TECOSIM has brought responsibilities for alternative drive systems and autonomous driving together under one department to provide an even better response to the changes in the automotive and transport sector. Mark Gevers is the person taking overall responsibility for this department. We spoke to the electric car enthusiast.
Mr Gevers, the automotive industry will change radically over the coming years as a result of electrification, digital networking, autonomous driving and new mobility services. How is TECOSIM prepared for this change?
First of all, I don't like the term "electrification". That sounds as if we're talking about converting existing products. We need to rethink the electric car from the ground up, in the same way that we did with StreetScooter and are doing with a few start-ups. We have worked on projects with these new players and with our long-standing partners, acquiring experience on how to design and construct electric cars of extremely different sizes and types. In the field of digital networking, we have founded the start-up IoT Venture GmbH as part of the holding company mind venture AG. This start-up has established presence on new markets with its products and ideas for the Internet of Things. In the field of autonomous driving, we focus on driving scenario simulation based on real-life conditions.
Virtually every automotive manufacturer has launched electric vehicle model offensives. How does this reflect in TECOSIM's development projects?
When it comes to such vehicle manufacturers, we almost exclusively manage projects involving a battery electric drive. Some OEMs haven't got to this stage yet and are cautious about awarding projects. They are waiting to see what happens – but I ask myself what they are waiting for. The technology of the present and near future is evident: the battery electric drive.
What does the new world of e-mobility mean for TECOSIM in particular?
The differences in the existing disciplines of crash/safety and statics/dynamics are not huge. Additional requirements need to be taken into account regarding the battery. On the other side of the coin, the design is easier to create if we look at typical frontal crashes. There is more scope. CAE is the right method to evaluate ideas. In the case of statics and dynamics, there is a greater focus on NVH and acoustics requirements. We'll need to deal with acoustic phenomena in particular. We're currently starting a combined research project to evaluate sound qualities with a piano manufacturer. One thing that's completely new for us and our clients is virtual analysis of powertrains. I consider everything I've seen on the subject at seminars and in publications to date as inadequate. We must be capable of predicting and configuring a battery electric powertrain's behaviour. This is particularly true for high-performance products CAE is the tool of choice in this respect.
What vision do you personally have of the future of mobility?
I believe the transition to purely electric vehicles will be much faster than most people think. We'll see hardly any combustion engines in new vehicles by 2025. However, autonomous driving will cause much greater upheaval. I also expect its use to spread rapidly. Waymo (editor: formerly Google Auto) started its commercial operations in Phoenix, Arizona in early December 2018. The IT sector is carrying out development in this field at a rate which is beyond compare with that within the automotive industry. In the future, we'll buy mobility instead of cars. Of that I am sure. This will also include different levels of comfort. I think that we'll see great diversification and personalisation of mobility services. We need to be clear that autonomous driving will provide solutions which not only call the use of conventional taxis and your own car into question, but also the way public transport is used.
What drive concept do you think will dominate and why?
In the short and medium term, BEVs, i.e. cars with a battery electric powertrain. It's irrelevant whether a solid-state battery or liquid electrolyte is used for vehicle development initially. Many in the German automotive industry are focusing on fuel cells, but they're currently still too complex and inefficient. They might win through in the long term, but lithium ion batteries predominate at the moment.
What other client projects has TECOSIM implemented in the field of electric mobility?
Among other things, we've handled side impact for the BMW i3 and the e-drive for the AMG SLS plus we were responsible for the overall design of the StreetScooter Work. Obviously, we're not permitted to talk about any ongoing projects. However, our cooperation with e.GO is common knowledge. We're developing products such as the E.GO Life for the company.
How can TECOSIM keep ahead of competitors in development projects for electric vehicles?
Expertise counts for a lot. We're also full of enthusiasm. Look at it this way: our competitors arrive at meetings in a large, expensive petrol guzzler. I come in an electric car. I know what I'm talking about – not only with regard to development, but also as a user. I've been using an electric car exclusively for five years and have now driven 200,000 km. There are one or two products which wouldn't have come onto the market if I hadn't been involved. This experience obviously helps to build up development expertise in-house too.