Start-up of the Day: Vialytics quickly registers road conditions

How do self-driving cars handle potholes on the road? As just stay driving ahead or spontaneously around them aren’t an option. You have to take the bull by the horns, that’s what the founders of vialytics were thinking. They designed a system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to map out road conditions. This is how the road authorities can deal with the problems as quickly as possible. Danilo Jovicic, who founded the start-up together with Achim Hoth and Patrick Glaser, explains how the system works.

The founders of vialytics GmbH, (from left to right) Achim Hoth, Patrick Glaser, Danilo Jovicic ©vialytics

How did you come up with the idea of setting up vialytics?

We wanted to do business as an independent company and set up our own start-up. We got to know each other through the Activatr and Pioniergeist start-up programs. It was by coincidence that we then got together in a small group. That’s where the idea of doing something with road management took shape. We came up with a lot of wild ideas for a couple of weeks. We also had a lot of contact with municipalities who told us about problems concerning road management. The overarching issue there was autonomous traffic. We thought carefully about what you need to do in order to be able to drive safely autonomously. That invariably comes down to good roads.

What does your product look like?

Municipalities can continuously monitor their streets with our system. This is done with the help of a modified smartphone mounted on the windscreen of a municipal service vehicle. On a sweeper, for instance. These are at any rate always out and about in the city. The smartphone records the road every 4 meters.

This data is subsequently sent to us. It is then analyzed using an algorithm. Any damage to the road is automatically detected this way. The municipalities get the data back again in the form of a dynamic map. As they are better informed about the condition of the roads, they can react more quickly to any damage. This leads to a more sustainable and efficient way of road management. After all, plenty of municipalities don’t address the maintenance of their streets until it is far too late. Which means that the costs are also much higher. Current systems do not offer a proper solution. Those recordings are actually made with too great a time frame between each other. Nor are they carried out systematically.

Was there a problem you had to resolve first?

It was particularly difficult in the beginning to gain the trust of municipalities. This was mainly due to the fact that municipalities rarely cooperate with start-ups here. We set up 5 pilot projects where our system was tested. Thanks to the positive reactions we received, we have now managed to build up a customer base of 50 municipalities throughout Germany. Currently, we are also in contact with cities in other countries who are interested in our product.

What are you especially proud of?

We are especially proud of our first customers who have dispelled any preconceptions that local councils are a bit stuffy. Some of them were so enthusiastic about our solution that they bought the system before it had even been fully developed. Of course, we are also very proud of our team, which has expanded considerably over the last 6 months. Our employees are busy developing the product on a daily basis.


What does the future of vialytics look like?

Our goal is that of internationalization. We want road authorities all over the world to be able to maintain their road networks in an efficient and sustainable manner. Apart from that, we will continue to work on improving things so that we can keep on responding to the requests of our customers.

What tips do you have for other starters?

Do you have a good idea? Jump into the deep end and dare to make your dreams come true. And for those who have already set up a company: at some stage, take each employee along with you to a client. That’s what you’ll learn the most from.

More articles on start-ups can be found here.


Start-up of the day: Carefree electric travel with EP Tender battery trailer

The EP Tender looks like a camper’s tiny pod caravan that’s towed behind an ordinary car – but it isn’t! It is actually a mobile battery that will someday make it possible to travel hundreds of kilometers with an electric car. At present, most EVs usually don’t go further than 150 kilometers, so says the founder of EP Tender, Jean-Baptiste Segard. The battery is then empty and needs to be recharged. Segard hopes that the masses will switch to buying an electric car as soon as EP Tender’s battery trailer comes onto the market.

What motivated you to set up EP Tender and what problem did it resolve?

“I first came up with the idea of a trailer with extra capacity for the electric car like our current EP Tender when I wanted to buy an electric car myself. That was back in 2012. I couldn’t find a suitable electric car at that time. The range was not great enough for the few times a year when I wanted to travel much further. I thought it was a pity that there wasn’t a modular system around that would supplement the electric car’s battery so that I could occasionally travel longer distances with it.

At first I thought of a trailer with an internal combustion engine which might run on petrol. But in 2018, we switched to a trailer with an auxiliary battery, because then we would be better able to meet the needs of the electric car manufacturers. We will have to halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. And that is something that car manufacturers must also work towards.

150 kms of extra range

The rationale behind the battery is that you only hire it when you need extra range. Generally speaking, I think this would only be about six times a year for me. You can lengthen the range of your electric car from about 150 kilometers to 250 to 300 kilometers. You could also place a larger battery permanently in your car so that you can keep on driving. But that is far too expensive for most people. This remains an obstacle for them as far as switching to electric-powered transport is concerned.

Installing a larger battery is generally not an efficient solution for increasing the car’s range either, as most people drive just a few times a year further than an average car battery can handle. Otherwise you would be driving around with that heavy battery for no reason. You can compare the weight with that of a cow or a donkey. You’ll have these on your back seat during every short trip. Why would you want to do that if you don’t need to?”

The EP Tender team: Frederic Joint, Jean-Baptiste Segard (second from left), Hugo Basset, Fabrice Viot, Dingjie Ma, Hancheng Yang

What is the main obstacle you will need to overcome?

“It is very difficult to be taken on board in the development plans of car manufacturers. The automotive industry has been around for 120 years. And the planning cycle is lengthy when it comes to developing a new car. That said, we are in talks with a number of car manufacturers. However, a contract with any of them is yet to materialize. It is important that this happens. After all, the car manufacturers must apply for approval from the statutory regulators for use of the EP Tender system with their electric cars. They will only do that once they have our technology fitted to their cars. We cannot do that for them. As long as they haven’t got that done, there won’t be a market for us.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“In 2018, when we switched to a battery in the EP Tender instead of a combustion engine. That way you can rely even more on sustainable energy.”

The EP Tender mobile battery Photo: EP Tender

What can we expect from EP Tender in the coming year?

“Our business model must be in place by then. We are now completing a survey using data from 350,000 consumers which should show what most people would be willing to pay when hiring the EP Tender. As well as how often, where and when they could use the EP Tender. We are now putting the finishing touches to the robotics of the trailer so that it can connect itself to the car. The idea is that every 50 kilometers along the road there will be a service station where there will always be twenty EP Tenders ready to be connected. We are currently discussing the location of these service stations with energy companies. But also with private motorway operators in various European countries who have a state concession for these. They have an interest in electric cars being able to add energy in time so that they don’t end up stuck on the roadside.”

Where would you like to be with EP Tender in five years’ time?

“Then we would like to be profitable. Or at least break even. The outlook is that 40% of cars will be electric by 2030. So the demand for the EP Tender should have increased by then. By 2025, we want our trailer to be available for hire in the major European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. But also in Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. And we want to have a foothold in the US, China and India.”

What does EP Tender’s innovation improve upon compared to products in your segment of the market?

“That drivers of electric cars can drive a long distance without having to constantly worry about their battery’s energy reserves.”

Start-up of the Day: 4 students break the Dutch deadlock on the electric scooter

Four school friends went off to Valencia for a study trip in April this year. They all jumped on an electric scooter for the first time in their lives and think: “Wow, this is fun. That’s what we need in the Netherlands too.” Half a year later they are the ones who break the deadlock around the introduction of the scooter in the Netherlands.

The first scooters have been on the road in Tilburg since November 1st. It’s Waalwijk turn next year. The first target is about 400 rental scooters by the end of next year. And after that? Who knows. The Netherlands is big and so is the world.

The story of Hannes van Bellen, Teun Verschuren, Mike Meeusen and Thomas van Heeswijk is almost too good to be true. A youthful dream with American allure. They set up a start-up within six months which also turned out to be successful. Respect!

Four boys from Breda

As already mentioned, it started in April with a study trip as a part of their Entrepreneurship & Retail Management course at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, says Hannes Van Bellen. Who, besides Citysteps, is also busy with setting up the Fruit Pause company. They had an amazingly fun day there with the e-scooters and thought “this is bound to be a success in the Netherlands too.”

They just didn’t realize how much opposition there was to these scooters. This was due to the Stint tragedy in Oss that cost four children their lives after a train accident with an electric wagon. Since that horrendous debacle with the Stint in 2018, new electric vehicles have to comply with much stricter safety requirements. This is compounded by the fact that many Dutch cities are reluctant to allow scooters to dart about in their city centers.

