Continental presents technologies for the transition to electric powertrains

May 24, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Views on electromobility together with strategic consequences of the international automotive supplier Continental were at the center of a keynote speech delivered by Continental Executive Board Member José Avila at the second eMobility Summit in Berlin.

Among the industry-first examples of battery applications, power electronics, electric motors, and energy management, which the head of Continental's Powertrain Division listed as R&D focus topics and prototypes is the series production of electric vehicle traction motors without rare earth magnets.

At the same time Avila confirmed that Continental continues to improve the combustion engine technology. “The combustion engine needs to be further optimized to fulfill its task without overly impacting climate and environment. After all, 95 % of all vehicles manufactured over the next 10 years will still have a combustion engine,” he said.

Yet, there is no clash between electrification and the combustion engine, Avila is convinced: “To make the combustion engine fit for the oncoming transition period requires the help of electrification. The transition from fossil fuel to electric energy will not be abrupt but continuous. Our goal is to help make that transition as smooth and as successful as possible.”

To illustrate the challenges of electrifying individual mobility, Avila presented highlights from the Continental Mobility Study, a large international study, carried out by market research institute Infas on behalf of the automotive supplier in 2011. According to the study, the price of e-vehicles is the biggest hurdle for mass acceptance, which combines with range anxiety. Moreover motorists' concerns about range appear to be more anxiety than reason: “Even drivers who typically only travel short distances of up to 30 km worry greatly about the possibility that the vehicle range is insufficient. According to the 4,000 people surveyed, cars are actually parked most of the day and during the night, which offers plenty of charging time. Therefore we do not only need technological solutions, we also need open communication.” Avila's bottom line was: Motorists are still in their very early learning curve about e-vehicles but they are “open to electromobility.”

To make electromobility affordable, standardization on the component level will help to resolve the chicken and egg