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The statistics paint a clear picture: Just over 45,000 vehicles with so-called alternative drives were registered last year in Germany. The German Register of Motor Vehicles reported significant growth of over 45 percent for electric drives, and an increase of over 22 percent for hybrid vehicles. However, given the overall situation, these figures are somewhat disappointing. Alternative drives account for just 1.7 percent of the over 3.2 million new registrations overall.

We are still miles away from the one million electric cars politicians expect to see on German roads by 2020 – by roughly 850,000 units. However, experts say that, in the long term, an alternative to petrol and diesel engines must be found. Besides the dwindling raw materials, increasing noise and rising air pollution require a new approach.

History repeats itself

However not just when it comes to the users, the entire approach to the subject has a precedent. Dr. Guido Weißmann from the Bavarian Society for Innovation and Knowledge Transfer compares the development to the introduction of the CD: "When CDs were launched, they were far more expensive than music cassettes, there were hardly any players and by contrast to cassettes, CDs were not rewritable." At the time, many said they would never find a market. "In the end, CDs became a success for reasons nobody had thought of before, such as new functions like constant quality or quick track changes," says Weißmann.

Electric vehicles are similar. For 100 years, the infrastructure has been designed for cars with combustion engines, which is why it is not enough to sell electric cars. "We need to transform the entire ecosystem," says Weißmann. This ranges from raw materials and technology and services, right up to the environment.

Reliable supply to guarantee success

For example, an extensive supply network with charging stations is critical for broad acceptance of this drive model. And “Where?” is not the only important question. The "Future Institute" and owner Matthias Horx, are convinced that the "How?" will be just as critical: "Access needs to be simple, intuitive and standardized. Anyone who expects customers to have to own multiple charging cards to actually access electricity for their vehicle will fail in tomorrow’s mobility market."

Instead of pure competition between the providers on this huge market, their willingness to accept "cooptition" is crucial for success. The Future Institute defines this as "cooperative development of sustainable concepts, innovative technologies and green business models." It believes that a harmonized use structure is essential for the success of the overall concept.

It needs to be simple

Thomas Stebich, Electromobility Product Development Manager at major energy supplier EnBW (Hall 27, Stand H71) shares this view . "Making electromobility easier," is the slogan of the project, a cooperation between EnBW and other companies. For example, Hubject (Hall 27, Stand H85) offers an IT and business platform to harmonize the charging infrastructure in Europe and make it customer-friendly.

Hoping for the super battery

Besides the infrastructure, energy storage plays an important role. Until now, the number one barrier has been high vehicle prices, largely due to expensive batteries, which also limit the range. While new developments are promising, they are far from market-ready.

For example, the prototype of an aluminum-ion battery developed by Stanford University can be charged in one minute , offers an ultra-long life of 7,500 recharging cycles and is also believed to be safer than conventional lithium-ion batteries. However, in laboratory tests to date, it has only reached an output of two volts.

But who knows: perhaps the batteries of the future will be water-based ?

New drive and storage technologies for the future of transportation are one of the main topics at HANNOVER MESSE 2016. In the MobiliTec forum , businesspeople, technicians and politicians will discuss mobility, infrastructure and intermodal logistics concepts. Among other things, new developments in charging infrastructure, precision mechanics for electric drives, component manufacturing and digitization of mobility services will be presented.