However, the four boys from Breda didn’t allow themselves to be discouraged. “In spite of all the rules, we decided to buy a container full of scooters, even if only for private individuals in other countries.” The container is gradually emptying out, but the scooter is still not allowed on the road in the Netherlands.

What did you do then?

Van Bellen: We had a few good contacts with a few entrepreneurs in Tilburg who were eager to help us. Like Jaap van Ham from the rooftop bar Doloris in Tilburg. Then when we went looking for a scooter that was in line with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW) regulations. Strangely enough, we ended up with a company through that very same RDW, who managed to design the exact kind of scooter we wanted. Subsequently, contact was quickly established and the ball started rolling.

What is so special about this scooter?

The main differences can be found in the design which uses bicycle handlebars and larger wheels than scooters in other European cities. This benefits both safety and comfort as well as insurance coverage. Moreover, the scooters are only able to travel up to 20 km/h, which is relatively low compared to the scooters from competitors like Lime, Tier and Bird.

Meanwhile, you’ve already made a start in Tilburg. How is that working out?

We’ve now started out with 20 scooters that are mainly for recreational use. You can order them as an all-day package from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm. The costs are €49.50 for the scooter plus coffee, cake, lunch and a drink in the rooftop bar Doloris at the Tilburg Central Station.

What is your goal in Tilburg?

We hope to have expanded to 200 scooters within a year and a few extra collection points besides Doloris.

And Waalwijk?

The main difference with Tilburg is that we are targeting the business user more in Waalwijk, at least in the beginning. The goal is the same. Start small and then within a year get as many as 200 scooters. We think that there is more than enough market potential for this, what with large companies like nearby.

And are there other cities where you want to start working in?

Certainly. I can’t name names, but we are in discussions with a few cities. What we ultimately want is a national network. We have great ambitions, but please give us a bit of time. After all, we’re just getting started!

Read moreStart-up of the Day: 4 students break the Dutch deadlock on the electric scooter

Seven strategies for sustainable mobility

nachhaltige Mobilität

Diesel engines are the most efficient combustion engines and are difficult to replace in the transport sector at short notice, says Martin Mittelbach, an expert on renewable raw materials. In the future, he sees the combination of electromobility and hydrogen as the only alternative for sustainable mobility.

Mittelbach is an expert on biodiesel and sustainable mobility. Despite this – or precisely because of this – he has a sober view of developments in the field of environmentally friendly drive technologies. His evaluation includes infrastructure, vehicle production and energy generation as well as economic feasibility. The following are his seven strategies for sustainable mobility:

1 Alternative to diesel: fuel from biomass

Electric and hydrogen propulsion are still in their infancy. Until they are ready for the market, combustion engines will be indispensable. That is the perspective of Mittelbach, who conducts research at the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Graz. To improve the ecological balance, he recommends synthetic fuels or biodiesel. Biodiesel can be produced from waste and residual biomass or biomass from fast-growing plants. However, those have a bad reputation in Europe and research has stagnated, as the researcher notes. But he himself sees great potential in this. Rapeseed, for example, could fulfil two tasks at once:

  • Protein supplier for animal feed;
  • Oil supplier for fuel;

This would reduce both oil and soya imports.

2 CO2 tax to reduce air traffic

The chemist detects one of the biggest problems in air traffic. A flight from Graz to London and back causes three tons of CO2 per person. This is one third of the average CO2 emission per person and year in Austria. Alternatives to kerosene are currently far too expensive. According to Mittelbach, a CO2 tax is unavoidable. This would

  • put an end to cheap flights;
  • bring short-haul flights back on (a train) track;

3 Natural or liquefied gases instead of marine diesel oil

A ship generates – in relation to freight – much less CO2 emissions than road transportation. The problematic part is fuel, which emits large amounts of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide. In 2020, sulphur content in marine diesel will be reduced from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent. However, the amount will still be 500 times higher than in normal fuel. The researcher sees an alternative in the medium-term use of natural or liquid gas.

4 Switching to trains

Switching from trucks to trains would make sense, says Mittelbach. Due to the low flexibility and capacity, however, this would only be possible to a limited extent.

5 Pushing for trolleybuses

Local emissions, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are especially harmful in congested areas. Mittelbach demands

  • car-free inner cities;
  • expanding public transport;

He recommends pushing for the use of battery-powered trolleybuses that are cheap, flexible, and environmentally friendly.

6 Small cars for short distances

Mittelbach sees electric cars as an important alternative to conventional vehicles in private transport – as long as the refueled electricity comes from renewable sources. The dilemma with electric cars lies in high energy consumption involved in battery production. This only pays for itself after thousands of kilometres have been driven. According to the researcher, small cars have a much better life cycle assessment than a Tesla and are ideal for short distances.

7 Hydrogen has future potential

The problem with hydrogen is that it currently comes from non-renewable sources – and is produced from natural gas in an energy-intensive process. The advantage over electricity is

  • its shelf life;
  • rapid refuelling;
  • that it could also be used to power trucks and airplanes;

The latter, however, is currently still ten to one hundred times more expensive.

Nevertheless, Mittelbach sees electric mobility and hydrogen as the only alternatives in the transportation sector.

For climate change turnaround to succeed, however, the commitment of politicians and citizens is also needed. Mittelbach calls for the entire transport system and e-mobility to be questioned.

You might also like:

A decision in favour of hydrogen propulsion would be a grave mistake

TU Vienna Professor rejects hydrogen car

Dutch researchers: don’t disregard the combustion engine

Electric vs. diesel (2): ‘It’s like marketing an improved incandescent lamp’

More articles about e-mobility HERE.

Best read: Mobility all the way from Helmond

The Automotive Campus in Helmond is ten years old this year. In this week’s best-read article, we looked back on the origins and evolution of the site that once housed Volvo’s factories. Today: which technologies, modes of transport and ideas first saw the light of day at the Automotive Campus? In other words, which mobility innovations do we have Helmond to thank (in part) for?

  • VDL electric buses

Although not designed there, VDL buses were tested extensively on the campus in Helmond. Currently, VDL is also working with Heliox from Best (in the Netherlands) at the campus on the further development of fast charging technology.

The buses had their test runs on the Automotive Campus in Helmond before the Dutch bus company Connexxion bought the very first 43 electric buses from VDL for the Eindhoven public transport service. “Hardly anyone knows that, but the test phase was done here on campus,” says Inez van Poppel from Automotive Campus. The buses drove nearly every day on the campus site in Helmond so they could put the technology through its paces. Does the weather affect the battery? How often do you have to recharge during a route? How long does it take to charge? “You have to have everything mapped out before you can put them on the road. We’ve got everything we need here on the campus for carrying out tests and sorting out teething problems,” Van Poppel says.

After Eindhoven, Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands also followed suit with the electric VDL model. Van Poppel: “The buses that run in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport also went through thorough testing here. The buses may not have been designed here on campus, but we certainly played a part.”

The fact that buses in the public transport sector are increasingly more electric doesn’t mean that the R & D is over and done with. VDL is working with Heliox at the campus on optimizing the fast charging system which works via a pantograph mounted on the bus’s roof. The aim is that ‘ordinary’ electrical sockets can in future also cope with this kind of power. Which would be handy for passenger cars.

  • Lightyear, Spike and Dens

All three of these former TU/e student teams made the move to Helmond in order to keep on progressing.

“It is important that not only established companies are active on the campus, but also young talent who are committed to green mobility .” Inez van Poppel

Lightyear, who unveiled their first car last summer, made a conscious choice for the Helmond campus: “For us, the campus mainly meant a potential for growth. We had a number of requirements: an office area and a production space. All of this was achieved in no time at all. Somewhere else, where a landlord doesn’t really care that you are there as long as you pay, it would probably have taken much longer,” Tessie Hartjes explains. The automotive network in Helmond also played a key role: “We have easier access to decision-makers at home and abroad”.

Dens, formerly Team Fast, ended up in Helmond because they were in the process of designing a bus powered by formic acid for VDL. There was no room for us at the TU/e. “We wanted to show the world that the technology works, though we weren’t concerned with the commercial aspect of it then,” says Max Aerts van Dens. The start-up has found its niche on the campus and now makes formic acid aggregates. “As a substitute for noisy diesel generators that pollute the environment. We supply clean energy to construction sites and festivals.”

