The infrastructure is missing, the range is too small and the loading times are too long. Electromobility is confronted with a number of prejudices that seem to be well embedded in the public perception. But is the status quo of e-mobility in Germany really that bad, or are technology and infrastructure already much more advanced than many of us believe? Why are electrically powered vehicles like the Porsche Taycan so fascinating? And above all: What are the opportunities offered by the new drive system and which challenges does it present?
One thing is certain: Whether Roborace, Rimac Automobili or Porsche — the automotive industry is undergoing fundamental changes. Just a few weeks ago, Porsche presented its first all-electric sports car, the Taycan, to the general public, marking its entry into the e-mobility market.
I interviewed Smart Mobility expert Eugen Letkemann about e-mobility. Here are his answers:
1. What surprised you the most when you first drove in an electric car?
The biggest surprise for me — and I think that’s how many people feel — was the brachial acceleration. It feels insane when you hit the pedal and immediately get pressed into the seat from such a high torque. I only knew this from the amusement park — and now it’s nice to be able to experience this moment of excitement more often. For me, it’s a real thrill in an electric car that hardly any combustion engine can match.
2. What would you reply to critics saying that e-mobility is a hype that will never become a long-term affordable trend?
That’s a really good question. I believe that the idea of e-mobility is far too big for describing it as a hype- it’s so huge, so all-encompassing that in my opinion it can no longer be called a hype. E-mobility is a topic where several megatrends come together: First, of course, there is the change from mobility overall — from the user’s point of view to individualized, multimodal, digital mobility. For automobile manufacturers customer needs are accompanied by changing requirements — this is where new and more sustainable mobility concepts are needed. In addition to these changes, there are also socio-political challenges affecting e-mobility: environment and sustainability are becoming increasingly important, new types of energy generated from solar or hydropower are being developed and batteries are becoming more affordable.
All these changes play a major role in the development of e-mobility into a significant component of the current consciousness shift. If you look at all these components as a map and place the big trends on top of each other, you can see very clearly that e-mobility is not just a hype or trend — it is a future status quo.
3. You have already mentioned the topic of batteries, the range is also often viewed skeptically. What makes you optimistic about charging infrastructure & range?
Looking at general product development cycles, we are still in the early stages of battery development, especially for specific vehicle batteries. I mean, the first Tesla Roadster in 2008 had laptop batteries built in, we’re currently working with a lithium-ion generation that was for the first time designed only for electric vehicles. There are just ten years in between — this is not a long development time, especially in the automotive industry. Volkswagen, among others, is now working on solid-state batteries — they are regarded as the next technological leap after Lithium ions and are expected to come onto the market in a few years. With this type of battery, the energy density increases because both electrodes, as well as the electrolyte, consist of solid material. Accordingly, it is foreseeable that the range will increase enormously with a new type of battery. The same applies to the charging infrastructure: At the beginning of the e-mobility turnaround, charging columns were set up with low charging capacity, meaning that the charging process took a long time. In addition to energy suppliers, numerous automobile manufacturers and new players are now active on the market which themselves build charging stations with significantly higher charging capacities. In my opinion, this expansion, the new speed and convenience will ultimately convince users of e-mobility.
4. Well, that sounds very positive. In your opinion, what are the challenges that need to be mastered?
The first point is quite clear: vehicle prices will definitely have to decrease — but car manufacturers are working on this and they will make it possible. The same applies to the expansion of the network: Currently, the e-infrastructure is still capable of being expanded, although I have to say here that it is not as bad as it is perceived today. This leads us to the last, biggest and most important challenge: creating trust in e-mobility. We need to make people aware that e-mobility works right here now, and that the next step must be to change their habits. In my opinion, this will be the biggest challenge, because we all know that we like to stick to the familiar. But there are opportunities that we should definitely not miss.
(Laughs) So, my car is fully loaded now. Thanks for having me!
An interview with Eugen Letkemann, Smart Mobility at Porsche AG, by Morten Sassen, Corporate Finance Analyst at Porsche Digital. Follow us on Twitter (Porsche Digital, Next Visions), Instagram (Porsche Digital Lab Berlin, Porsche Digital, Next Visions) and LinkedIn (Porsche Digital Lab Berlin, Porsche Digital) for more.