Chris­tian Senger

Car India - - CONTENTS - Chris­tian Senger

The head of Volk­swa­gen’s e-mo­bil­ity di­vi­sion talks about the fu­ture of cars

For Volk­swa­gen, elec­tric cars are noth­ing new. Their lat­est e-Golf pro­duc­tion is al­ready sold out. The idea be­hind the suc­cess is pric­ing it close to com­bus­tion cars. Now the VW Group are con­vinced that this new plat­form has an ad­van­tage in func­tion­al­ity, range, space, and flex­i­bil­ity.

VW started the e-revo­lu­tion in Paris with the I.D. com­pact car, fol­lowed by the I.D. Crozz, the I.D. Buzz and, now, the Vizzion ― all built on the same plat­form. The com­pany be­lieves that it’s not enough to de­velop cars with­out tailpipes and, hence, is prepar­ing a new busi­ness model: a dig­i­tal ecosys­tem for fu­ture cars ― the con­cept of MEB, or Mo­du­laren Elek­tri­fizierungs­baumkas­ten (Mod­u­lar Elec­tric Tool­kit). Com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, a new dig­i­tal ecosys­tem and a re­newed sales model com­plete the tri­an­gle of the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity. This is the mission of

Chris­tian Senger, who heads the e-mo­bil­ity di­vi­sion at Volk­swa­gen AG. We had a con­ver­sa­tion with him.

CarIndia(CI): You said that the new MEB plat­form will be more cost-ef­fec­tive as well as more func­tional and more flex­i­ble. How will it be more cost-ef­fec­tive? Chris­tian Senger (CS): Com­pared to the elec­tric cars, I’m sure this is a very cost-ef­fi­cient ap­proach. The sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the bat­tery sys­tem is def­i­nitely out­stand­ing. The num­ber of vari­ants we are build­ing in pro­duc­tion has been re­duced by 80 per cent but the avail­abil­ity of vari­ants for cus­tomers has not been re­duced by 80 per cent. Thus, greater en­gi­neer­ing dis­ci­pline, less lo­gis­tic ef­forts, and less hours needed to build the car. This is also the rea­son why we are able to pro­duce the cars in high­cost Ger­many. This is what I mean by a very ef­fi­cient model.

(CI): You have talked about bring­ing the cost down, close to the com­bus­tion en­gine, and how that’s go­ing to con­tinue to be a chal­lenge. At what point did you see, as a man­u­fac­turer, that there was no ne­ces­sity to rely on in­cen­tives or gov­ern­ment schemes? (CS): I would say those in the in­dus­try who are able to cross €100 per kWh in the bat­tery have a chance. Ev­ery­body above this fig­ure is at risk and this is a huge chal­lenge, where you just take the cost of raw ma­te­rial. For the next few years, I think elec­tric cars will be sig­nif­i­cantly higher in terms of ma­te­rial cost, like com­bus­tion cars. Usu­ally, we fo­cus on op­ti­mis­ing the ma­te­rial cost; in the MEB ap­proach we are op­ti­mis­ing the whole value chain. One of the key things we are work­ing on is good process.

(CI): Nor­mally, there are more mov­ing and work­ing parts in a com­bus­tion en­gine car com­pared to an elec­tric one. Why then is the cost still higher? (CS): In the elec­tric car arena, the pro­por­tion of

raw ma­te­rial cost ver­sus in­dus­tri­alised cost is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent. There­fore, be­ing more ef­fec­tive in drilling, mould­ing, and weld­ing doesn’t save you. Raw ma­te­rial cost man­age­ment is the dif­fer­en­tia­tor. It will take many years un­til the com­bus­tion car be­comes more ex­pen­sive in pro­duc­tion and the elec­tric one less so.

