The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is providing funding for R&D work on all aspects of electric mobility, including transmission technology, battery research, standardisation, the value chain, grid integration, charging stations that use smart metering technology, and infrastructure.

A new value chain

Germany has what it takes to become home to a whole new value chain centred on electric mobility. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has therefore launched a programme entitled "Electric mobility, positioning along the value chain - ELECTRIC POWER", under which it provides funding for projects designed to optimise the value chain.

These projects seek to promote research and development into cells and batteries, light-weight construction, and systems integration. The vast majority of the projects are collaborative and industry-driven and have a clear focus on work that results in new marketable products within a relatively short space of time. The ministry also provides support for a number of projects that seek to foster progress on national and international standardisation (and standardised verification and metering methods), thus contributing to the creation of new value chains (cf. standardisation).

In addition to this, the “Electromobility” programme supports international projects working on fundamental innovations which are still a fair way away from market maturity (cf. ERA-Net+ for Electromobility). These projects are co-funded by the European Commission.

The following outstanding research projects from “Elektro Power” are cited by way of example:

  • TherMobility: Very strong and extremely light carbon fibre reinforced plastics are very well suited to provide load-bearing structural elements in pedelecs and light vehicles. However, their manufacture is complex and highly expensive. This research association therefore aims to develop a production process for integrated carbon fibre structures with a thermoplastic matrix which is suitable for automated large-scale production, e.g. in the manufacture of pedelecs and light vehicles. The basic process technology has since been developed and successfully tested on a pedelec frame. The project is now investigating how the process can move into large-scale production.
  • ProLemo: The project develops new production technologies for especially low-weight electric motors. The intention is to replace metals with carbon fibre reinforced composite materials and soft magnetic composites. By the end of the project, the research establishment should have built an entire demonstration manufacturing cell.
  • “Ramp-up factory” research laboratory: In this project, a ramp-up factory is being created which can be used to test commercial production and assembly as well as the functioning and safety of electric vehicles. This sort of infrastructure is currently only available to the OEMs, the large car manufacturers. The project gives research establishments and small and medium-sized suppliers the necessary access, and could in this way build up the expertise needed for the large-scale manufacture of components (e.g. the driveline) for electric vehicles. The planning is complete; the equipment is now being purchased and assembled to form manufacturing cells.
  • ISB-Elektro: Electric vehicles are not currently being mass-produced. Conventional production processes, which entail high investments in moulding tools for body parts and profiles, are not economic. The project is researching incremental swing folding, which can be used to manufacture different profiles without special and expensive tools. It is merely necessary to reprogram the machine tool for a new part. This makes it possible to manufacture low-cost electric vehicles with optimised weight in small batches. Many small and medium-sized component suppliers are involved in the research association; this will give them access to future automotive value chains.
  • ProTrak/S-ProTrak: Low-cost production of efficient batteries is a key factor for the future evolution of electric mobility. Also, urgently needed technologies for the series manufacture of cost-efficient lithium battery cells are being developed on a collaborative basis. S-ProTrak is developing innovative coating technologies for key cell components (anodes, cathodes and separators). The focus of ProTrak is on new technological developments in the field of handling, cutting, packing, electrolyte filling, forming, and testing. The goal is a linked-up, modular plant concept in which process steps which are currently cost-intensive can be optimised in terms of energy efficiency and throughput times.
  • BatCon: One reason why batteries for electric vehicles are so expensive is that there are no convincing technologies for building them out of individual battery cells. Screwing them is expensive and unsatisfactory; welding copper and aluminium is very challenging in technological terms. The partners in the research will therefore develop cost-optimised manufacturing technologies and testing procedures for functionally integrated high current connectors. This can reduce the cost of battery production and thus make electric vehicles cheaper.

The ELECTRIC POWER programme provides approx. €23 million in funding for 10 collaborative projects (composed of 41 sub-projects). Most of these projects run for 3 years. All projects will end by mid 2016 at the latest.

