The Pressure to Develop Innovations for Sustainable Mobility has Never Been Greater
Guest Article by Daniela Werlich
At Porsche, digital innovations and technological progress are key drivers for the future of the company. This idea is firmly anchored in the Porsche Strategy 2030. Digital transformation is changing not only our cars, but all areas of our organization and the way we work. In this series, we ask experts outside of Porsche how they perceive the upcoming challenges and changes. At first, Daniela Werlich, CTO of CUSTOMCELLS, explains, why the battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future.
Without technological progress, there is little reason for optimism in the struggle for a sustainable future. Or is there? In particular, mobility by road, rail, on or underwater, and in the air must change radically. One approach is new drive technologies and of course the ongoing electrification of the automotive industry.
Can the climate crisis still be overcome? At the end of October 2021, the German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT conducted a discussion on this central question with Klaus Hasselmann and Luisa Neubauer. In their own way, both have a great deal to contribute to the fact that more people than ever before are concerned with environmental and climate protection and are critically observing the changes on our planet.
Hasselmann, 90, received the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. In his research, he demonstrated the link between global warming and the concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere. Neubauer, 25, is part of a global movement fighting for a sustainable future for the planet. In the ZEIT interview, Hasselmann expresses optimism that innovations will solve the environmental crisis. Neubauer thinks this optimism is a danger. I am convinced that, basically, both are right.
Alternative drives for today’s mobility: the time for experimentation will soon be over
According to figures from the International Energy Agency, the mobility and transport sector is responsible for around a quarter of global CO₂ emissions. The IPCC report on the transport sector from 2014 makes it very clear what upheaval is facing the sector, whose industry in Germany is more closely associated with economic recovery in the second half of the 21st century than any other: “Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from transport will be a challenge, as continued growth in passenger and freight transport could cancel out any emission reduction measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth.”
Only through scientific foundations, innovations and technical progress can we succeed in breaking this link to promote economic growth and thus prosperity in all regions of the world — while at the same time cushioning the effects of climate change as best we can. At the same time, this also poses a key problem for companies: climate change and the consumption of our finite resources are relentless drivers. Time for experimentation is therefore dwindling with each passing day, month and year. New technologies are needed, but the overriding premise now must be efficiency — and fast action. Those who sit back and wait for a technological miracle are making a big mistake.
Efficiency and sustainable innovation from the source to the road
Our company CUSTOMCELLS is one of the leading organizations in the development of state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery cells: sustainable innovation, made in Germany. Emerging in 2012 as a spin-off from the Fraunhofer Institute, today CUSTOMCELLS maintains a development site in Itzehoe, and a production site for small and medium volume series in Tübingen. We develop individual solutions for a wide range of industries — especially for the automotive and maritime sectors as well as electric flying. Our technology is already proving itself on the road today — tomorrow also on or underwater as well as in the air. Our scientific approach pursues the overriding goal of efficiency, with collaborations of the “best in class” companies in the value chain — from material manufacturers to plant engineers to recycling specialists.
And also, with Porsche: “The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future. As a Porsche subsidiary, the Cellforce Group will play a key role in driving forward the research, development, production and sales of high-performance cells,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, when announcing the partnership between Porsche and CUSTOMCELLS in 2021. “With this joint venture, we are positioning ourselves at the forefront of the global competition for the most powerful battery cell and making it the link between the unmistakable Porsche driving experience and sustainability. This is how we are shaping the future of the sports car.”
New sustainable forms of mobility thanks to new drive technology
In addition to retrofitting widespread mobility options such as the passenger car, new forms of mobility will lead to efficiency gains — and therefore reduce CO₂ emissions from the global transport sector. A significant reduction in CO₂ emissions without an economic recession will only succeed if no time is wasted in promoting and testing the most energy-efficient drives for different forms of mobility in a targeted manner.
That is why we enable others with our technology to develop and test precisely these new forms. CUSTOMCELLS does not produce a one-size-fits-all solution, but the most efficient battery cell for the respective customer, even in small series. The diversity of solutions that we enable today will determine the success of the mobility revolution in the future.
Air cabs, for example, which are sometimes viewed critically, offer great opportunities — powered by our products — to increase transport efficiency and rethink transportation in urban centers as well as rural regions. Hydrogen and eFuel propulsion may be an option for passenger aviation as we know it today — but electrically powered air cabs designed for absolute efficiency will play their part in a sustainable future for the mobility sector.
In shipping, green hydrogen will power the largest cargo ships, because the energy-intensive production of the fuel is worthwhile for the mass that has to be moved. For smaller ships or submarines, however, the ratio turns. Here, too, highly efficient battery technologies such as those developed by CUSTOMCELLS can pave the way for technological progress toward a sustainable future.
High-performance batteries “Made in Germany”
Real innovations in people’s mobility can only succeed if innovative concepts become possible in all areas. This requires individual battery cell solutions, flexible production in small and medium-sized series to significantly increase the pace from development to market launch.
In order to be able to provide high-performance batteries for local innovation leaders, we recently established a joint venture, Cellforce Group GmbH, together with Porsche, for example. In this way, we are driving forward battery-powered electrification in a wide range of sectors in Germany — and thus reducing emissions.
Alternative drive systems need technological progress in Germany
The technological progress of alternative drive technologies from batteries to hydrogen has advanced rapidly in recent years. In the meantime, the pace of development is almost comparable to the IT sector, where computing capacity has risen steadily since the 1990s. We must maintain this pace if we are to effectively reduce CO₂ emissions from the mobility sector — and we share Klaus Hasselmann’s optimism. But we also partly share Luisa Neubauer’s concerns.
We must not succumb to the idea of always waiting for the next big technological leap on the horizon. Alternative drives are here, now everything must be done to deploy them efficiently on a large scale. The time for experimentation is running out. Companies are now called upon to work at full speed to create technological progress. We accept this challenge and want to enable other companies to do the same with our technology.
Learn more about all facets of Porsche’s digital transformation and beyond in the other episodes of our guest article series. Our next guest article is from Prof. Dr. Martin Fassnacht, Head of Chair Strategy, WHU.
About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we are developing new digital products and services — always with our customers in focus. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, emerging technologies, and the people that drive our digital journey. If you want to know more, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.