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In conversation with Christian Senger, VP, e-Mobility, Volkswagen

christian senger vice president volkswagen e-mobility
VW’s Christian Senger tells us about the future of cars and their plans on electric mobility.

Christian: Talking about e-mobility, as you see Volkswagen is 100 % committed towards going for electric cars. We are showing three examples here: how e-mobility can look like, being emotional, having long range, ability and being affordable and being a digital car designed on operating system. This is the vision and we are one of the first to release these electric vehicles. My role is leading the model line, so capturing, engineering, product planning, sales, production, even recycling, we must have a holistic approach for a sustainable business.

Q: So, you are saying that by 2020 you have will have these cars. What is the development going to be like in the mean time? Why 2020 and why not now?
Christian: Why not now? We decided about it two years ago. So in 2020, a few things are expected to develop. We will have a strong change in regulations. In Europe, we have a CO2 regulations drop, going to 95 grams for the fleet, this can only be achieved by a large number of pure electric cars. We see that China is creating rules which go directly for electric cars and more or less only for electric cars, and even US is on the way for electric mobility. And we see a huge progress in the cost of battery and electric powertrains. Now we have the energy density available for allowing 400-600km in a usual car and also on the cost base, which is affordable for our customers. Nobody before made it possible creating attractive electric cars and being profitable even in the e-segment. Since we can say our electric Golf is attractive, but the customer feedback is that the price is too high and the range is too low. It will be priced similar to the Golf diesel. Looking to the cars of today, the batteries are very complex, our batteries that we just showed are super reduced for better quality and better costs and I think we now have the same as we have in combustion engines. In today’s cars we can go for two-cylinder, four-cylinder and say, up to six-cylinder. Electric cars more-or-less have only one range and you need very good scaling concept for the same range and I.D. needs less battery than the I.D. Crozz, so there is less complexity.

Q: Is there enough nickel for the batteries here?
Christian: Yes, we have no limitations for raw materials here, only a question of cost.

Q: Times are appropriate, is there an environmental impact to mining etc., what is that impact?
Christian: So electric cars have less parts and lower complexity, so on our side production is leaner, consumes less energy and is easier for the employees. The batteries have an energy chain so we check that our supplier base is according to our requirements and our vision. A battery has three times leasing, so most of the cars will go into leasing cycles of three years. So you have the car for at least nine years of leasing period then the cars go in private hands or the battery is used in a second life scenario like powerwall, grid stabilization, they have so many applications in front of us as owned by second stage batteries.

And by this factor so many applications are interesting which are not in mind today, so we assume that the battery has a lifetime of twenty years plus and then we talk about recycling. And also think about we have 1 billion cars in the world, in 20-30 years we will have millions and millions of electric cars also, we want to get to access to raw materials again so we have industrialized it already once, so we are going to have raw material cycles. The technology therefore is not in place today but we are working together to find the right solution.

Q: Would you consider yourself as a software solutions provider now, as you will be developing AI and cloud services etc.?
Christian: Our idea is maybe close to the base idea of Apple. We are a product company, we are producing devices and the attractiveness of our devices comes out of the ecosystem. So we still believe in our production competition and our sourcing power industrialization, perfectionism in cars. But in the history we had a closed eco-system, nobody could access a car from the outside, just us. The next step is to create an open platform that even third parties can use, like say, Spotify. There is so much stuff we do not understand at Volkswagen, think about health application or whatever, but people will have benefits from it, people will love their Volkswagen. And talking about security, the next big thing in the automotive industry, we have made big achievements in traffic safety, the number of accidents was reduced tremendously, the belts, the airbag, the ABS system we introduced. So making things safe and sound is the next thing. Also for data, we have a joint venture with an Israel based company. We are investing on this but it is always kind of a race but we understand the challenge.  And you always take the easiest challenge. So people have lots of ideas to take this kind of devices, banking for example. And even those devices where you have cost for free games, advertising coming in and you do your banking software as well on the same device. So there is a solution – being secure and being open, and we need to step over this bridge as well, this is not easy.

Q: The millennials or so called consumers; will they be okay with sharing data with everybody in your ecosystem?
Christian: My strong belief is people see the benefit of sharing data. I need to secure my data, this is the decision of the individual but it’s a simple logic. When you say I do not share my mobility data, you cannot have very precise traffic chain on the map, so it’s a give and take principle; the same will take place in cars.

Q: Coming back to electric cars, what is your biggest challenge today?
Christian: For e-mobility cars in general, range is not enough, price is too high and charging infrastructure is not available. These are the three blocking points for the success of electric cars. The first electric Golf had 190Km range and you just see the next one is 300 and we go up to 600, the maximum of Tesla’s range, the Tesla Model S. You do not need a charging point every 100 metres. What is the weekly mileage of people? 400 to 600 km. So, for most of the people it is enough if they charge it once a week, especially commuters.

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