Standardisation - electric mobility based on universal standards

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is working to ensure that vehicles produced by different manufacturers can be charged at charging stations run by different operators. The objective here is to use smart charging infrastructure to link up the vehicle to the charging point, allowing for communication between the two. Based on what is set out in the government's programme, the additional electricity needed for electric mobility is to come from renewables.

Charging plugs and sockets, and the communication between the vehicle and the charging station must be fully compatible. The only way of ensuring that users can comfortably recharge and pay for recharging their electric vehicles everywhere in Germany and beyond is to put in place international standards. Before this can work, communications standards need to be drawn up and precautions taken to ensure that high-volt technology is handled safely. There are many examples of safety standards that were developed by consensus and which later found their way into statutory regulation, e.g. on vehicle safety.

Universal standards - not only for the charging infrastructure - will benefit companies in Europe and across the world. After all, the vehicles, charging stations, batteries, and the manufacturing equipment produced in Germany are being exported internationally.

Wherever necessary, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy lends its support to the dialogue that takes place between German standardisation experts and their international partners. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is engaged in close bilateral dialogue with ministries in the U.S., China, and many other countries.

Some prominent examples of standardisation projects:

Electric mobility – implementing the standardisation roadmap: The project coordinates the German activities to implement the NPE’s standardisation roadmap and to feed them into the relevant international standardisation bodies. Also, further need for standardisation is identified over the course of the project period, e.g. from the ongoing research and development projects, and is included in the standardisation process. The issues include the safety of electric vehicles, including the energy storage whilst on the road, when recharging, when feeding in electricity and following a potential accident, and the interfaces between the vehicle and the power grid both in electromechanical and in communication technology terms. Questions of grid stability are also being addressed. The parties involved include the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN), the standardisation committee of the German automotive manufacturers (VDA-NAAuto) and the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies in the DIN and VDE (DKE im VDE). Interested parties from commerce and science, and strategically important international stakeholders are involved. A focus is placed on the involvement of SMEs in the international standardisation process.

eNterop: The aim of the project is standardised communication between electric vehicles and charging infrastructure – a key prerequisite for broad acceptance of electric mobility by the market. The project is based on the recently adopted standard for the interface between the vehicle and the charging station, which aims – despite the differing national rules – to create a global market for the relevant components. The project is establishing automatable test procedures for an open platform of hardware and software that test interoperability. This platform can subsequently be freely used to transfer expertise and as an implementation reference for conformity tests for companies and even for model regions. This gives the component suppliers, most of which are small or medium-sized, a tool to demonstrate their products’ conformity.

Rolling out a network of fast chargers

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy supports the efforts being made to create a network of fast chargers and roll it out across Germany. This has to be done quickly if drivers of are to be able to count on a reliable and convenient supply of electricity for their electric vehicles. Fast chargers capable of recharging batteries to roughly 80% of their full capacity within less than 30 minutes have the potential to increase the uptake of electric vehicles. In April 2014, private-sector companies and scientific institutions teamed up for a large-scale project called SLAM (German acronym for "network of fast chargers for transport corridors and major cities"), whose aim it is to roll out fast chargers across Germany.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is providing almost €9 million for SLAM. The project covers all the relevant steps, starting from the development of operational and business models around fast chargers, to the drawing up of criteria for suitable sites, and the establishment of a trial network of fast chargers, which is used for research. The (initial) outcomes of this work are passed on to the SLAM partners as soon as they are available. This is important to ensure that this data can be used to determine the best-possible sites for fast chargers and to optimise the way in which they are being operated.

Electric drivelines - efficient and quiet at zero local emissions

The driveline is the heart of any motor vehicle. Making the move towards electric drivelines opens up new potential for motorised transport. Electric vehicles can be a game-changer - for instance, they offer individual mobility that is both more efficient and environmentally-friendlier than using a traditional car or two-wheeler would be. Buses and light commercial vehicles with an electric driveline can help bring down air pollutant emissions and noise levels in cities. The goals and targets the German Government has set itself in its electric mobility programme of May 2011 are very ambitious. They will only be achieved if major efforts are made to spur innovation in technology. This is why on 13 October 2011 the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs launched the "ATEM" initiative (German acronym for "drive technologies for electric mobility"), under which it has been providing funding for the development of next-generation electric and hybrid vehicles, which will be more advantageous in terms of their energy use and economic viability. There is a strong focus on collaborative projects that aim at improving electric vehicles in terms of their efficiency, performance, driving dynamics, and safety.