Spike, supplies intelligent batteries for smaller electric vehicles, such as scooters, tuktuks and lawnmowers. It started with the creation of an electric motor in 2014. The student team wanted to travel around the world in 80 days with this. To be able to do that, you would need a battery that charges quickly and lasts a long time. They used the knowledge they had gained from that for designing a flexible modular structure and the intelligence for it. Founder Bas Verkaik: “A battery in itself is a very stupid thing; it’s basically a cell that runs out. It doesn’t have a clue when it will be empty. So it’s important to add intelligence.” The start-up team is working with TNO in Helmond on the further development of this intelligence and are exploring various new technologies there.

  • Test facilities

This may not be a technology that will directly benefit the general public, but innovation is not assured without proper facilities where there is room for experimentation.

The A270 motorway, a kilometers-long test area, is literally on their doorstep. Cameras, Wi-Fi, transponders and other sensors are connected to the Traffic Innovation Centre, where all tests are carefully monitored, including platooning or autonomous driving. “This test route enables new technology to be put into practice. Innovation comes to life here,” says Van Poppel.

According to the campus staff member, innovation cannot be done without proper test facilities. “You have to be absolutely sure that something is safe before it is rolled out on a large scale. In addition to the test road, we have one of the most modern crash test sites in the Netherlands. But also several TASS international test centers. Including a test area for ADAS systems (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) which are being incorporated in cars more and more nowadays. Parties are not just able to gain certification at all of these centers, but they can set up research as well.”


Start-up of The Day: Mobility solutions for the future – everything under one roof

“Mobility Solutions for the Future” is the field of expertise for FMS GmbH (Future Mobility Solutions). The company, based in Gaimersheim, Bavaria, is active in areas such as consulting, planning and development of systems for digitization and autonomous driving. This includes communication between cars and traffic lights. In addition, they provide technical services in the automotive sector including the conversion of existing vehicles. Future Mobility Solutions was awarded the Bavarian Founders Prize 2019 for its innovative concepts in the concept category.

Innovation Origins spoke to director and co-founder Prof. Dr. Harry Wagner about his company.

The founders: Prof. Dr. Harry Wagner and Dipl. Ing. Josef Obermeier © FMS

How did you come up with the idea for this start-up?

Mobility is an issue that affects all levels of society. The changes in mobility over the next 10-15 years will be similar to the changes telecommunications went through during the past 15 years. New trends will lead to new business models. Along with new players on the market and changes in the value creation structure. We want FMS to address this transition and provide total solutions. Not just for industry, but also for cities, municipalities and public transport companies.

What makes Future Mobility Solutions so special compared to the competition and what problems does it resolve?

We differentiate between mobility solutions that are used in a product and mobility services that guarantee users access to future mobility. Digitization and software development play crucial roles in both cases. Our added value is that we look at the entire mobility ecosystem. For example, we develop solutions for autonomous driving and the associated concepts for infrastructure managers. We are able to cover the entire development cycle for mobility-specific problems. In addition to functionality and software development, integration and testing are also possible. As well as research and the creation of innovative solutions.

As such, we can design mobility solutions for both consumers and businesses, digitize business processes and models or build applications. The ‘Virtual City’ is one of our products. Traffic and mobility can be visualized on a large scale and simulated in the future using this tool. This enables us to support various related projects in a targeted manner.

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

Last winter, when had no heating in our offices and were fully booked up with orders and the delivery of our warm, soft shell jackets was also delayed. This didn’t break the team spirit fortunately, but working on developing software code with cold hands was a bit uncomfortable.


What motivates you to go to work every morning?

What motivates me at the moment is that the heating in our newly renovated rooms actually works. Seriously: What motivates me is working with my teams on the diverse and innovative solutions that we are proud and passionate about developing for ourselves and our customers.

Was there ever a moment when you wanted to give up?

Every day at 5:30 a.m. when the alarm goes off. But at 5:45 the anticipation of a new day kicks in. We haven’t thought about giving up yet.

And vice versa: What are you particularly proud of?

This year, I was especially proud to receive the “Bavarian Founders Award” in the category “Concept” and to be nominated for the last round of the eMove360° Award 2019 in the category “Mobility Concepts & Software”. I am above all proud of my team here, because these awards are for our employees and their ideas.

What can we expect from you in the coming years?

Various solutions for improving mobility. We call one of them Mobility Roaming, but we don’t want to talk about that yet. Aside from that, we will continue to work on developing Virtual City as an industry-wide solution. Above all, we want to have a positive impact on tomorrow’s sustainable mobility.

What is your vision for future mobility solutions?

We want to be a leading partner for all mobility issues in the future and develop excellent, unique and innovative products, services, processes and business models in cooperation with our customers.


Best read: Trial-and-error with self-driving buses

The first presentation of the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 bus back in March already attracted a great deal of interest. Several videos of this autonomous bus were circulated on the internet. It is not the size of a slow moving minibus, but that of a real full-size city bus. The accelerator can be stepped on up to 80 km/h. Yet it was still a trial within a safe environment, without obstacles, on the way to the street where car wash services are located.

The project has since progressed a step further. In Birmingham, the vehicle demonstrated that it can avoid real obstacles and people. The bus has been deemed: “fit for service.” The municipality of Edinburgh where the bus – (in fact there are actually five of them) – will run next year from the Scottish capital to Fife, on the other side of the river Forth. It was the most read story on our website this week.

That’s not all that surprising. Self-driving buses are hip. Projects with these means of transport, most of which are electric, are spreading like wildfire. The USA and Singapore are leading the way, according to a recent KPMG report. But Europe is catching up: Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Tallinn, Helsinki, Drimmelen. These are all places where trials were started this year.

But in the meantime there is also a lot of discussion about the practicality and necessity of these buses which cost several millions. The project in Scotland, for example, is receiving £4.35 million in funding. A project in Berlin that was started in August across a distance of about half a kilometer, together with a few other projects, costs more than €4 million. Are they worth it?

A spokesman for the Berlin public transport company BVG considers ‘the Seemeile Project’ to be a great success. “More than 7,000 passengers have already traveled with it and the residents in the area are happy with it,” says Markus Falkner. The problem is that the 7000 passengers were mostly ‘Schaulustige’  – sightseers who could just as well have walked all the way to the Tegeler See.

We mentioned earlier that this also applies to a similar project in Drimmelen that cost €200,000. This involved around 500 passengers, most of whom were sightseers. A project in Paris that was launched with a lot of fuss in 2017 was discontinued for this very same reason. During the first six months, there were around 30,000 people who were willing to take a ride. After that – when the novelty had faded away – it dropped to less than a thousand per month. They pulled the plug this year in August.

A bus from the Navya company like the one that was driving around Paris

And the costs are not the sole problem. A project in Vienna has shown that. Like other self-driving buses, the vehicles from the French company Navya drove here at a snail’s pace of no more than 12 km/h. Nevertheless, it was still possible to drive into someone. Admittedly, that person was completely irresponsible. Wearing headphones and looking at her mobile phone, she herself drove into the bus. Yet it was enough to put a halt to the project.

Another trial in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, was suspended due to hardware and software problems. It shows the long way to go before affordable and safe autonomous buses are on public roads, and are also of real practical use to people who simply need to travel from A to B.

Is that a reason to stop working on these altogether? Of course not. It will probably take years before self-driving buses become commonplace. But something is learned with each project. The major leap forward when it comes to the buses that will be running in Scotland, is that they are big and fast. There are also many commuters on the road between Fife and Edinburgh. Therefore, they have the potential of serving a functional purpose.

It remains to be seen whether this will work in practice. It is a matter of trial and error for all the scientists, companies and governments involved, says the CEO of Stagecoach, the owner of the buses in Scotland. Ceo Martin Griffiths calls it a great learning process. He emphasizes that this is a pilot. However, if you look at the long term, self-driving buses will play a significant role. There is no doubt about that. For our senior readers: Barrie Stevens would say to candidates in the Dutch Soundmix Show: “Vooral doorgaan!” (‘Keep going!”)

Electric cars are allowed to drive faster in Austria

E-Autos, Tempolimit

Incentives to promote e-mobility are available in many European countries. In most cases, it is the tax reductions and subsidies on purchases that should make it easier for citizens to make the switch to e-cars. When the Austrian federal government recently exempted e-cars from the 100 kph speed limit on routes marked out as ‘air protection zones‘,  it was unique across Europe.

