‘It is about mak­ing mo­bil­ity more ef­fi­cient’

With the world wit­ness­ing a par­a­digm shift, al­beit grad­ual, to au­to­mated driv­ing, we caught up with Dr Rolf Bu­lan­der, mem­ber of the Board of Di­rec­tors at Robert Bosch GmbH, at the 2017 Bosch Mo­bil­ity Ex­pe­ri­ence in Boxberg for his take on the chang­ing scen

Bike India - - INTERVIEW -

Bike In­dia (BI): What are the big changes that you see in mo­bil­ity in the near fu­ture, con­sid­er­ing what we al­ready know about elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, con­nec­tiv­ity, and au­to­ma­tion?

Dr Rolf Bu­lan­der (RB): Is that not enough? (Laughs) I think with the pos­si­bil­ity that we will have fully au­tonomous driv­ing, there will be a fur­ther change com­ing from shared mo­bil­ity. This goes along with the need for traf­fic route re­quire­ments in ci­ties. There isn’t a dif­fer­ence any more, whether you go to a small city like Stuttgart with 600,000 peo­ple or a big city like Delhi or Bengaluru. When I’m in Bengaluru, I’m usu­ally stuck in traf­fic. And so, the ques­tion is how can this be solved? The an­swer is al­ready in­tro­duced in a lot of ci­ties in the world. I think three or four years ago, ev­ery­one was think­ing about how to make car mo­bil­ity more ef­fi­cient. But this will change. It is about mak­ing mo­bil­ity more ef­fi­cient. This in­cludes other pos­si­bil­i­ties as well: cars, bikes, pub­lic trans­port, bi­cy­cles.

In Europe, we are mar­ket leader of the pow­er­train for e-bikes, with an un­be­liev­able fig­ure be­ing sold. When you look at Euro­pean streets, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of ve­hi­cles are not clas­sic, me­chan­i­cal bikes, but e-bikes. Those of­fer dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties. Also in ci­ties like Stuttgart where there are steep hills, where you would never use a bi­cy­cle un­less you are a sports per­son, with e-bikes, a lot of peo­ple use bikes!

So, shared mo­bil­ity, in­ter-modal mo­bil­ity, use of dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties, and a seam­less change of mo­bil­ity op­por­tu­ni­ties is the ma­jor change in the fu­ture.

BI: In the two-wheeler sphere, we’ve seen ABS, ESP and a lot more as­sis­tance come in for big bikes. Where do you see you big­gest chal­lenge com­ing in the mass mar­ket? What sort of sys­tems do you see com­ing in on mass-pro­duced bikes, such as the 100-110-cc bikes in In­dia?

RB: You will see ABS com­ing in there as well. You will even see ABS on bi­cy­cles. If you have tried it on the Prov­ing Ground, you will be amazed. Even at 25 km/h with a full brake, it’s amaz­ing! Your neigh­bour will have an ac­ci­dent, and you will stop like you’re on a rail­way. It will come, and it will be af­ford­able on bi­cy­cles as well as on 100-cc bikes. This will save lives, I’m very sure. For me, this is one of the most im­por­tant in­ven­tions. This is an an­gel, be­cause the pos­si­bil­ity to die on one of those bikes is high com­pared to a Mahin­dra car or what­ever.

BI: Will the e-Call fea­ture as well as Dig­i­tal Shield also be­come equally im­por­tant in the fu­ture? Es­pe­cially for mar­kets such as In­dia and China? When do you think this could be­come mass­mar­ket?

RB: We al­ready have that. The e-Call via smart­phone is al­ready avail­able. As ev­ery­one has a smart­phone, we link a lot of func­tions for the two-wheeler to the smart­phone. For in­stance, theft con­trol and e-Call can be di­rectly linked to the smart­phone. I think what is im­por­tant is that two-wheeler not ex­ceed cer­tain price lim­its, and for that you have to use what’s avail­able. What is avail­able is a small con­nec­tiv­ity box which links to your smart­phone and not to the cloud, be­cause then you have to have ex­tra to pay for fees. You link the smart­phone and the ser­vices are pro­vided by the smart­phone to the two-wheeler. BI: How im­por­tant is it for the in­dus­try to col­lab­o­rate; for in­stance, do you think tech com­pa­nies and tra­di­tional au­to­mo­bile com­pa­nies can co­ex­ist? RB: This is what we’ve al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced. The ca­pa­bil­ity of the com­puter and soft­ware in­dus­tries linked with the auto in­dus­try of­fers var­i­ous so­lu­tions which are much more com­pet­i­tive than those ear­lier. This is clear. Take the use of Alexa or Ama­zon in cars. There are sev­eral ex­am­ples. BI: Spe­cific to elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, what’s the de­vel­op­ment that is hap­pen­ing in the area of bat­ter­ies, es­pe­cially their en­ergy den­sity?

RB: We have a two-fold ap­proach. We have a joint ven­ture with two Ja­panese com­pa­nies: Mit­subishi Cor­po­rate and GS Yuasa, very es­tab­lished pro­duc­ers of bat­ter­ies from lead-acid to lithium-ion bat­ter­ies. Our mis­sion is to im­prove the en­ergy den­sity of cells tremen­dously. They al­ready have their pro­duc­tion and their cus­tomers. We have highly so­phis­ti­cated pro­duc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­ogy. That is one ap­proach. The sec­ond is post-lithium tech­nol­ogy, or solid-state bat­ter­ies, whose tech­nol­ogy [has not reached] as far as lithi­u­mion bat­ter­ies. It’s more in the stage of re­search close to pre­de­vel­op­ment. This is done on our own, to­gether with a start-up com­pany we have bought two years ago, and we brought that to­gether with our re­search area. If you bring to­gether those sys­tem­atic re­searchers look­ing for ev­ery­thing ev­ery­where in the world, and the start-up folk who are fast in rein­vent­ing; if you bring sys­tem­atic sim­u­la­tion know-how to­gether with fast re­cur­sion of tests, then the speed is quite high. BI: The key de­mands from bat­ter­ies are to in­crease range and bring down costs. How do you see costs com­ing down over a pe­riod of time? RB: Our tar­get is ‘dou­ble range, half cost’. You can­not re­ally dis­tin­guish be­tween range and cost be­cause as soon as you can in­crease the range in the same vol­ume, if you dou­ble the range, you can only take half of the cells and you have half of the cost with the same range. So, both go along with each other, and this is the key. If the ef­fi­ciency of the pow­er­train im­proves by 10 per cent, you could in­vest that in range or re­duce your num­ber of cells.

BI: You’ve been in­vest­ing quite a lot in the In­dian mar­ket with over 17,500 peo­ple un­der­tak­ing re­search. Have you iden­ti­fied more ar­eas for the fu­ture? RB: Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence. We have 4,000 of those 17,500 work­ing di­rectly on com­bus­tion en­gines and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. Our ac­tiv­i­ties in In­dia have strate­gic im­por­tance for our busi­ness world­wide. We’ve even ex­tended the ac­tiv­i­ties from In­dia to Viet­nam, so they have a sep­a­rate branch work­ing for us for the ASEAN mar­ket. They even have a branch in Mex­ico. This is a vi­tal part of our world­wide R&D net­work with the main fo­cus be­ing soft­ware.

IN­TER­VIEWED BY: JIM GORDE

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