Since 2012, annual calls for funding applications have been made; the total funding for ongoing research and development projects stands at €19.2 million. These are generally collaborative projects lasting three years, involving applied research and including a technical demonstration of the results. At present, commercial firms receive about 55% of the funding, but cover roughly three-quarters of the overall costs of the project. Within this group, a fifth of beneficiaries are small and medium-sized enterprises. A strong involvement of research partners (mainly higher education institutions, approx. 45% of the funding) fosters the need for cooperation and the transfer of expertise; this is of considerable significance for the overarching and interdisciplinary theme of electric traction.

By way of example, two projects are briefly presented here:

BEREIT - Bezahlbare Elektrische Reichweite durch Modularität (Affordable electrical range via modularity):

In addition to battery-driven cars for urban journeys, plug-in hybrids are available for longer routes by using internal combustion engines alongside batteries. However, the user is still faced with the problem of the higher costs, because at present conventional drivelines have to be supplemented with specific, and thus expensive, electrical components. In the industry-based collaborative project entitled “BEREIT - affordable electrical range via modularity”, six project partners are focusing on the development and technological implementation of a low-cost, scalable and modular driveline for a plug-in hybrid vehicle. In the period from January 2013 to December 2015, the suitability and efficiency of the concept will be demonstrated by two prototype vehicles.

MEHREN - Multimotor Elektrofahrzeug mit Höchster Raum- und Energieeffizienz und kompromissloser Fahrsicherheit (Multi-engine electric vehicle with maximum space and energy efficiency and uncompromising driving safety):

The MEHREN project (Multi-engine electric vehicle with maximum space and energy efficiency and uncompromising driving safety) is realising the potential for gearless, highly integrated wheel hub drives for practice use in urban vehicles via a concept study and in different technologies. This aims to make optimal use of limited space for transport in urban areas and uses innovative vehicle dynamics control to enhance safety. At the same time, such vehicles can reduce local emissions and noise and thus contribute to a higher quality of life.

In the 2014 budget year, approx. €16 million for new project approvals was available in the Energy and Climate Fund in the context of the second continuation of “ATEM - drive technologies for electric mobility”.

Further information (in German) about projects assisted in this context can be found on the website of the project manager in the German Aerospace Center commissioned by the Economic Affairs Ministry:
www.pt-em.de
under the heading Themenschwerpunkte, "ATEM"

Battery research

Batteries are the key component when it comes to electric drivelines. For batteries to be suitable for widespread mobile use, they need to become more powerful and durable, safer, and more cost-effective. At the same time, batteries can also play a part in helping to integrate renewables in our overall energy system.

Because of this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has picked up on the issue of "the electricity sector and key enabling elements for electric mobility". The Energy Research Programme brings together the relevant activities on energy storage and grids. The idea behind the programme is to improve the performance and reliability of batteries by using better-suited materials and more advanced manufacturing methods. This will make batteries a fully-integrated component in vehicles' energy management and thus well-suited for mobile applications. Ultimately, this will give allow electric vehicles that are made in Germany to travel longer on a single battery charge as well as to stay safe even if the battery is being recharged many times.

Information and communication technologies for electric mobility II

Electric cars are always online

Under its "information and communications technologies (ICT) for electric mobility II" programme, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding for comprehensive concepts and technologies that use ICT to bring together new vehicle technologies for smart electric cars, smart grids, and smart traffic.

Electric cars are being integrated in a networked transport system. The aim here is to use ICT to achieve the best possible flow of traffic and to make sure that electric cars reach their destination in an energy-efficient way (smart traffic).

