The Karl-Marx-Allee in the former eastern part of the German capital. Here every year Erich Honecker waved his white straw hat for hours from the gallery to the marching past comrades. Now auditoriums have been set up again at historic sites. The racing cars of the formula E, all with Electric drive, racing over the asphalt, accompanied by bright singing their clean engines. "These races are indispensable to our engineers and developers," says Eric Feunteun, program director for electric models at Renault. "Here we can test the new technology under extreme conditions, which then again benefits the production cars."
Renault is currently the industry leader when it comes to e-drives, and, according to Feunteun, is already making money with its four models, selling more electric cars with Zoe or Twicy than BMW and Volkswagen combined. “Last year, global sales rose by a good 50 percent,” reveals the guest from Paris. In Europe it was a good 20 percent, only Germany lags behind. "That will change quickly due to government aid in connection with subsidies from manufacturers," predicts Eric Feunteun.
Also because the number of charging stations will increase quickly. Renault is involved in a project together with BMW, Volkswagen and other companies that will soon install 241 charging stations, primarily on motorways. In Berlin, the starting shot was given for supplying the route from Brussels to the German capital. Since the power sources are installed at a maximum distance of 80 kilometers, the electric car is suitable for long distances. Thanks to the high performance of the stations, e-mobiles can be charged in less than 30 minutes. The EU contributes to the costs.
Renault man Eric Feunteun sees this as an important building block to convince customers of the new technology. However, he is silent on other models with purely electric drive. Renault is currently not interested in hybrid models in which a combustion engine and an electric drive work together. "For us it is more important to improve the performance of today's vehicles, especially the range". For example, the cuddly Zoe, who shares significant parts of the technology with the Nissan Leaf, will soon come up to 300 kilometers, until he has to reconnect to the power outlet. "That's twice as much as today," says Feunteun.
A problem that Formula E racing cars have solved in a way that everyday drivers can only dream of. Halfway through the race with an empty battery, you simply switch to a second car of the same type. But that should change from 2018, when the battery technology will be ready for the cars to survive the usual distance of around 100 kilometers. Peter Gutzmer, Chief Technology Officer at the supplier group Schaeffler, is particularly looking forward to this. The engineer with the title of professor and his team worked with Audi to develop the electric drive for the Abt team, Renault's main competitor. Whether engine, power electronics, transmission or cooling system or software - Schaeffler is there everywhere. "This racing series provides us with important findings for the series development of hybrid and all-electric vehicles," says Gutzmer.
Schaeffler has its own range for this type of drive in standard models. So far, about 500 million euros have been invested, well 1.200 people are working on it. "We will double both the investment and the number of employees," promises Gutzmer. Many in-house developments can already be found in models from different manufacturers. For example, so-called E-axes, which make a four-wheel drive from a front-wheel drive mounted in the rear. Further focal points are the development of an 48-Volt on-board network or so-called wheel hub motors for small vehicles, the favorite topic of the Schaeffler Board of Management. "Because the space in small cars is known to be limited, we will relocate the drive to the wheels," explains Peter Gutzmer. Here, electric motors including electronics and brakes are transplanted into the hubs of two or all four wheels. Together with Ford, Schaeffler has already shown a Ford Fiesta with this technique as a test vehicle. "The small car of tomorrow will reinvent the segment," promises Gutzmer.
For Formula E, however, that's not the solution. Here, the manufacturers want to show what driving fun an electric motor can bring. The routes are right in the middle of the metropolises, from Beijing via London, Paris or now also Berlin. That is why more and more companies are discovering this stage with great advertising potential. In addition to Audi and Renault, the new DS brand of the Peugeot Group is already there. Jaguar will be added next year. Others are also in the starting blocks. Former Formula 1 driver Stephane Buemi, one of the contenders for the world championship title in Renault, explains the success of Formula E. “Here we are all at eye level.” Because everyone has the same battery on board, there are not so big ones Differences in performance like in Formula 1. "It all depends on the driver," says the Swiss. “And that's exactly what the audience wants to see”. (Peter Maahn / SP-X)