In Austria, sections of highways and expressways with a total length of 440 kilometers are listed as air protection zones. They are subject to a speed limit of 100 kph. The slower diesel and petrol-driven cars drive, the less CO2 they emit. This is regulated in the Immissionschutzgesetz-Luft act (IG-L, legislation designed to protect the air from harmful traffic emissions).

Road safety

E-cars drive for the most part emission-free. With the rising numbers of e-cars on the road, it was therefore only a matter of time before the speed limit was called into question. The debate was initiated by Tyrolean lawyer Christian Schöffthaler. In 2014, he deliberately exceeded the speed limit in order to be able to lodge a complaint with the regional administrative court. The court subsequently dismissed the complaint. Their argument: Different speed limits for passenger cars can interrupt the flow of traffic and thereby jeopardize road safety.

Incentive for e-cars

Schöffthaler’s lawsuit was soon followed by others. But the courts remained difficult. This was different at the Bundesministerium für Nachhaltigkeit und Tourismus (the BMNT, Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism). The then Minister Elisabeth Köstinger of the Austrian People’s Party saw the suspension of the speed limit for e-cars as an incentive. She brought the new IG-L regulation into force in November 2018. The actual implementation date did not take place until 1 July 2019, when the traffic signs were placed on the relevant sections of the routes.

Introduction of the Lufthundert

    • The new regulation, or the so-called Lufthundert (Air Hundred), applies exclusively to highways and expressways. But not on other roads where the IG-L speed limit is still in place.
    • The Lufthundert exemption applies to fully-electric vehicles and vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not included.
    • The exemption can only be used by e-car motorists who have a license plate with green lettering. As of 2017, this may be requested for vehicles with a fully-electric engine, but it’s not compulsory.

E-Autos, Tempolimit © Asfinag

The Österreichische Autofahrer Club (ÖAMTC, the Austrian Automobile Club) welcomed the new IG-L regulation and agreed with the argument made by Schöffthal and the Minister. According to ÖAMTC, the Lufthundert is generally unpopular among Austrian motorists. In an online survey, half of the respondents rejected the speed limit. Only one in five said that it was okay.

Negative side effects

A clear no to the scrapping of the Lufthundert for e-car drivers came from the Verkehrsclub Österreich (VCÖ, another Austrian motorist’s association).  It advocates an ecologically compatible, economically efficient and socially just transport system. The experts of the VCÖ pointed out the negative side effects and called for more effective measures in order to speed up the energy system transformation. According to VCÖ, varying speeds will hamper the flow of traffic, increase the risk of accidents and complicate the work of speed controllers and traffic police. In addition, electric cars are not completely environmentally friendly and would trigger fine particles due to wear on brakes and tires. And according to the latest emissions report from the Federal Environment Agency, 58 % of PM10 emissions of fine particles are caused by dust that is stirred up and by the wear and tear on brakes and tires. The VCÖ finds this problematic. As varying speeds in the air protection zones lead to more braking maneuvers being made and consequently to more wear and tear on brakes and tires. [This falls under non-exhaust traffic related emissions, as detailed in the 2014 Joint Research Centre report from the European Commission, ed.]

The VCÖ experts also doubt whether the exemption for Luchthondert motorists will lead to citizens switching to e-cars one hundred times sooner. They attribute the low percentage of e-cars in Austria mainly to a lack of supply from the car industry. If it is up to the VCÖ, then the government should reduce CO2 limits and increase the e-car quota for car manufacturers. This would boost the number of e-cars on the market.


An additional problem with regard to international traffic is the fact that the Lufthundert exemption only applies to vehicles with a license plate that has green lettering. Even before the law came into force, the German media were of the opinion that this discriminates against foreign motorists.


More IO articles on electromobility here.

More IO articles on hydrogen fuel cells here.


Editorial: Dear Floris Beemster (and other perpetual know-it-alls)


Whoever talks about Germany is at times quick to criticize. The country is lacking innovation. We are lagging behind in terms of digitization, 5G expansion, comprehensive WLAN coverage and so on and so forth. We are also taking our time to set up a charging infrastructure for electric cars. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, are much faster, more innovative, getting on with it, a country with an ocean full of charging stations. And in general, everything is much better there. Germany, on the other hand, is a country with just under 83 million inhabitants which is often portrayed as the unbudging giant of Europe.

The trouble with numbers

And yes, it’s true. The Dutch are fast. They are rapidly paving the way for charging stations all over the country. Almost 44,000 of them have already been built. That’s more than enough to equip the 17 million or so inhabitants with e-cars. Consequently, every Dutchie could own at least two electric cars. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The trend is clearly moving towards having a second car …

However, if you look at how electricity is generated in the Netherlands, you will soon start to wonder. Only 7.4 percent of the electricity generated in our neighboring country comes from renewable resources. Coupled with electromobility, the image of this innovative country soon begins to falter. Yes to electromobility – but at what cost? In Germany, on the other hand, the proportion of electricity generated from renewable resources is 46.7 percent. Not bad for a country that has been described as lacking innovation

Mobile in the city

Speaking of electromobility. Even though e-scooters are currently available in Germany too – we weren’t the first. But at least we did it – they still can’t be found anywhere in the Netherlands. That means you either have to walk or ride your bike. But when it comes to shared mobility services, both countries feel like they are in the same league. You can rent anything that is fun and handy, from an e-car to an e-bike. All the other conventional four- and two-wheeled vehicles are also available for hire in the cities. Great. But has this reduced the volume of traffic in both countries yet?

Payment methods in Germany

How many payment options do we actually need? Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, i.e. payment by app, debit and credit card or cash. There are also many online payment methods: Paypal, by invoice, in advance, installments and so on. You would think that this choice would be enough for everyone in Germany. Critics will say: “Yes, but in certain restaurants only cash is accepted.” Sure, that’s so true. But that rings just as true the other way in innovative Sweden nowadays. For instance, in some restaurants, cash is no longer accepted. That might also annoy some people.

Cumbersome government

Anyone talking to medium-sized companies in Germany will soon find that they are far from happy about the lack of expansion with respect to infrastructure. Many companies are progressing far too slowly. That is an irrefutable fact. Yes, they perhaps waited too long (for whatever reason). For that matter, the situation is the same in the automotive industry. Development was neglected – other nations have reacted much more quickly. Now the industry is facing a hectic state of affairs at an operational level. Better late than never. But Germany is already experiencing a gloomier economic climate. Has the whiff of innovation already slipped away?

Agile start-up branch

Absolutely not. In Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Leipzig and many other cities, bustling start-ups show where it’s at. It’s not for nothing that Rob Jetten (leader of the liberal D66 political faction currently part of the Netherlands government), looks to the German capital for inspiration and is hoping for a “Berlin on the Rhine” in the future.

The think tanks not only provide sustainable, high-tech solutions for tomorrow’s world. In fact, they are determined to successfully navigate their way through the German regulatory jungle. Other, younger entrepreneurs are much more likely to be discouraged and give up. Start-up awards in Germany are booming, take investor events or related TV formats, for example. And the trend is on the rise. The start-up industry proves that there is no lack of ideas nor is there a lack of their implementation in Germany.

And what about mid-sized businesses?

Critics might now claim: the start-up scene accounts for only a small proportion of the concentration of businesses in Germany. But even small and medium-sized businesses are not sleeping. Many companies are on the lookout for new ideas, are focusing on digitization and are coming up with promising solutions. It is not for nothing that Germany has been the world’s leading exporter for years. Obviously, there are many interested parties around the world who value German know-how and products. How else would it be possible for Germany to have generated, according to the Ifo Institute, the world’s largest energy surplus for the third time in a row at the start of this year.

There is a lot to do

Nevertheless, there is still a lot to do in Germany. But not just here in Germany. Good and bad points can be found in every European country. The key words are exchange, sharing know-how and co-working – not a know-it-all attitude. Being world champions together, as you would hope to be, dear Floris, is all about finding solutions together and not just constantly slinging comparisons back and forth.

With innovative greetings,



BMW Director: ‘Make recharging electric cars as easy as recharging smartphones’


The evolution of the electric car is a success according to Stephan Neugebauer, Director of Global Research Cooperation at the German car manufacturer BMW. In his opinion, subsidies from the European Union and the member states play a major role in this.

