of diverse resistance, the government has to guide the development of mobility in an environmentally compatible and sustainable direction, and to thus nudge Germany’s automotive industry to embark on the journey to the future. The tools available to this guiding process are powerful ones: they’re called laws. Laws make it possible to create environmental zones permitting only low-emission vehicles to enter and to levy special taxes on older cars that emit particularly large amounts of pollutants. The catalytic converter, for instance, can only be found in practically every car today because it has been mandatory in Germany since 1984. Now the government is trying to achieve the breakthrough for electric mobility. At the moment, electric vehicles are exempt from road tax for ten years and consumers buying a new electric car – thanks to the industry chipping in – receive 4,000 euros from the government. While, so far, the hoped-for run on battery-electric vehicles has not taken place, the way has at least been paved for it to some extent. Now the ball just needs to get rolling. When that happens, the government will be taxed to act in another respect. By means of laws, it has to ­establish boundaries and a framework where the technology of automated driving enters new dimensions. It can be expected that the legal situation regarding accidents and the rules to avoid them will soon be fueling an intensive debate – resulting in even more responsibility for the government.

The energy sector

 

From car sharing to flying single-occupancy drones there are many conceivable variants for mobility of the future. There’s one thing that’s common to all of them: transportation requires energy. Today, it’s still primarily supplied by gasoline and diesel fuel, but there are many indications that electricity will someday be the dominant source of propulsion. If this should actually be the case in the future, then even today a crucial detail poses the question of “when” it will be. While gasoline and diesel are available practically anywhere via an extensive network of filling stations, electric mobility is struggling with the issue of its availability via a network of charging stations. Obviously, every normal household socket supplies electric current – it’s just that an electric vehicle has to be plugged in overnight to fully charge its battery. That’s much too slow – and thus not practical. The solution is charging stations that reduce the charging process to 20 minutes. But in all of Germany, there aren’t even 6,000 of them. By contrast, there are three times as many, 15,000, conventional filling stations – where refueling, by the way, takes only one to two minutes. But thousands of charging stations can’t be built just like that. The capital expenditures required to catch up with the normal filling station network are enormous. So the great challenge posed to the energy sector and many of the other players mentioned here is this: the electricity is in the grid and now it has to be sent to where it’s needed – to the electric vehicles. At the end of the day, availability will be the factor that determines how long it will take for electric mobility to achieve its breakthrough.

Privacy protectors

 

The following scenario has in part already become reality on several test routes in Germany: a traffic jam starts behind a corner and the cars braking and stopping transmit their information to oncoming vehicles which, in turn, after a few hundred meters, “warn” the cars that are just approaching the traffic jam. Because the cars know the driving styles of their operators, they issue particularly loud and intensive warnings to those that tend to drive aggressively. Meanwhile, a traffic light has been informed about the traffic jam and the control center is aware of the situation as well. Such car-to-car and car-to-x communication in a so-called Smart City provides the vehicle and its driver with timely information and a feeling of maximum safety. A brave new world of mobility – that also has its downsides because those who communicate a lot reveal a lot about themselves as well. Driving styles could be of interest to insurance companies. And what about tampering attempts? Even today, there are cars on the market that to a limited extent can be controlled by smartphones. What if someone who’s not authorized to do so takes control? And how can self-driving cars actually be protected against hacking? Data protection and security experts are challenged to keep an eye on all the downsides that progress entails. In doing so, they always have to assume worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t necessarily make their role any easier in a world that increasingly embraces technology. Yet especially because of the wide-spread enthusiasm for the future, their objective assessments will be crucial.

Mobility services providers

 

The days are gone in which mobility still meant boarding a bus or getting into one’s own car to move from A to B and back. Anyone who steps out of their house today or has flown to a new city has various mobility options to choose from and will select the one best suiting them under the circumstances. Particularly in big cities, besides public transportation for short- and long-distance travel such as buses and trains, car sharing options like car2go or DriveNow, city bike rentals, electric bikes or, abroad, the ride-sharing service Uber that hauls people from A to B in privately owned vehicles, are available. Or, quite in keeping with the current trend, a combination of several of these options is chosen. In a few years’ time, there’ll additionally be the autonomous cars from Google and company as another important, if not the most important, player in this field. Most mobility services providers couldn’t care less about what source of propulsion will be used, be it gasoline, electricity or hydrogen. The connecting lines of the mobility network are the crucial elements. Some of them are heavily frequented with many people being hauled at the same time, for instance on subway lines, but create only a coarse net. The very fine branches on the other hand are the result of the practically personal mobility of individuals, for instance those using car sharing services or rental bikes. Both, large nets and small branches are being shaped in large part by the mobility services providers.

Users

 

Assuming a train service between Berlin and Munich takes an hour longer than usual but, instead, is operated using one hundred percent electricity generated by a particularly sustainable solar park. The eco-conscious user will gladly accept this because the environmental footprint is okay in this case. For a business executive standing in line at the ticket counter, the longer transit is a waste of time as he or she is mainly interested in fast travel. A third passenger may primarily be interested in price. He or she will accept longer transit times if that makes the tickets cheaper. All users have their own sets of values and priorities. But taken in isolation, they exert little influence. However, all users with similar interests as a group not only have power, but also make a crucial difference as, to some extent, they will determine the ­future. After all, it’s the users who by utilizing or rejecting options decide if something is adopted or not. In addition, their purchasing decisions make a statement about the option – in terms of how practical, moral, praiseworthy and rewarding it is.

Clusters

 

At first glance, we’re living in an age of ideas. An individual with a brilliant idea can set a lot of things in motion in very short time. Matternet, for instance, is a company that was “born” in a university course at Stanford. Today, it produces drones intended to deliver pharmaceuticals in Africa. But when it comes to transformation of mobility as a whole, for instance the switch from gasoline and diesel to electricity, in view of the large number of players involved, it takes more than just a single idea, but a good and, above all, common plan to smoothly bring fundamental change into society. For instance, regional standards for the design of plugs at charging stations are a prerequisite for the success of electric mobility. Other challenges, like increasing battery capacity that is still perceived as being too low and new approaches to light-weight design, are easier to master as collaborative efforts as well. In the German “cluster” billed as “National Platform for Electric Mobility,” for instance representatives of automobile manufacturers, mobility services providers, research institutions, universities, the government and others have teamed up in six working groups. Such clusters can be expected to play a key role in the further development of mobility.

Megatrend Mobility

In projects billed as Mobility for tomorrow, Schaeffler, today, is already researching and developing intelligent answers to the future challenges in the mobility sector (pictured: Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid), with a particular focus on electric mobility. But with IC engines, as well, Schaeffler still sees optimization potential of up to 30 percent and regularly presents innovative improvements. And, obviously, the combination of ICEs and e-motors – in other words hybrids – is a hot topic too. Here Schaeffler is working on diverse concepts – from micro hybrids to high-voltage solutions. The topic of mobility also plays a role for Schaeffler in the motorcycle, bicycle, rail vehicle and aerospace markets.

The Author

Christian Heinrich works as a freelance science journalist in Hamburg. He has driven all-electric vehicles on several occasions from car sharing plans and is thrilled. Incidentally, there are two quick-charging stations in immediate proximity to his home. Now he’s toying with the idea of buying an electric car – but not before prices have significantly dropped.

Photo credits Steve Proehl/Getty, Schaeffler, Monty Rakusen/Getty, mbbirdy/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Bloomberg/Getty, Paul Taylor/Getty, Thomas Trutschel/Getty, Jekaterina Nikitina/Getty