Volkswagen presents latest findings of electric mobility research
Today, Volkswagen – in cooperation with six project partners and the German Ministry of the Environment – is presenting the current status of the “Fleet study in electric mobility” that was initiated in July 2008. The primary goal of the project which runs until June 2012: consistently utilise renewable energy sources for electrically powered vehicles. Within the framework of the fleet study, Volkswagen is implementing a total of 20 of the latest generation Golf Variant twïnDRIVE cars as research vehicles.
Their plug-in hybrid drives operate with zero emissions in urban operation using an electric motor. The Golf Variant twïnDRIVE enables distances of up to 57 km on pure electrical power; an additional small internal combustion engine provides for a total range of about 900 km. Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn,
Chairman of the Management Board of Volkswagen AG, comments on the twïnDRIVE: “When it comes to driving with zero emissions within cities while covering far greater distances as pure electric vehicles – the twïnDRIVE system by Volkswagen sets new standards and could over the mid-term develop into the ideal form of mobility for the vast majority of car drivers.”
Fleet study encounters transition in energy production
The “Fleet study in electric mobility” is now assuming a high level of importance, in the wake of events in Japan and the German federal government’s mandatory exit from nuclear energy production. According to plans by the federal government, the number of pure electric vehicles will reach one million units in Germany alone by 2020. And these vehicles must be operated sustainably – i.e. from renewable energy sources – to attain significant progress in environmental protection.
Volkswagen counting on renewable energies
Before the transition in energy policy, Volkswagen had already appealed for the intensified use of renewable energy sources. During a workshop on electric mobility in Shanghai in mid-2010, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn emphasised that: “Future electric cars offer us tremendous opportunities for reshaping mobility to become even more sustainable. However, we must – on behalf of the environment – ensure that the energy used to operate these electric cars is also generated renewably, i.e. from renewable resources. Since carmakers do not make decisions on which types of power plants will be built, governments must assure that environmentally-friendly energy sources are utilised. Only then will we experience a genuine transition to a new era.” This new era is now within reach.
Optimising the stability of the power grid
Over 16 per cent of Germany’s electrical needs are already covered by renewable energy sources, and plans are afoot to extend this share to 30 per cent by 2020. Volkswagen, for example, has installed one of the highest performance wind power systems in the world at its German plant in Emden; it already supplies one-third of the factory’s energy requirements. In parallel, more and more electricity is being generated from solar and water power. These forms of energy must also be used for mobility. However, the amount of renewably generated energy is subject to fluctuations due to natural factors (e.g. sunshine duration, wind strength). This means that it is necessary to control intelligently electrical demand to avoid load peaks. In this context, the “Fleet study in electric mobility” is analysing the usage behaviour of drivers of cars with electrical charging, electric load control and intelligent strategies in the charging process. In addition, a scenario is being tested, in which some of the daily peak electrical demand might be buffered by the cars’ lithium-ion batteries in the future.
Plug-in hybrid will assume much greater importance
Through its “Fleet study in electric mobility”, Volkswagen is acquiring valuable knowledge on how cars with plug-in hybrid drives like the Golf Variant twïnDRIVE handle continual use. As already noted, the 20 Golf Variant twïnDRIVE cars can be driven over long distances in pure electric mode, i.e. with zero emissions. The expression “environmental zone” takes on an entirely new meaning in cities.
One of the goals of Volkswagen AG is to launch numerous plug-in hybrid cars on the market in the years 2013/2014. In the area of electric mobility, they are intended to supplement the Group’s hybrid models that are already being produced today (these models currently include cars by Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen), as well as the pure electric vehicles that will also debut from 2013. Clearly, plug-in hybrid models – i.e. cars with combustion engine, E-motor and a battery that can be charged by an external power source – will acquire special significance in the urban environment. Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn comments on this: “Over the mid-term, the plug-in hybrid offers great potential here, because it unites the best of 2 worlds in one vehicle.” The plug-in hybrid, according to Winterkorn, enables precisely what many customers expect: an unlimited driving range with internal combustion engine mobility and an attractive electrical driving range in everyday driving.
Fleet study brings together specialists in Germany
The large-scale introduction of plug-in hybrid cars and pure electric cars continues to be associated with great challenges. Prof. Dr. Winterkorn: “Electric mobility will be a century-long endeavour for Europe as a centre of automotive production and industry. Carmakers, suppliers, energy providers, scientists and politicians – everyone must step up to the plate.” In Germany, the “Fleet study in electric mobility” is bringing together precisely these partners.
Six project partners
The “Fleet study in electric mobility” is being conducted by six project partners from research and commerce under the leadership of Volkswagen AG. Representing the energy industry is energy provider E.ON. From the research area, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft ISIT (representation of the battery systems and development of new battery chemistry), Heidelberger Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU; creating eco-balance), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR; analysis, forecasting traffic scenarios) and the Westphalian Wilhelm University in Münster (development of methodologies, laboratory testing of battery cells) will contribute their expertise and know-how to the fleet study.