In addition to this, the programme also seeks to integrate electric vehicles in the grid (smart traffic). More specifically, this means that electric vehicles are to be charged in a way that contributes to grid stability and makes use of the full potential offered by renewable energy. As part of this work, concepts and services are being drawn up and tested to allow for vehicles to be charged in a controlled way, for electricity stored within electric vehicles to be fed back into the grid, and for e-vehicles to work in concert with smart homes and generation facilities (wind power, photovoltaics and CHP power generators).

The networking of the electric vehicle with energy and transport systems imposes new demands on a vehicle’s architecture. One priority of the funding programme is therefore to develop modular software-based ICT architectures which permit secure and reliable communication with their environment.

The programme has helped make it possible to design and develop smart charging infrastructure and gradually to bring it to market maturity.

  • The development and application of uniform identification numbers for electric mobility providers and infrastructure operators:
    Such an ID numbering system is a prerequisite for the establishment of a functioning roaming system which permits the customers to purchase and pay for electricity at every public charging station irrespective of who operates the station. The ID numbers have been issued on application since March 2013 by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries and form the basis for the business models of leading market players like ladenetz.de and HUBJECT.
  • Development of an open roaming platform for electric mobility (e-clearing.net): e-clearing.net has emerged from the Economic Affairs Ministry’s flagship project entitled “econnect Germany”. The platform permits the participating market partners to exchange data on authentication, billing-related data, and live information about the charging stations.
  • Participation in the drafting of an internationally applicable communication standard on the basis of an ISO/IEC standard 15118 between the e-vehicle and the charging station via the Economic Affairs Ministry’s research project entitled “iZeus”.

The largest research and development project in the context of the Economic Affairs Ministry’s “ICT for electric mobility II”, “econnect Germany”, was successfully completed at the end of January 2015. Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, presented the research association’s findings on 5 February 2015.

Expert platform on electric mobility

Electric mobility keeps presenting challenges that are entirely new, even to experts. Researchers and developers need to keep up with the latest developments in various fields, including some that they had previously little to do with. Decision-makers within the industry need to be kept informed about changes in the legal environment and about international standards. Policy-makers and the public administration need to have insights into the latest technical developments if they are to make informed decisions about what requirements are needed for new infrastructure.

For all these reasons, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has launched WISSMER, a project whose aim it is to develop a database for experts on electric mobility, which will foster networking and the transfer of expertise. This web-based expert platform on electric mobility (only in german) gives its users direct access to the latest publications on electric mobility (journals, conferences, research reports, standards) and everything that has a bearing on electric mobility. To date, more than 1 million publications are available via the platform.

The idea behind this platform is to make the latest scientific findings available to small and medium-sized businesses, in particular. The database uses semantic search methods, which also allows for searches to be made in a new, intuitive way. This makes it easier for users to navigate the huge amount of publications on electric mobility and find the information that is useful to them. Thanks to the use of word clouds, for instance, search queries do not have to be phrased in a specific way to provide the user with instant access to verified information.
These innovative technologies are being developed by the Institute of the Society for the Promotion of Applied Information Sciences, which is based at the University of the Saarland.

WTI Frankfurt eG, IAI e. V. Saarbrücken and ecomotive media GmbH, a company based in Munich, are also partners in the project.

SMEs in the industrial sector

In recent years, SMEs have drastically stepped up their efforts on electric mobility and have been developing technology solutions to the challenges it presents. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has deployed a "Central Innovation Programme for SMEs" to foster innovation and competitiveness within German SMEs - including in the area of electric mobility.

Funding is also available for the development of electric mobility in the context of collaborative industrial research. Its network brings together researchers and small and medium-sized firms in particular. They work together on the key components of the electrical driveline, novel charging electronics, and the development of novel materials.

The "Germany Trade and Invest GmbH (GTAI)" federal enterprise provides information on opportunities on foreign markets for electric mobility. The foreign trade fair programme launched by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy gives companies better opportunities to present their concepts for electric mobility outside Germany.