In Germany some 2.5 million eBikes are already on the road. In comparison, only 25,500 electric cars are registered nationwide. But it is exactly in the automotive area that a higher share of electric power would be desirable. That’s because an increasingly high number of people are suffering from ailments caused by air pollution: In 2010 alone, more than 500,000 people in Europe died as a result of unclean air. And the damage to the economy is running at a cool 1.6 trillion dollars – a figure which is backed by WHO findings from a 2015 survey. According the European Environmental Agency, road traffic is the main culprit behind substandard environmental conditions, given the noise pollution and carbon emissions it produces.
Some major changes need to be made if we want to breathe cleaner air, and eMobility could provide the key. While the power plants that are currently needed unfortunately produce CO2 emissions, a turn to renewable energy sources or hybrid processes would serve to greatly diminish the environmental impact.
Some 55 million cars are registered in Germany, almost all of them equipped with diesel or gasoline engines. And this, although 75% of all German drivers consider electric cars to be the wave of the future. Still, the majority of them are unwilling to buy an electric car at any time in the near future, according to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute. So why don’t car users switch to a technology that they consider to be inevitable? The main reasons are the higher price tag and weaker performance of eCars so far.
The following describes some of the new and original innovations coming from startups designed to deal with this problem. The goal is to make eMobility more attractive for the consumer. From new apps and cars to airborne travel – the ideas coming from the founder community go far beyond just electric bikes and cars.
A number of young new companies like NÜWIEL and "Kumpan electric" are concentrating on road traffic. The first company makes electronically operated bike trailers which support the vehicle when accelerating or braking. This technique makes it easy to transport loads of more than 80 kilograms using only muscle power and electricity. The main focus at Kumpan is on the production of electro-scooters, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries. With a range of 150 kilometers, these scooters deliver even more performance than conventional, gasoline-powered scooters. A simple mains socket at home is sufficient to recharge the battery.
Startup entrepreneurs are also developing new apps to help drive eMobility. The "PlugSurfing" app for instance provides an interface between consumers and the many different operators of charging stations. Their software allows users to tabulate and pay for their usage quickly and conveniently without needing to use a series of different microchip cards. And whether you are underway in Berlin, Leipzig or Munich, you can use the "Clever Shuttle" app to quickly summon an eCar to pick you up – essentially, an eTaxi service. The app makes this possible by combining users’ mutual routes, allowing guests to ride in zero-emission cars and lowering costs for the car owner.
Startups like "e-volo" have turned their backs on the road to concentrate on air travel instead. Based in Karlsruhe, Germany, the company manufactures an electric helicopter equipped with 18 rotors that has a flight length of one hour. The helicopter’s operating software supports the pilot while preventing any dangerous maneuvers. According to the manufacturer, this makes it easier to obtain a pilot’s license and will serve to increase safety.
Whoever is in an even bigger hurry can turn to the Lilium Jet, currently being developed by the Lilium Aviaton company, located outside of Munich. This vertical starter is intended to transport passengers at a speed of 300 kph with all the convenience and comfort of a business jet. That the project already enjoys the support of the European Space Agency speaks for a bright future. The planned market launch date is 2019. Ideas like these are of great interest for well-to-do individuals or flight training schools. And, as they are quiet and emission-free, they are also ideal for use in national parks.
Despite the high purchase price of electric vehicles, startups continue to forge ahead, while others continue to slumber. In a 2015 interview , Kurt Sigl, President of the German eMobility Association, accused the German government of sitting on its hands. At the same time, he was critical of car manufacturers as well, maintaining that they had resisted the new technology: "My main concern is that the German auto industry will be overrun by the competition if they continue to remain so passive," he commented.
Meanwhile, things have become a bit better. Large corporations like VW and Deutsche Bahn are now eager to see more electro-mobility on Germany’s roads and railways, and are thus investing more strongly in founder innovations. For the coming two years, Deutsche Bahn has budgeted 100 million euros for cooperative projects with innovative startups. And the Volkswagen Group will be issuing its GOLDEN TICKET for the first time using a pitch format at the SCALE11 startup showcase; the application deadline for startups is 15 March. The car manufacturer sees this CeBIT startup pavilion as the ideal place to gather inspiration on what’s just around the bend in mobility.
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