(CI): What, in your opin­ion, is the fu­ture: hy­dro­gen fu­el­cell or elec­tric? (CS): I would go for elec­tric for sim­ple rea­sons. You will find out that the cost per mile in hy­dro­gen is higher than that in elec­tric. Hy­dro­gen makes sense when you have so much sur­plus in your sus­tain­able en­ergy sup­ply that you take the wind turbine’s en­ergy and there is no con­sump­tion to pro­duce hy­dro­gen. Thus, in the end, hy­dro­gen will be part of the mar­ket, but only in those huge cases where su­per­fast recharg­ing is a value and you need su­per-long dis­tance drives. In the case of pas­sen­ger cars, where most of the mileage is clocked just by com­mut­ing, I don’t see any need. And, fi­nally, a hy­dro­gen car is noth­ing else but an elec­tric car with a hy­dro­gen range ex­ten­der. So, at Volk­swa­gen, we de­cided to take the pure elec­tric path. We have other brands within the Volk­swa­gen Group where hy­dro­gen should start.

(CI): What is the elec­tric fu­ture like for de­vel­op­ing mar­kets like In­dia where there is a chal­lenge in get­ting elec­tric­ity for de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture? (CS): I have a clear opin­ion about many things, but not about this one. As long as the cost of elec­tric cars is higher than that of com­bus­tion cars and the av­er­age in­come in In­dia isn’t grow­ing that much, I have a hard time think­ing that this is the fo­cus mar­ket.

(CI): So, the In­dian gov­ern­ment be­lieves that the car man­u­fac­tur­ers will put the in­fra­struc­ture for the elec­tric cars to work. Do Volk­swa­gen see them­selves do­ing some­thing like that? Do you have it in your plans to work on the other side to have e-mo­bil­ity in coun­tries like In­dia? (CS): The an­swer is “yes”. We are work­ing heav­ily to do our part in in­stalling the in­fra­struc­ture. You see, Air­bus, Boe­ing, and Bom­bardier — none of them has ever built

air­ports. It is im­pos­si­ble that car man­u­fac­tur­ers do the in­fra­struc­ture op­er­a­tions by them­selves. There are two main ar­eas. One is giv­ing peo­ple so­lu­tions for home charg­ing. The other is more or less what Tesla demon­strated: hav­ing a fast-charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture along­side high­ways. In­fra­struc­ture is some­thing each coun­try should take care of.

(CI): There’s a lot of talk about an ex­pected in­no­va­tion as re­gards the bat­tery. There’s a big break­through that’s just round the cor­ner. When it comes down to your R&D out­lay, would you rather fo­cus on im­prov­ing the cur­rent tech­nol­ogy or look for that bridge? (CS): Well, the big­gest in­vest­ment in cell tech­nol­ogy in term of R&D is def­i­nitely done by the cell man­u­fac­tur­ers. When you take this fig­ure of an­nual R&D ex­pen­di­ture for pre-de­vel­op­ment and de­vel­op­ment of new cells by the top 10 cell sup­pli­ers, you see how hard it is for car-mak­ers like us to go into own pro­duc­tion. The so­called “break­through tech­nol­ogy” is, maybe, solid state. We are work­ing on this. We have in­vested and we are watch­ing this. When you see the MEB, we have this huge space in the bot­tom of the car, es­pe­cially cre­ated to con­tain all kind of cells of all gen­er­a­tions and not to be de­pen­dant.

(CI): How do you re­cy­cle bat­ter­ies? Is it pos­si­ble to re­cy­cle them? How much power is re­quired to recharge a bat­tery as com­pared to what you use at home? How much power would you need to charge a car overnight? (CS): The mileage driven per day doesn’t in­crease with elec­tric cars, so on av­er­age peo­ple do 60 km a day, which is the Europe fig­ure. How much en­ergy do you need when you take the e-Golf? My av­er­age con­sump­tion is 18 kWh per 100 km. I would say 20 for ease of cal­cu­la­tion. So, you need 12 kWh a day for the elec­tric car. The av­er­age house­hold re­quire­ment is, I think, 10 kWh a day. So, they are equiv­a­lent.

As for re­cy­cling of bat­ter­ies, we see that a bat­tery is used in a car for eight years. It can do, maybe, 10 years. We es­ti­mate that sec­ondlife bat­ter­ies af­ter 10 years in a car can be brought to mar­ket be­low €50 per kWh. We be­lieve we will have a long time ahead of us be­fore bat­tery re­cy­cling be­comes rel­e­vant.

( Right) The I.D. lineup take cen­tre stage at Geneva

( Above) Chris­tian Senger with the I.D. BUZZ show­car

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