Armin Gehl

Interview

E-mobility – vision or blind alley?

Large gaps in infrastructure, product offensives by automobile manufacturers for electric vehicles, continued reluctance on the part of potential buyers of electrically powered vehicles: Where is the ”e-mobility“ trend heading? OEM&Supplier spoke to Armin Gehl, Managing Director of the autoregion e.V. association, the automotive network for the Greater Region of Luxembourg, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and the French region Grand Est. autoregion e.V. is supported by companies, associations, research institutions and political institutions.

Mr. Gehl, the German premium automobile manufacturers are competing with the American manufacturer Tesla and will be launching a wide range of electrically powered vehicles onto the market in the coming years. Will this tip the balance of power on the international markets in favour of German manufacturers?

Armin Gehl: Yes, clearly! The German manufacturers will launch a spectacular array of new products that will amaze the automotive world. The media hype surrounding Tesla has ebbed away and the products from Germany will conquer the market. I‘m convinced of that! Quality and know-how will prevail!

New registrations of electrically powered vehicles in Germany are still lower than expected. The German government‘s goal of having one million registered electric vehicles on Germany‘s roads by 2020 will most probably not be achieved. How do you see the future opportunities for e-mobility?

Armin Gehl: Let‘s no longer associate e-mobility with ”electric“, but rather let‘s say e-mission-free driving! Under this slogan, the clean electric drive unit will have a roll to play in the urban traffic of the future!

Keyword infrastructure – to what extent does the non-existent infrastructure hamper the further spread of e-mobility and what would have to be done by whom to improve the situation?

Armin Gehl: Much is already being done to build a complete charging system in Germany. As far as infrastructure is concerned, I don‘t see any major problems, as an electrical connection is present in every garage. A lot is currently being done in the public sector to create nationwide coverage. Especially in shopping centres, it would be necessary to build an e-charging infrastructure so that the breakthrough in urban areas can happen faster and second or third cars can run on an e-basis in the future! I still see a ”danger“ in electricity producers wanting to get a slice of the cake in the future and then introducing a new tariff for ”movement power“!

Compared to the combustion engine, the electric motor is significantly less expensive, both in terms of the number of components and the cost of materials. What consequences does this have for manufacturers – especially with regard to employees?

Armin Gehl: Of course, the number of employees will decrease. But we will also need more and better-trained employees to deal with robot ”colleagues“ in the factories of the future!

Is the direct route to e-mobility not too daring? Isn’t the indirect route via hybrid technology more promising in the medium term – especially from the point of view of environmental protection?

Armin Gehl: Here also, clearly yes! I see purely electric drives for urban areas with a radius of up to 100 km. Hybrids in all variations with diesel or petrol drives are the very best solution with battery ranges of up to 100 km.

How do you see the future of the internal combustion engine and in particular the headline-making diesel engine?

Armin Gehl: The combustion engine, whether petrol or diesel, will still be installed in 2050 – I am convinced of that. Of course, there will only be downsized versions with 2/3/4
cylinder variants. The big block has had its day! In my view, the discussion about the diesel engine is no longer ”normal“. Something is being exaggerated here that in no way stands up to proper study by top-class experts of various institutions! An entire nation is letting itself be made to look foolish by a small protest group.

The whole world is talking about e-mobility as the type of drive of the future. Will this push the development of alternative fuels such as hydrogen, ethanol or natural gas to the margins and possibly stop them from being pursued?

Armin Gehl: The danger exists. But I am sure that hydrogen will be a winning source of energy in the heavy goods vehicle sector of the future. Natural gas and synthetic fuels will also be indispensable.

What consequences does the coexistence of the combustion engine, hybrid technology and e-mobility have for our automotive industry?

Armin Gehl: A challenge that we can rise to!

In closing: Mr. Gehl, do you drive an electric vehicle or can you imagine buying one in the near future?

Armin Gehl: I am in my fifth year of driving a plug-in hybrid sports car, the first of a new era – according to the advertising slogan. I am very satisfied with it and can imagine driving a MercedesEQ, an Audi e-tron or a BMW i4 in the future.

Mr. Gehl, thank you for the interview.

The interview was conducted by Dr. Rudolf Müller

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