Until now, electric vehicles have been regarded as expensive and uncertain in terms of the distances that can be covered with the existing technology. Now, four high-tech companies have teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Embedded Systems and Communications Technologies (or ESK) to develop a future-ready mobility solution that’s based on a comprehensive intelligent system. Yet a comprehensive system also calls for new collaboration and marketing models. Only if this is achieved will it be possible to offer a solution for everyday mobility applications at a competitive price versus conventional combustion engines. The Steinbeis Consulting Center for Technological Advancement & Project Financing sees its core competence as the development of technology-based business models. This know-how allows it to make important contributions to this new project by working with the partners to develop a new business and operator model coined “regional operators organize e-mobility.”
Preparation for this project involved securing funding for the mediumsized business partners involved – primarily through backing from a government program called IKT-EM II. The consortium, made up of the companies Vispiron, Heinzmann, Roding Automobile, the BMZ (battery assembly center), and Fraunhofer was cleared to start developing a “comprehensive, emissions-free system for cities.”
The project partners developed an electrically driven vehicle (class L7E) made of lightweight construction materials. In addition, it developed an intelligent hardware and software system and a low-volt battery module, allowing for easy exchange of the battery pack. For users, the result was a compact, intelligent vehicle that can transport people or goods. Transportation systems are not achieved by selling individual vehicles. The vehicles have to be made available through a centrally managed e-fleet. Working with renewable energy providers and using battery exchange stations underscores the e-fleet’s status as part of an emission-free system. The vehicles are much more modern and environmentally friendly, since they have been designed in line with modern environmental requirements and the needs of people living in cities.
Operating e-fleets means setting up suitable operator systems. These operators organize the infrastructure and make vehicles available to drivers: organizations, companies, or even private individuals. Usage is invoiced through simple and transparent rates. The consortium is plan- ning its fi rst steps by introducing test fl eets through operators in Aschaffenburg and Munich. These operators will provide e-fl eets – each with at least 20 vehicles – to companies and organizations. They foresee uses such as e-taxis, e-city logistics, communal fl eets, and carpooling (where people or organizations share a collection of vehicles). Based on fl eet tests, the consortium will make systems know-how as well as hardware and software solutions available to regional operators.
The role played by the regional operator networks is to promote use through their knowledge of travel demand in a given area and their ability to network intelligently. It all comes down to usage rates: if these are too low, this affects costs (higher per mile) and makes the solution less economical. Once costs (per mile) are reduced to below that of combustion engines, e-mobility will enjoy wider acceptance.
The project partners have every reason to be optimistic: At the moment, the costs for the e-fl eets are lower than the costs of combustion engines. Payment plans based on usage mean these cost advantages can be handed on to users by regional operators. The better value for money means quicker market penetration. The project shows: new business models are needed as technology advances. Paul Leibold, coordinator of the consortium project backs this up: “When embarking on complex, innovative endeavors, I recommend the support offered by the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Technological Advancement and Project Financing. Their team offers skills and knowledge that strongly contribute to project success. In addition to the specialist knowledge they offered, the center knew exactly how to reconcile the interests of each project partner in line with the groups’ shared goals.”
For more information, please visit the website for this “Adaptive City Mobility” (ACM) project.
Project Coordinator at ACM and Head of eMobility Vispiron Carsync GmbH