One recharge please!

Why the smartphone is changing traffic conditions

There is hardly another technical innovation that has changed our lives in the past few years so subtly yet rapidly as the smartphone. The fact that it has almost fully replaced our landline seems to just be a side issue.

A smartphone does almost everything nowadays that we somehow solved in an "analogue" way before - it is a camera and photo album, diary, games console, high street bank, personal trainer, cookery book, internet access, hi-fi, road map, sat nav, timetable and ticket desk, door release button, air-conditioning control, search engine and lots more besides. And although the possibilities of use are unlimited thanks to apps and technical networks, smartphone users have to fight with one limitation that hardly played a role when mobile phones really were just mobile phones: dependence on the power supply. After all, devices that are used so intensively simply need to be plugged into a power socket more frequently. 

From the smartphone to the car to the power supply

Even if this link seems a little bold at first, EDAG is full of innovative eagerness to build the bridge from the smartphone to the car to the power supply - and back again. With two Competence Centers, which deal exclusively with the subjects of electric mobility and car IT/connectivitiy and their relevant assignment. With targeted, partially independent and partially project-related preliminary development work, and through a close cooperation with research, the centres want to solve the exact problems that the automobile industry is currently facing - especially when it is about the implementation of these innovative subjects in our everyday lives.

The mobility turnaround is a charging issue

But where precisely is the link to our smartphones? It all starts with charging! The future, without a doubt, belongs to alternative engines and especially to electric mobility. However, implementation seems to be a little sluggish at the moment - it at least feels like many more electrically driven vehicles could be on our roads, because the technology already exists. The fact that the "mobility turnaround" is progressing rather hesitantly is mainly due to the lack of, and not yet standardised, infrastructure - people who drive an E-vehicle need to be able to charge it after all. And this does not just apply to their garage at home - but to wherever they need electricity. "The sector is pursuing two approaches at the moment," says Heiko Herchet, Car-IT and E-mobility expert at EDAG. "One approach is slow charging via the available, but differing, national domestic sockets and the other is the development of an entirely new standard that allows fast charging. Both approaches are not mutually exclusive, but need to be optimised, or well-considered - it is about electricity and therefore safety after all. And safety should be guaranteed when people are charging their cars." The EDAG Competence Center for electric mobility is not only currently working on such standards and the corresponding safety aspects, but is already trying to take new developments, such as wireless charging, into account. The aim is to make these approaches ready for production and to simultaneously point out the possible synergies and advantages of standardisation as a mediator between the energy branch and vehicle manufacturers.

How Car-IT and Connectivity act as leverage for E-mobility

Even if the smartphone analogy seems far-fetched with respect to charging, it draws closer when you think more about the subject of networks. There is a reason why the two Competence Centers are working hand-in-hand on visions that bring the smartphone, electric engines and future mobility together. For one, the smartphone should help to search for and reserve charging stations for the vehicle. This makes sense because this service could produce new business models, which make the integration of electric mobility in our everyday lives more attractive to providers in the energy and automobile branch. Secondly, we are already thinking about the urban trend of intermodal traffic. This refers to transport using different modes of transport or, to put it more simply, independence from the car. We can especially observe how the smartphone has changed the use of transport in major cities. Taxi services via the app, combinations of bus and rail transport with rental and car-sharing vehicles and even car and bike-sharing are already reality in urban areas. This communal mobility gives the urban infrastructure and the providers and manufacturers a new challenge - what about the parking situation, where can the vehicle be fuelled and charged and especially: how are these systems and providers linked to each other? These are the questions being dealt with in the innovation network, together with politics, industry, science, urban planners, energy suppliers and operators. The EDAG Competence Center already proved that solutions are possible several years ago with the "EDAG LightCarSharing" idea - a vehicle that is tailored to the needs of car-sharing and currently serves as a proposition for the development of new concepts and their integration in future urban transport scenarios.

May soon no longer be superfluous gimmicks

Whether and how these developments and ideas will come into effect is unclear at the moment. The only clear thing is that our lives and mobility behaviour is changing - due to networks, new technologies and smartphones. Apps for vehicles are still just nice gadgets used to play music or operate the door locks or horn. But just like the smartphone has led to a radical change in many areas of our lives and has become a natural tool for millions of people, it will also change mobility, our transport patterns, last but not least, the traffic itself. It is only a matter of time. And it is a good idea that EDAG is working on.