Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO, ZF Friedrichshafen AG

The desire for individual mobility is growing. But in the world’s cities at least, the space that requires is
steadily dwindling. Based on his company’s current projects, Wolf-Henning Scheider outlined several creative
solutions for this dilemma. His ambitious vision: “To electrify all kinds of mobility, from bicycles to
40-tonne trucks.”

Referring to the hundreds of billions that automotive manufacturers are investing in electromobility, Scheider said: “We’re seeing an industry making a massive move. And we at ZF are doing our bit.” The company was investing 12 billion euro in electromobility – a similar share of revenue to the OEMs. Again, this highlighted the new role of suppliers. “We’re investing in new technologies to the same extent as OEMs.”

But the ZF boss made it clear that there was no silver bullet. “We’re taking different roads for different needs.” To demonstrate the diversity of his company’s efforts, Scheider used four ‘model cities’ that stood for different mobility challenges. In high-density megacities like Hong Kong with virtually no space to park, ZF sees its autonomous electric robot taxi eGO Mover as an ideal replacement for private cars. The ‘heart’ of this people mover, which enters mass production in 2019, is ZF’s ProAI supercomputer; ZF also supplies all the drive and suspension technology. Again, Scheider noted, this highlighted the new role of suppliers: “We supply the complete system, with hardware, software and services, to the manufacturer.”

In chaotic, tropical cities like Bangkok, the ZF boss thinks high-torque e-bikes are the best way to get around. Again, ZF was thinking ahead. It was aiming for safety standards in line with those for 4-wheel vehicles, and had developed an ABS system for bicycles. The next stop on Scheider’s global e-mobility tour was mountainous Bogotá, which is building a funicular railway using ZF drive technology. “In Germany, cities like Stuttgart are talking about adding a funicular to their public transportation mix.” To make passengers feel as safe as possible, ZF had developed AI-controlled status monitoring systems to detect upcoming maintenance requirements in good time and prevent failures.

Scheider’s fourth stop was Houston, Texas – the kind of flat, sprawling city where private cars will prevail for years to come. Even so, their emissions could be reduced. ZF’s suggestion: an 8-speed plug-in hybrid transmission with integrated e-drive for up to 50 km of zero-emission driving. “Demand for this transmission is skyrocketing,” Wolf-Henning Scheider said. “We’re increasing production tenfold by 2023.”

Speaking of which, Scheider says hybrid technology deserves far more attention anyway. ZF’s contribution would be a new generation of hybrid drives called EV Plus. The concept: “The e-motor handles most of the propulsion; the ICE is the added extra that takes care of range anxiety.” A smart geofencing solution would ensure the combustion engine could not start in inner cities.

Scheider has strong feelings about another issue too: “If we’re really serious about electrification, we need to make the tech far more accessible – with a People’s Hybrid.” He said large batteries were so expensive that today’s EVs were only suitable as second or third vehicles for the wealthy. The battery in a People’s Hybrid would be four times smaller than in pure EVs, yet still cover all day-to-day mobility demands. For families that could only afford one car, a People’s Hybrid was a social and eco-friendly solution.

Automotive Summit 2018 – Executive Summary

In early December 2018, over 600 automotive experts from all over the world – including manufacturers and suppliers, tech and energy companies, politicians and associations – attended the auto industry summit in Wolfsburg, Germany. From 3 – 5 December, the industry’s big hitters discussed strategies, concepts and technologies for tomorrow’s automobiles and the future course of their industry.

We’ve compiled the highlights from the Handelsblatt Auto Summit 2018 in an interactive follow-up report.