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Openness in technology as a challenge and obstacle in e-mobility

May 25, 2021

When it comes to sustainable mobility, there needs to be an open discussion about the strengths of respective technologies for specific applications. After all, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In recent years, e-mobility has shown what contribution it can make in achieving climate targets.

New technologies often face the challenge of having to prevail against doubts and mistrust before they can gain momentum. System changes initiated or accompanied by technologies are often followed by a chicken-and-egg problem and directional uncertainty. This tempts people to keep “all” technologies open, which can lead to individual technologies gaining too little momentum.

However, when technological developments have a serious impact on society and economy, it is essential to get behind those effective new technologies as early as possible. The tensions that often arise around technological openness can only be resolved through objective argumentation, a solid factual basis and comprehensible decisions. In the passenger car sector, this is now actually possible: the battery-electric vehicle has become established and will make up the lion's share of the future passenger car fleet.

The shift to more electric vehicles has begun

The climate targets in the passenger car sector of the European Green Deal can only be achieved with a gradual, but fast transformation of the fleet to battery-electric cars (BEV) and with a more effective use of vehicles. The announcements by numerous manufacturers that they are converting a large part or even all of their models to BEV, as well as the steadily growing model range, follow the overall considerations of energy efficiency and the reduction of fleet emissions. Battery electric passenger cars achieve an unrivaled overall efficiency of up to 80% compared to hydrogen with 30% and synthetic fuels with only 13%. The latest life cycle assessment by the Environment Agency Austria (Umweltbundesamt) shows: BEVs cause up to 79% fewer greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycle than conventional ICE passenger cars. In order to achieve the mobility turnaround as quickly and efficiently as possible it is necessary to use valuable and expensive premium energy sources in a smart way. This means that hydrogen and e-fuels should be used wherever there is not (yet) a more efficient technological solution. The amount of green electricity needed to achieve a zero-emission passenger car fleet is only efficiently achievable for BEV. Vehicle manufacturers, such as Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess, also speak clearly about the danger that a drawn-out technology openness entails: According to Diess, battery-electric passenger cars have won the day, and further discussion of technology openness entails "slowing down the necessary transformation to sustainable mobility."

Battery electric vehicles have clearly shown, particularly in recent quarters, that they are increasingly prominent among new registrations. BEV models have regularly been among the most registered passenger cars for several months and have consistently account for over 10% of new registrations (and rising sharply). While the technology is mature, the variety of models is growing steadily and very good experience has already been gained on the subject of reliability and durability, the cost of the vehicles is also falling continuously. Battery electric vehicles - especially when considering the low running costs - are already quite affordable even for lower income households (according to Transport & Environment), which is not yet foreseeable for other technologies.

In order to achieve the greatest possible effects as quickly as possible, public funds should be used precisely where they have the strongest leverage for supporting the future of mobility and the decarbonisation of the transport sector. For the passenger car sector, this means a clear focus of political measures and framework conditions on battery electric vehicles, fleets and service offerings. The development of nationwide charging infrastructure can only take place if a technology is pursued with full commitment. It is particularly important that all stakeholders in the transformation process - from the public sector and research to manufacturing companies and service providers - prioritize particularly effective measures and give the mobility turnaround the necessary head start.

Let’s keep our finger on the pulse

For Austria as an industrial and business location it is crucial that companies build up technological competencies in research, development and production for all drive trains and along the entire value chain. However, there should be an increased focus on the area of new services and integrated service solutions. Austria's companies in the automotive sector thrive on their innovative strength and are very closely connected to the European automotive industry. Many automotive manufacturers - especially in important export markets like Germany and France - are already increasingly focusing on battery-electric vehicles and new mobility concepts. For Austrian suppliers, it is important to respond to new value creation opportunities as quickly as possible. If the potential of e-mobility is efficiently used, the business location can benefit from an increase in value creation and employment of around 20% by 2030, as the E-Mapp 2 study commissioned by the Climate Fund shows. "We have to get ready for an economic reorientation towards battery-electric mobility. Joint action and the associated raising of awareness are just as important for this as the necessary framework conditions and the training of skilled workers," emphasizes Martin Russ, AustriaTech Managing Director. This also includes an efficient and ambitious development of charging infrastructure for battery-electric vehicles on Austrian roads. From inner-city areas and high-performance chargers on highways to facilitating and promoting charging infrastructure in residential buildings. And especially the creation of new service offers for and around e-mobility.

The goal must be that everyone benefits from the transformation and decarbonization of the mobility sector. AustriaTech supports the active meeting of the challenges of the mobility transition by means of stakeholder networking, ongoing monitoring and current publications on the topic of e-mobility.