This is why there are so many different types and sizes of electric vehicles available nowadays. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to the market. Neugebauer’s general conclusions are that these cars are too expensive, do not have enough range and there are not enough charging stations. Which is why the EU should invest more money in a better charging infrastructure, as he advised senior officials of the European Commission last week.

‘No one buys a car without a charging station’

“No one will buy an electric car if you can’t charge it near your work or home. It’s as simple as that. That is why we must continue our partnership with the European Union [as in: EU-funded research, ed.]  Except that we no longer need to focus solely on the actual development of the car itself, as has been mainly the case in recent years. We should focus on cooperation with others, like energy companies and municipalities.”

As far as Neugebauer is concerned, the aim is to create a finely knit network of charging stations. This is only possible if municipalities make room for these in their spatial planning proposals. At the same time, he wants to see more charging stations where you are able to charge at a faster rate. This will require cooperation with energy companies.

Stephan Neugebauer (in the middle), BMW Foto: Lucette Mascini

‘The EU should pay for cooperation’

In the words of the BMW Director, it is about various stakeholder organizations, including the car industry itself.  Yet also, for example, about those companies who are providing digital services, all working together in order to get this new infrastructure up and running. This collaboration should be paid for out of the EU’s research budget which is part of the Horizon Europe program. This will amount to approximately 100 billion euros over the next few years.

The electric car can only conquer the market if it becomes just as easy to charge as a mobile phone, Neugebauer believes. “You just have to be able to drive somewhere and stick the plug into a socket so that you can charge a car. That’s my vision for the future.”

‘New fuels needed for hybrid cars’

There should also be charging stations for hybrid cars. “You should expect that various  types of electric cars are needed for different purposes. You can drive an electric car in town, whereas for longer distances you will need a hybrid that also uses a combustion engine. It is important that we develop an alternative fuel for these cars, so that we no longer need to use fossil fuels.”

Or else we will not be able to achieve the EU’s target of being almost totally carbon-neutral by 2050.


Floris Beemster (APPM): Conquering the German market with a dash of Dutch creativity

Innovation Origins will be joined by a new columnist this weekend: Floris Beemster (43) is an expert in the field of urban innovation and Germany. Beemster is working together with colleague Sophie Vaessen for the Dutch consultancy firm APPM in Berlin towards “a more beautiful Germany”.

In Germany, APPM acts as an independent expert on smart and sustainable mobility for public and private clients. For instance, improving the accessibility of cities, organizing shared mobility and recharging infrastructure for electric transport. Once a month, Floris will report on his experiences for Innovation Origins.

Is Germany going to be a new experience for you?

No, I’ve een familiar with Berlin and Germany for some time now. The first time I settled here was in 2001 when I studied philosophy of religion. Then I went back to the Netherlands and initially organized international relations for a political party and then went on to focus on urban development for the Amsterdam city council.

This led me to delve more deeply into housing market themes and mobility. Among other things, I advised Amsterdam’s city councilors on how we could get more done at government level. It was about issues such as: How do we keep the city livable for us and our children? And what kind of creative, new concepts are we able to use for this?

During that whole time, I was in Germany on average twice a year for longer periods and often in Berlin. That was until six years ago when I was able to get back to working there for the city of Amsterdam through an exchange project with the city of Berlin. There was a great deal of interest there in the ways in which we approach particular issues in the Netherlands.

What kind of things?

That was quite varied. Two clichés stood out: mobility and making the city bicycle-friendly. But it was more wide-ranging than that. If you want to put a general label on it, it was about various insights on the interpretation of urban and public space.

To cite one example: In the Netherlands we are quite pragmatic when it comes to the use of public parks. If there is a festival where money is to be made, then Dutch councils have no problem at all with temporarily closing that park to the general public and only allowing paying public in. The situation is different in Germany. The reigning principle there is that a park should always be open to everyone and everything. Perhaps we in the Netherlands think too commercially too often, whereas in Germany they could do with doing that a bit more.

Another theme that often came up for discussion was housing. For example, a few years ago in the Netherlands there was a great deal of interest in the German Genossenschaften concept (although less so now). Which is a form of cooperative living that we don’t have or are barely familiar with in the Netherlands. Whereas there was a great deal of interest in our social housing development in Germany, which they do not have to such a major extent.

In fact, the theme of the participation of stakeholders came up again in all of the projects. The Germans think that we are better at dealing with this facet.

How did you end up at APPM?

After having worked for a year and a half ’embedded’ with the city of Berlin and a year and a half as an ‘Amsterdam squatter’ at the embassy in Berlin, I became self-employed and continued to organize the exchange of know-how for a number of regions and the Dutch creative industry in Germany. That had a lot to do with cities like Berlin and Munich. Together we organized a number of missions to South Germany for Dutch regions and vice versa for German regions to the Netherlands, particularly in the areas of mobility and creative industries.

All in all, that was a great success. The ties between the Bavarian parties, Munich and the Utrecht and Amsterdam regions have been strengthened through various projects, including two festivals. I regularly came across APPM in these projects. They wanted to become active in Germany and venture into that huge neighboring country. I saw what a very appealing and ambitious company APPM is and immediately sensed what they needed. On top of that, I already wanted to work more concretely on spatial challenges in Germany. One thing led to another and next week we will open our new office in the Euref ‘future campus’ in Berlin.

What kind of projects will you be working on?

First of all, we will focus on something we are good at in the Netherlands, namely developing urban concepts for e-mobility and cycling in cooperation with German partners. And especially cross-over mobility concepts. For example, we are now in the middle of our first two tenders for two cities, and hopefully I will be able to tell you more about this in my columns in the next few months. And of course I hope that a lot of other things will come our way. There are many opportunities in Germany and we would like to take them on board with a dash of Dutch creativity.

Read moreFloris Beemster (APPM): Conquering the German market with a dash of Dutch creativity

Start-up of the day: never again stuck in traffic in a shared car

The electric scooter is not yet officially allowed in the Netherlands, but the rental e-version is. Dutch start-up Felyx Sharing has been providing e-scooters since 2017. Innovation Origins spoke to an ambitious company that has ambitions to become the global market leader.

What is Felyx?

The Felyx concept is simple. The rental electric scooters can be localized and activated via an intuitive app. Users are then able to take the e-scooters anywhere and leave them anywhere within the area of service. Felyx changes the batteries when they are empty and recharges them using 100% green electricity. The innovative concept is scalable and can be rolled out (inter)nationally. Felyx has been active since the summer of 2017 and currently offers more than 1250 e-scooters in The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium.

How did you come up with the idea of setting up this company?

We ourselves already used various car-share schemes at home and abroad. Although we enjoyed the advantages of these type of rental cars, we also experienced a number of disadvantages. Like being at a stand-still in traffic jams along with trying to find a place to park the car. We were often overtaken by personal scooters on the left and right side of the road when we were stuck in a shared car on the way to an appointment. That is where the idea came from to start a ‘scooter share’ initiative.

Is there a lot of competition in this area?

There are currently three other major rivals active in Europe. They are Cityscoot, Coup and E-cooltra. These parties are active in a number of large European cities with several thousands of e-scooters.

What are the main obstacles that you are having to face?

Legislation and regulations in some Dutch cities mean that we can’t expand as quickly as we would like to. Besides that, it is difficult to attract enough talented people because of the enormous demand for people with the necessary skills. Finally, attracting new (international) colleagues and maintaining the current corporate culture is a great challenge for our company since we have grown so fast.

What are you proud of?

That we have already experienced tremendous growth within less than two years with a relatively small team. All this in order for us to be able to fulfil our mission to make cities more sustainable while at the same time contribute to improving mobility within cities.

What are your plans for this year?

We want to further expand our services this year. Unfortunately, I cannot say exactly what this will mean in view of the sensitivity of this information.

What are your goals for the next five years?

Our goal is to continue to scale up the company internationally, which will make us one of the largest e-scooter companies in the world.

Are you interested in start-ups? An overview of all our articles on this subject can be found here.

ÖAMTC, ADAC, Fraunhofer ISE & IFO – are all spreading misinformation on electric vehicles: What’s going on here?

amber oplaadpaal opladen

Is there a German-speaking bubble of experts spreading anti-electric vehicle propaganda?

