The Future of the Electric Mobility Market – A Conversation Between Experts

In our new "Industry in Focus" article series, experts discuss emerging trends in specific industries and their impact on business and society. To launch the series, P3 senior executives Robert Stanek and Jürgen Schenk take a look at electric mobility together with HELUKABEL expert Uwe Schenk.

The future market of electric mobility is a topic that everyone is talking about. How long have you been involved with this megatrend?

Jürgen Schenk (JS): I’ve been following the transformation of the car industry for 15 years and am convinced electric mobility is the car market of the future.
Robert Stanek (RS): I've been interested in this topic for almost ten years, and in particular, how and when electric mobility will become economically viable.
Uwe Schenk (US): What appeals to me is the vastness of the field of application which goes far beyond cars. At HELUKABEL, for example, we’re investigating fast-charging technologies for e-buses and solutions for maritime applications.

What’s the current global share of e-mobility in transport?

RS: The largest electric mobility market is in China. About ten percent of cars there are battery powered. Here in the EU it’s about three to five percent, and in the USA about three percent.

P3 sees the shift towards e-mobility as a holistic requirement that goes beyond simply electrifying vehicles. Can you give us an example?

RS: Yes, of course. Let’s use charging infrastructure as an example. When we, at P3, certify a vehicle for the European market, we test it along with all the major charging networks in Europe. In an ideal world, the sat nav system would calculate the route with the best charging points and the fastest charging times. In practice though, there’s still no user-friendly and coherent plug & charge network in Europe. And because there are so many different providers, depending on the country, we need several dozen charging cards for these tests. And this won't change until a harmonised charging standard exists and all vehicles meet the same technical requirements.

When is a charging standard likely to be available and how is the market changing?

RS: Many companies such as Allego or EnBW in Germany have been involved in infrastructure construction for more than ten years. Their network coverage is now very good, and they’ve already installed second or third generation hardware. There are also many other companies joining the market. For example, the Tank & Rast Gruppe has favourably located service stations along motorways and, together with its partner IONITY, they operate charging stations in almost 80 of them. But global players such as Google are also aware of the business potential here. The market is in the process of consolidation and lots of transactions are being made. Businesses are buying out other providers and companies are making new investments in the market.

How do you think the supply industry can help speed up the mainstream acceptance of e-mobility?

JS: The cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, the supply industry and charging station operators is very good in Germany. Thanks to various new development plans, investments are on the rise. It’s true that competition has led to many heterogeneous systems in Germany. But this will resolve itself over time. German industry has the expertise to build an effective overall system.

What challenges does HELUKABEL face?

US: Our charging cables propagate a lot of energy through confined spaces. Our products therefore depend on good conduction technology and excellent insulating materials that are capable of withstanding high temperatures in cables.

What are the limiting factors for a charging cable?

US: They’re mainly limited by the vehicle peripherals and the plug type. We have also reached a limit with respect to handling the car charging cable. We use cables with diameters of up to 35 millimetres for Combined Charging System (CCS) plugs which can be used for both direct current and alternating current charging. This means it already has a very high tare weight. A point comes when the charging cable is simply too heavy to handle.

Much of the discussion about e-mobility revolves around ranges and charging times. Are these issues overrated?

JS: I find charging breaks every 1.5 to two hours make driving an electric car much more relaxing. But these breaks are only necessary if I drive more than 300 kilometres. For shorter distances I try to top up at my destination. At this point I must mention that there are usually only AC chargers at the end of my journey which supply too little power. These AC chargers with 11 KW or less are remnants from the very early days of electric mobility and are incapable of charging a car in just one or two hours.
US: At HELUKABEL we still notice a very high demand for cables for AC chargers.

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