We all know about the tremendous progress Tesla is making in the electric vehicle market, the work Renault-Nissan is doing to bring affordable electric vehicles to the masses, and the exciting BMW i program. However, there’s also a lot of work going on behind the scenes, in small startups, and at research institutes. In Germany, one organization is doing a massive amount of practical research and development in this field, and while it isn’t technically a secret, I think very few people (outside of Germany, especially) are aware of it.
Naturally, the organization I’m referring to is the research giant known as Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer writes: “More than 30 Fraunhofer institutes are involved in developing alternative transportation systems in a Fraunhofer lighthouse project »Electromobility II – Transfer«. The aim is to develop prototypes for hybrid and electric vehicles to support the German automotive industry as it makes its first inroads into electromobility. The German federal ministry of education and research (BMBF) is funding this project to the tune of 44 million euros from the federal economic stimulus programs I and II.”
Did you catch that? This work is being done to support the German automotive market (not Tesla, Renault-Nissan, GM, or Ford), and it is being done at over 30 of Fraunhofer’s institutes with €44 million from the federal government.
In the interest of advancing electric vehicle technology (or “electromobility” as they call it in Europe), I think this is excellent. However, it does also provide unique benefits to German auto companies. I think the US government, Japanese government, French government, and many other governments should look at how they could set up a similar program, making their countries’ automakers more competitive.
The lighthouse project will focus on these 4 topics: 1) vehicle design; 2) energy generation, distribution and conversion; 3) energy storage technology; 4) technical system integration
Notably, this project isn’t only focused on personal automobiles, but also electric buses, trucks, etc. You can learn more about the project here.
Image Credit: BMW