Yesterday I had to debunk the fourth study which was giving out misinformation on electric vehicles. After refuting the ‘IFO-study‘ by Buchal, Karl and Sinn, as well as after ‘the Frauenhofer ISE-study‘, and then the ‘ADAC-study‘ last week, it is now a study from the ÖAMTC (Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club) that needed to be challenged. If you like scientific articles, I wrote a short one for the renowned journal Joule describing  the ‘the top 6 mistakes people use to make electric vehicles to look bad’. I will keep it simple here.

The first error these studies make is assuming modern batteries will have to be replaced after 150k km. This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, we have a lot of public data on Tesla cars that shows that they easily drive 500 thousand (abbreviated as 500k) kilometers or even up to 800k km, after which they still have 80% of their original capacity left. This lecture by Professor Jeff Dahn demonstrates how active temperature control gives batteries a longer lifespan. This is a lecture from 2013, yet it is apparently still new to many German-speaking experts. He also has a 2017 TEDx talk explaining how additives can dramatically improve their lifespan even further. If you don’t want to watch –  you can take it from me: batteries have been improving like crazy in the past five years! Soon all fully-electric cars will have active battery temperature control and thus all batteries will last 1500 cycles. Many batteries will last much longer. E.g. lithium iron phosphate batteries are already reported to last 10 000 cycles and reports of NCM and NCA batteries lasting over 5 000 cycles are common.

By the way, the fact that you have to think in terms of charge-discharge cycles, means that bigger batteries last longer than smaller batteries since smaller batteries have to go through their cycles more often. Imagine you want to drive 300,000 km and your car uses 0.18 kWh per km. That means you will use 300,000 x 0.18 = 54, 000 kWh. If you had a small battery of say 5.4 kWh, that means it will need to go through a cycle 10,000 times. A  54 kWh battery, which is ten times larger, will go through its cycles ten times less. The fact that no German study I mentioned factors in battery size reveals that they really don’t (want to) know what they are talking about when it comes to batteries. Replacing the batter after 150k km is just plain nonsense.

I won’t go over all the ‘top 6 mistakes’ in every one of these studies, yet one thing that is really remarkable is that many German-speaking experts assume hydrogen for hydrogen-fuelled cars is made from the cleanest electricity possible, whereas battery electric vehicles charge with dirtier electricity. This apples-to-oranges sleight of hand is apparently necessary in order to allow the hydrogen car to come out on top. All kinds of mumbo jumbo is used to justify this, however, as I said on Twitter, in essence, it’s as simple as this:

The ÖAMTC-study takes the cake in this respect. They both have hydrogen and e-fuels made from the cleanest electricity possible, while the battery-powered electric vehicle can choose between the Austrian mix, the European mix and the coal-heavy Polish mix. Why not replace the Polish or Austrian mix in this matchup with the same clean energy that you use for hydrogen and e-fuels? Could you at least try to hide your preference ÖAMTC?

You can look at the links at the beginning of this article for more detailed exposés and I especially recommend my scientific article about it. Although at the end of the day, the result is always the same: when you use recent data and fair comparisons, electric vehicles are much better for the environment than fossil fuels and slightly better than hydrogen. For consumers, the most appealing characteristics of electric vehicles are the extra power and the fact that they cost about one fourth in terms of energy and maintenance.

Once they become not only cheaper to own, but to buy as well, consumers will swiftly shift over to electricity. My calculations and those of BloombergNEF indicate that the electric vehicle will become cheaper in the showroom from around 2025 to 2030, due to the simpler manufacturing processes and plummeting battery prices. Most consumers will choose electric by then. Since it takes years to develop battery factories and electric drivetrains, a giant push among German and Austrian automotive companies should have started yesterday. Denial will only lead to hundreds of thousands of European jobs disappearing while we wake up to find that China has taken over. Wake up, please!

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Mary Fiers, Lucien Engelen, Peter de Kock, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous columns.


Three electric three-wheelers hit Dutch roads for the first time

Three wheels, a battery with a range of approximately 100 kilometers and two seats inside under a roof: the Carver, built in Leeuwarden. It is not a car, nor is it a scooter, nevertheless it brings the average commuter comfortably to their destination and back again on a daily basis. The first three cars were handed over to their new owners on Friday. According to the designers, the key special feature is the patented tilt technology, which automatically monitors your balance and stability on bends, slopes and bumps.

The first version of the Carver went bankrupt in 2009 after having problems with the supply of Toyota’s engines. A year later, the focus was on a new start. With one major difference: the petrol engine would have to be replaced by a battery-powered electric model. It took until 2017 before the next prototype met with the approval of the inventors. The Accell Group (known for the Batavus bicycle brand) stepped in, and in mid-2018 Leeuwarden was chosen as the definite assembly site for the concept developed in ‘s Gravendeel (near Dordrecht). And now the first three models have been delivered to first three users.

The first three Carvers with their owners, © Carver

Ït is “the starting signal for the rise of an affordable, sustainable and spectacular transport alternative for commuters and city dwellers” according to CEO Anton Rosier. To prove his point, in the near future he will be organizing “Carver Cafés” in various cities where visitors can experience the Carver for themselves. Test drives can be taken so that people can test how the Carver feels for themselves. The company itself is well aware of this: “Our 100% Dutch innovation combines the comfort and safety of a car with the ease and manoeuvrability of a scooter. The ultra-small, self-contained three-wheeler makes electric motoring accessible to everyone and offers a smart solution for avoiding daily traffic jams and parking problems.”

The roofed three-wheeler belongs to the scooter class, is 88 cm wide, 159 cm long and has a top speed of 45 km/hr. There is room for a driver, a passenger and luggage room that is the size of a crate of beer. More information about the Carver Cafés can be found on the company’s website.

First-ever hydrogen e-bike on the market

The first e-bike with an electric motor powered by hydrogen has arrived on the market. The bike costs about 5000 euros. The motor reaches a speed of 25 kilometers per hour and recharging only needs to be done after it has been on the road for 150 kilometers. According to the manufacturer, Pragma Industries of France, this is a major improvement on existing pedelecs.

Greater range

The advantage of a hydrogen-powered bike motor is not just that it offers a greater range than current batteries which need to be recharged much sooner. But also that recharging can be done much faster, according to technical expert Kees Bakker from the Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclist’s Union) . “It takes hours before the battery is full again on an electric bike .” Pragma states that it only takes two minutes to fill up the tank on a hydrogen bike.

However, the question is whether many consumers will appreciate this latest gadget on the market for e-bikes. First of all, the Pragma bike is twice as expensive as an ordinary pedelec, says Bakker. “Those cost about 2300 euros.”

In the second place, it is debatable as to which group of cyclists is looking for a range of 150 kilometers. You can go back and forth on one tank if you live 75 kilometers from work. “But I don’t expect anyone to cover that kind of distance by bike in order to get to work”, says Bakker. “That’s way too far.”

But: where can you tank hydrogen?

The most significant drawback at the moment is the lack of stations where you are able to tank hydrogen. The Netherlands, for example, now has three: in Helmond, Rhoon and Arnhem. And buying hydrogen in a jerry can at a hardware store is not an option either, says Bakker. “Hydrogen penetrates materials easily and is stored under high pressure. So it’s not easy to sell separately in shops.”

But of course all that may change, says Bakker. “In the car industry at the moment you see a battle between companies who are developing hydrogen-powered cars and cars that run on a battery that you can recharge at home. The problem with these batteries is that you can’t drive very far with them. You cannot go on holiday with them because along the way you have to recharge them each time at a charging point. Suppose that the hydrogen car wins and we will drive with it in the future: then you will also have more hydrogen refueling stations. But then you still have the disadvantage that you won’t be able to charge a hydrogen e-bike at home. Whereas this is possible with classic e-bikes.”

E-mobility – as complicated as it is simple: just plug it in

Stefan Sahlmann is head of MAN Transport Solutions and advises cities on the roll-out of electric mobility. We asked him where the key obstacles lie for municipalities and why a truck manufacturer is helping cities.

MAN advises cities on electromobility issues. Why?

