Transport going electric in future
Electric mobility is gaining momentum across Hamburg. Hochbahn AG recently awarded Daimler Buses, MAN Truck & Bus and Solaris a contract for 530 emission-free, solo and articulated battery-operated buses. Apart from electric buses with conventional lithium-ion batteries, the company has also ordered buses with solid batteries. The electric buses will be added to the fleet from 2021. Hochbahn already has 30 battery-operated buses with another 30 expected by the end of 2020.
"We added sustainability criteria to the tendering process for the first time in Germany as part of our bid to take responsibility on both global and local levels. This is important en route to really environment-friendly mobility and as a climate-neutral company," said Henrik Falk, Chairman of the Board of Hochbahn.
Yet, individual transport must focus more on electric vehicles to make the mobility transition a reality. Peter Lindlahr, Managing Director of HySolutions GmbH, is a firm believer in the advantages and especially the viability of electric mobility. HySolutions GmbH, a public-private partnership, has acted as a co-ordinating body for electromobility in Hamburg since 2009. Lindlahr is well aware of the concerns surrounding electric cars. In an interview with Hamburg News, he outlines the five most topical points and gives greater insight therein.
Are electric cars too expensive?
Electric cars are slightly more expensive than comparable vehicles with combustion engines. "However, the increasing variety of models, higher production volumes and far more ambitious market ramp-up scenarios in the automotive industry mean that the much-cited 'economies of scale' can be expected in terms of supply and along the lines of ‘quantity up, unit costs down’," said Lindlahr. "HySolutions has started talks on behalf of the German Ministry of Transport with the leasing industry. We develop forward-looking concepts to significantly increase the efficiency and attractiveness of the offers in terms of price. Leasing rates for e-vehicles in Germany are nowhere near as economical as in Hamburg," he added. More than 80 per cent of electric cars are leased because technical progress is swift and occurs at relatively short intervals. Thus, long holding periods do not entice users to purchase them. "In the long term, we will have to reach a point when the residual values of leasing e-vehicles are as stable as conventional combustion engine vehicles. The prospects of a secondary market are so lucrative that e-vehicles are expected to retain value in their second life and achieve a high level of residual value stability," said Lindlahr.
Range: Can I reach my destination easily in an electric car?
"The range has been subject to discussions for a long time, but is no longer an issue. My own car allows me to cover up to 520 km on a full charge thanks to a powerful battery. And it is definitely not a Tesla! The development continues to progress at all manufacturers, so that long distances will not be a problem in future. The imminent switch from lithium-ion technology to solid-state batteries will make a significant contribution because these batteries have a higher physical energy density and achieve significantly higher ranges."
Charging infrastructure: Are there enough charging points?
"Yes, there are, but there is still an urban-rural divide! The big city of Hamburg presently has 1,000 publicly-accessible charging points, 65 of which are fast-charging stations and receive environment-friendly electricity from Hamburg Energie and are operated by Stromnetz Hamburg GmbH. "This year, we are likely to have well over 300,000 charging processes despite corona. We expect over one million annual charging processes by late 2023. That critical level necessitates swifter expansion of charging stations on private premises and in buildings. "This is where the ELBE ("Electrify Buildings for EVs") project comes in and targets property companies, project developers and even employers. It really does offer them very attractive subsidies for building and operating charging infrastructure in non-public areas," Lindlahr stressed.
Network security: Lights off at million-charging mark?
"No, certainly not. The general security of energy supply is not endangered because intelligent charging will prevail in future. That includes flexible load management both locally and at system level. To this end, binding legal requirements will be issued and progress in digitalisation will help us reach effective and practical solutions. In concrete terms, charging an e-car on the grid requires an IT-supported interface between the decentralised charging point and the main connection at the electricity network. We have already achieved that here in Hamburg, for instance, with the ELBE project. Thus, we can react flexibly and reduce the power consumption at the charging point as soon as an overload on the grid becomes apparent. This counteracts the danger of a local network overload. At the same time, it also helps refute the unsubstantiated claim that our electricity grids will be overwhelmed by a future mass market in e-mobility. “
How ecological are electric cars?
Electric cars have a good ecological record because unlike cars with combustion engines, they do not produce any emissions. Yet, the raw materials cobalt and lithium, which are needed to produce the batteries, have come in for criticism as their extraction in the countries of origin goes hand in hand with huge environmental and social problems. "However, a cobalt-free battery has already been developed and will soon be ready for series production. That is important because ecological credibility is crucial for the switch to electric cars," Lindlahr stressed. Switching to solid state battery technology will improve the critical raw material balance of electric vehicles. The much-cited ecological backpack will become smaller, but it will remain a certain size. It will be a welcome counter-argument to sceptics in future."
Fewer obstacles to increasing electric mobility remain and the German automotive industry is driving the development through its growing commitment. But just how willing are people to switch to electric cars? "If the increase in electric cars continues to develop as it has so far, one in five vehicles registered in Hamburg in 2030 will be electrically powered," said Lindlahr. But will corona act as an accelerator or will it slow down the development? "Experts expect to reach the tipping point in 2023. Then, society will finally have reached a consensus on electric mobility."