At the presentation of a study on future individual mobility conducted by IBM, Porsche as one of the participants brought along his hybrid research platform. The vehicle offers an 80 kW electric motor and stores enough electric energy for a purely electric range of 20 to 30 kilometers – not very spectacular. But Armin Mueller who at Porsche is in charge for innovation and concepts, provided an insight into the company’s strategy regarding e-mobility.
Mueller explained that by 2015, plug-in hybrid versions will be available for all Porsche model families. Range extenders won’t be Porsche’s answer to the driving range question. “If a car has an internal combustion engine on board, it is more effective to use it for propulsion purposes instead of just for charging a battery”, Mueller said.
One for the road: Porsche’s hybrid research car.
Mueller also said no to the much-discussed idea that electric vehicles should be built according to specifically e-vehicle design concepts. “The basic vehicle must be drive-agnostic,” he said. “A vehicle specifically architectured for electric driving never will be manufactured in sufficient quantities to justify the effort”. Mueller hinted that Porsche is working on a modular drive concept that fits several car types.
There are many enablers for electric driving, Mueller said, but the real key element is the battery. “Unless batteries won’t have a capacity three to four times of what we have today, the idea of electric driving won’t take off”, Mueller said. An alternative to the lithium ion technology currently regarded as the most promising solution could be lithium air batteries which theoretically can provide the desired energy. “Lithium air is the only battery technology that could provide a driving range of 800 km – a prerequisite of electric driving”, Mueller said.
In its research labs in Almaden Alto and Zurich, IBM is conducting research on this battery type. Currently, the researchers believe that this battery type has a potential energy capacity of more than 1000 Wh/kg, about four times higher than lithium ion batteries, said Gerhard Baum, Vice President Automotive Industry for IBM Germany. By the end of 2011, IBM expects to have a battery prototype as a research platform. But in order to bring this technology to industrial maturity it will take another ten years – “at least”, said Baum.
IBM has by no means the intention to enter the battery business. “From our semiconductor and electronics technology research, we already had several base technologies for this battery at our disposal”, Baum explained. “When the battery is ready for market we can imagine selling the IP”.
The reason why Porsche showed its hybrid platform at an IBM event was that Porsche participated in an IBM study on future mobility business models. Along with a number of other participants, including automotive OEMs and tier ones, captive financial institutions for the automotive industry and energy suppliers, the IT infrastructure vendor fathomed the future of mobility. The result, in a nutshell: Increasingly, alternative usage models such as car sharing will gain ground; the usage of a car will less and less be connected to the ownership of a car. And: Traffic telematics data will be a valuable core asset to create new service business models for the IT industry.