Cities are under ever-increasing pressure to reduce local emissions in city centers. They must also make their own positive contribution to global CO2 emissions. In addition to various low-emission technologies, the battery electric drive is one of the most efficient zero-emission technologies available when it comes to achieving these goals. Since the use of battery-powered vehicles entails a number of innovations in vehicle operation and energy supply, MAN has set itself the goal of guiding its customers – that is, fleet operators – on the road to electromobility …

… and at the same time improve sales figures for MAN trucks and buses as well?

We are a mobility provider and would be delighted if the cities that we advise would cater for their needs with our vehicles. But ultimately the cities will decide for themselves which manufacturers they will work with in order to implement their strategy. First of all, local authorities have to have a valid e-mobility strategy. The concepts that we develop as part of our consulting services – which relate to operational planning, charging strategy & infrastructure, energy supply & cost optimization and service & maintenance – form the basis for this. Planning parameters from other manufacturers can also be incorporated if required. In addition, we support cities in defining the strategy by which they want to achieve their emission targets.

What are currently some of the typical obstacles on the road to an e-mobility city?

Under the prevailing conditions I need to know what the specific fuel consumption and consequently the range are. Climate, topography, vehicle usage, traffic density, etc., are all part of this. Only on that basis can a singular roll-out concept and a route plan be created. And that forms the basis for the right loading strategy as well. It provides answers to questions such as: When do I have to recharge my vehicles and where and with how much power and what energy source must be made available?

What can MAN do to help overcome these obstacles?

Apart from vehicle concepts that are ideally designed to meet the actual demands, MAN also offers a wide range of other services.
For example: range, drive train design, charging concepts, space utilization for city buses, etc. This also includes an eFleet concept which covers the above-mentioned aspects. This will enable our customers to make their future investments on an individually-determined and evidence-based basis in order to enter into electric mobility safely and purposefully.

What role do external start-ups play in this?

In addition to the classic areas such as vehicle and maintenance concepts, we are of course constantly looking to expand our portfolio with other services with additional value for our customers. Of course, start-ups and providers of e.g. charging solutions may play a role in this as well.

In your estimation, what is the significance of more recent vehicle concepts such as e-scooters, velomobiles or e-cargo bikes?

In the future, mobility in cities will change dramatically. New transportation modes and their intelligent networking will play an important role here. The focus is on the efficiency and sustainability of the overall system and its capacity to meet rising demands for mobility. All these new vehicle concepts will provide their own contribution alongside existing transportation concepts such as bus & rail as a means of mass transportation.

How do you come up with your new solutions/concepts? How do these work in concrete terms?

The MAN Transport Solutions team of experts consists of route planners, charging specialists, energy and battery experts. Each team member contributes the corresponding piece of the puzzle to the complex overall picture of an optimized eMobility system. The first steps are an analysis of the current situation and a feasibility study so as to see how far a diesel vehicle could be replaced 1:1 by an eVehicle. Then a suitable roll-out and route concept is drawn up. The optimal charging strategy is subsequently determined on this basis. This concerns issues such as operational stability, optimized investments and charging time flexibility. In terms of charging time, flexibility is particularly significant when it comes to using the optimum charging time window in order to be able to make use of the “cheapest” energy prices; this is where most of the cost optimization potential of e-mobility lies.


@Fotos: MAN

Tomorrow is good: Which form of transport will supersede the scooter?

Gliding smoothly over the streets in Oslo, I feel like I’m in an episode of the Jetsons. I am greeted kindly by an oncoming rider on the latest version of the Segway, followed by his girlfriend.

They are neatly decked out with helmets. But not me, because you don’t ordinarily take those with you when you go into town. Wearing a helmet is actually more their advice rather than the legal requirement. You will find a scooter from one of the many rentals services on every street corner in Oslo. In Paris, they are already over it, and have taken measures such as special parking areas and fines for those who drive on the pavement with them.

Billion dollar economy

I have no idea where to ride, by the way. The pavement seems safer than the road, although it has many more uneven areas, which in turn makes it not as safe. You read about accidents with these scooters more and more often. This also makes sense as the total number is on the increase. Whether they are relatively more unsafe than bicycles, I do not know. The Netherlands kept the door closed due to traffic safety concerns and has so far managed to avoid this hype. That did not prevent the Dutch start-up Dott from venturing into the market anyway. They even raised 30 million euros within a brief amount of time for the further roll-out of their plans abroad. The market for scooters has become a billion-dollar economy within a very short period of time. In Amsterdam, the door was recently opened slightly for the very first initiatives.

Rental scooters in Oslo. Photo Tessie Hartjes

There are a number of ‘ switching costs ‘ with every innovation. Initiatives come and go, whereby finding the right fit will often balance itself out over time. Although adopting the scooter is very simple for the user, it is much more difficult for other road users and regulatory authorities to deal with these futuristic road pirates. Is it a hype or will we find a way to keep them all safe on the streets? Users of the Felyx rental scooter are now legally required in Amsterdam to wear a helmet. Which is provided – along with a hair net – with the scooters. Not everyone is enthusiastic: “A helmet like that messes up my hair, so I just grab another Uber.” I overheard that on the tram. Is this legal requirement a bomb under the business model of rental scooters, or does this particular step towards safety signify the start of wider acceptance?

Competition for public transport?

Personally, I think all these new forms of mobility are fantastic, especially when it comes to electric or the simple, healthy rental bike. The question is: what will this type of mobility have to compete with? Is it the revving taxi waiting at the station, the privately owned car or public transport that is already sustainable? Uber’s goal was to reduce the number of taxis, but to a large extent also to compete with public transport. Public transport is already overextended so maybe that’s not even a problem. Will the scooter replace Uber rides? Or will we get more lazy and walk less? Or will it replace anything at all and just add new forms of mobility? Car-sharing has already proven to have replaced the equivalent of approximately 4-8 cars per car in the city center.

What amount of CO2 emissions and space could a large-scale transition to Biros, electric rental bicycles, scooters, cars, motorcycles and all other future forms of sustainable mobility collectively save in all of the major cities all over the world? Have a look at the now famous Canberra Transport Photo from the We Ride organization in Australia. The sooner we find the right balance between all forms of sustainable mobility, the faster the transition will take place.  Hopefully that means we will be able to set a CO2 saving record instead of a heat record next year.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Lucien Engelen, Peter de Kock, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous colomns.



Construction kit for transport wagons: a modular company e-vehicle with a shared-service option

Cities are running out of clean air. Therefore, it is time to get to work on new concepts. Among other things, in terms of mobility. One option presently under consideration is the use of e-vehicles – particularly within the commercial sector. However, for most small and medium-sized enterprises, the purchase of an electric vehicle is not within their budgets for financial reasons at present. In order to find a solution to this problem, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen is currently researching a practicable modular system for electric commercial vehicles.

From food to furniture trucks

The scientists are currently collaborating on lightweight, modular electric commercial vehicles with the following partners: Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components PEM“ from RWTH Aachen University, Djemajli & Stüttgens GbR, the Laser Processing- and Consulting Centre GmbH, as well as StreetScooter GmbH Their goal is to be able to manufacture these inexpensively and thereby also design cost-effective products for the market.

Using the project name “Construction kit for wagon loader systems”, the vehicles are to be combined with a different unit depending on the transport task. A closed trunk unit with refrigeration and a humidity meter is being designed for transporting foodstuffs. The unit without refrigeration is able to be used for transporting tools. A platform structure facilitates the transport of building materials. The unique advantage of this system is that since the unit can be exchanged flexibly and quickly, companies are even able to use the same vehicle undercarriage for a variety of transport tasks within a company. For example, if a carpenter drives to their customer, they use a unit with a shelving system for their tools. If they later deliver an item of furniture, they need a larger loading area and use a unit with a platform and a fastening mechanism.

Cost reduction and productivity

The project consortium has even gone one step further: the modular construction kit offers the opportunity for several companies to share a fleet in line with the principle of car sharing. As a result, high investment costs are able to be reduced significantly for each individual company. The amount of time that vehicles are not being used is reduced as well. Furthermore, less parking space is needed to park idle vehicles.

A major advantage of the modular concept is that the number of e-vehicles actually in use is able to be reduced. This in turn lowers the high investment costs, which are incurred primarily in connection with the purchase of high-performance lithium-ion batteries. The modular design of the installation area, which is geared to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, is designed in such a way that costs can be cut during the production of the vehicles, initially even with small quantities.

First Prototype

The project consortium took various scenarios for the usage of light e-commercial vehicles into account as part of its concept. In order to do this, the researchers interviewed craft enterprises, maintenance companies and food and drug transport companies about the respective job specifications for their company vehicles.

All criteria such as dimensions, power supply, load attachment, refrigeration, storage systems etc. could be defined by industry and purpose. In order to meet all these requirements, the collected criteria were bundled into different categories such as “easy cleaning” or “simple loading”. On top of that, everything is clearly summarised on a specification sheet.

The partners subsequently developed the concept of the modular loader wagon based on this information in the following steps. They planned the technical implementation and the product structure, and finally, prepared the technical specifications for the design.

After a prototype of the modular system had been designed down to the component level, it was then possible to design it complete with a loader wagon. In the meantime, the prototype has been successfully tested with regard to its practical suitability on a test site. We can now look forward to seeing the next steps in implementation.

The research project “Construction kit for loader wagon systems” was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).




E-Mobility containers for charging e-bikes and e-scooters


Since June the 14th, electric scooters have been permitted in Germany for the first time. And already they are out and about in increasing numbers on cycle paths and roads. Most of these vehicles are still rented scooters. For short distances from the bus stop to work or just for fun for an hour. The rental companies take care of recharging the batteries.

But the demand for the small scooters is huge. As soon as everyone who wants their own scooter gets one, the question of where-to-put-it-when-I-don’t-need-it and recharging arises. With an average range of around 20 kilometers per single charge, being able to recharge quickly on the road rather than at home would, of course, be convenient.

The Saxon start-up Mein Lagerraum³ has seen to the matter and developed a special eMobility container, which was presented for the first time at the e4 TESTIVAL at Hockenheimring in mid June. The company has elaborately modified discarded shipping containers and equipped them with a photovoltaic system. These containers can be set up anywhere. Since no special construction measures are necessary, they are mobile and flexible.

© Mein Lagerraum³

Parking lot and charging station at the same time

Thanks to an efficient photovoltaic system and buffer battery, one container offers charging possibilities for a total of 14 e-bikes or e-scooters. Different locking systems for the container’s built-in Plexiglas sliding doors, which can be locked and opened either with an RFID key or an app, guarantee safety. In addition to the bikes and scooters, personal items can also be stored in lockers.

“Particularly in urban areas, it is becoming increasingly important to find alternatives to the car and to set up the appropriate infrastructure. The e4 TESTIVAL impressively demonstrates how suitable electric mobility is for everyday use nowadays,” said Patrick Schmieder, Managing Director of Mein Lagerraum³ GmbH. “And with our eMobility container, we can also contribute in making electric bicycles easier to use. We are therefore very pleased to have the opportunity to present our eMobility container here, and see this as an incentive to further expand our service and become even better.”

Winfried Hermann, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Transport, was the patron of the e4 TESTIVAL 2019. In addition to Mein Lagerraum³, eleven other start-ups presented their ideas for the mobility of the future in rural and urban areas. The e4 TESTIVAL at Hockenheimring is a consumer trade fair for electric vehicles and took place for the second time this year.

Read more on e-mobility HERE.

What we need in e-mobility is a cheap car for the masses

Lower costs have always led to major breakthroughs in the automobile industry.Think about the T Ford for instance, the first car for a wider public; the Volkswagen Beetle; or the Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux). A lot of people become overjoyed when they get to drive a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, but in the end it’s the cheaper models which turn out to be far more influential. This is one of the most important things that remains lacking in electric cars according to Isabel Wagner from the Statista research agency, as she states in the study ‘An overview of the electric car industry and associated technology’.

Download: study_id62346_statista-dossierplus-on-the-electric-car-industry (1).

In itself, the production of an electric car is much easier than that of a petrol, gas or diesel car. There are far fewer moving parts inside of it. Wear and tear on the engine is hardly an issue. The main drawback is the battery, for a major breakthrough it is still too expensive and has too little capacity. As a result, there are no models available that are both cheap and which can travel long distances on a single battery charge.

The good old 2cv, photo: Pixabay

Battery costs

Research from Wagner shows that about 50 percent of the cost of an electric car is in the battery. These costs have to be reduced, while at the same time capacity must be increased. In the meantime, the environmental friendliness of the battery needs to be guaranteed. Why else would you drive an electric car?

For more information about electric cars, also see our archive

Many people will remember the incidents in 2016 with exploding lithium-ion batteries in Samsung products. Tesla has had similar problems. These incidents have led to a lot of tests subsequently being carried out involving the addition of cobalt, manganese, nickel and graphite amongst other things. With success, as the batteries have become more stable. The annoying thing is that these are not exactly the cheapest and most environmentally friendly raw materials. Moreover, they are sometimes extracted under appalling conditions. For example, think about the sometimes inhumane conditions in African cobalt mines.

Yet, despite all of these problems, the cost of batteries has fallen considerably according to Mayer’s figures:

Costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) were in:

  • 2010: $1000
  • 2013: $599
  • 2016: $273
  • 2019 (estimate): $158

Longer range

For Mayer, this is cause for optimism. She sees the gap getting smaller and smaller between electric cars and cars with an internal combustion engines. This applies to the range as well as the costs.

Average distance that one battery is expected to cover:

  • 2020: 300 kilometer
  • 2025: 380 kilometer
  • 2030: 440 kilometer

The Netherlands, charging port champion

However, you won’t get there just with better electric cars. A solution also needs to be found for the scarce recharging infrastructure. Although some improvements may have been made in the area of charging stations, according to surveys it is still not enough to convince people en masse to switch over to electricity.

China is leading the way in terms of charging stations in absolute numbers. But the Netherlands is best when it comes to range if you look at the charging stations per road surface kilometer.

Still too few loading stations in the city and in the countryside, photo:Pixabay

Number of recharging stations per 100 kilometres of paved road:

  1. The Netherlands 19,3 km
  2. China 3,5 km
  3. United Kingdom 3,1 km
  4. Germany 2,8 km
  5. United Arab Emirates 2,5 km
  6. Japan 2,3 km
  7. Singapore 2,2 km
  8. South Korea 2,0 km
  9. Sweden 1,9 km
  10. France 1,5 km
  11. United States 0,9 km

If the charging infrastructure problem is also solved, Mayer thinks that little will stand in the way of the rise in the E-car’s popularity. By 2030, she expects an annual production of 30 million hybrid and 100% electric cars. That would be half of all the cars that would then be made. Of course, this would also have an impact on the entire pool of vehicles.

Estimated number of electric cars on the road, worldwide:

  • 2020: 13 million
  • 2022: 25 million
  • 2024: 40 million
  • 2026: 60 million
  • 2028: 87 million
  • 2030: 127 million

Winners and losers

Who are the winners and losers amongst car manufacturers? According to Mayer, that’s still an unresolved question. Sometimes there are doubts whether the old car giants like Volkswagen, GM, Ford are able to compete with ‘disrupters’ like Tesla or BYD. It is also true that for years, the oldies have had little faith in electro-mobility. However, this attitude now seems to be a thing of the past when you look at the huge sums of money which are currently being invested.

R&D investments in 2018:

  • Volkswagen: $15,53 billion
  • Daimler: $10,36 billion
  • Toyota: $9,58 billion
  • Ford: $8,2 billion
  • General Motors: $7.8 billion

Ever since 1832

Mayer has compiled a list of some more car revolutions. The very first was an electric one from the Scottish car pioneer Robert Anderson, who developed his “electric carriage” in 1832,  just before the Groningen chemist and inventor Sibrandus Stratingh came up with a similar product in 1834. The next revolution ought to be an electric one as well, one with better and cheaper batteries.

  • 1832 – Robert Anderson creates the first crude electric carriage
  • 1900 – Ferdinand Porsche develops the world’s first hybrid
  • 1935 – Gasoline-powered cars force EVs out of the market
  • 1996 – General Motors launches the EV1
  • 1997 – Toyota releases the Prius – the first mass-produced hybrid car
  • 2008 – Tesla Motors launches its Roadster, an all-electric luxury sports car. BYD releases the F3DM – the world’s first plug-in hybrid compact sedan
  • 2010 – General Motors introduces the Chevy Volt – the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid;
  • 2014 – Nissan releases the all-electric Leaf Nissan Leaf sales surpass the 100,000 unit mark
  • 2018 – The Model 3 becomes Tesla’s best-selling model