News – What`s happening in energy research

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After two years of design work: Professor Kampker wants to make the step from a foam model to a prototype in 2011.
© Winandy
Concept for mobile electricity storage

The centrepiece: The StreetScooter battery’s plastic enclosure makes it 30% lighter than lithium-ion cells with metal covers.

Aachen comparison: Electromobility is projected to cost 570 Euros per annum less than a car with a petrol engine.
© BINE Informationsdienst

Aachen aims to reinvent electromobility

Researchers from Aachen, Germany are developing a new type of electric vehicle, the StreetScooter, which is as affordable as it is environmentally-friendly. In close cooperation with 20 medium-sized industrial companies and 15 research institutions, a concept was developed comprising innovative production methods and new battery management and financing systems. The electric vehicle made in Aachen should cost around 5,000 Euros when series production begins after a short production run of 2,000 units.

Prof. Achim Kampker of the Production Management Faculty at Rheinisch Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen believes that this project will redefine electromobility. “On one hand, we intentionally involved medium-sized companies and qualified them for highly-complex development and production phases via collaboration in the consortium. On the other, we are processing what we learn in this project for the entire industry, i.e. it is also available to the major automobile manufacturers, who can benefit from it,” adds the Managing Director of StreetScooter GmbH. He believes that this will increase the overall competitiveness of Germany as a production location.

Professor Kampker is sure that “in future, integrated product and process planning will be the key to keeping Germany competitive.” Precisely this integrated approach had proven itself previously in the RWTH cluster of excellence “Production technology for high-wage countries”, and is now being transferred to the StreetScooter. “The freedom required can only be obtained by incorporating the subsequent manufacturing options into the product design,” explains Kampker. “Our new approach allows us to optimize the entire process, by reviewing the impact of each step on the following steps.” For this reason, 2,000 vehicles are to be built in the short production run to verify the project. Kampker views this as a unique feature of the approach in Aachen.

Saving costs, not expertise

The electric vehicles currently available on the market are generally retrofitted models designed for conventional combustion engines. The scientists from Aachen have taken a completely different route: the StreetScooter is a new vehicle, developed from the ground up. It is designed to be a reliable and safe car for urban use, which is both affordable and fun to drive.

The practical approach and the close cooperation with the industrial partners led to a number of innovative solutions. From the outset, all partners were mindful of the costs. The StreetScooter will have a modular battery system, which is installed in the base of the vehicle. The lithium-ion cells will be built by a medium-sized company from Lübeck, Germany. Customers can choose whether they want one, two or three batteries – giving them a range of 40, 80 or 120 kilometres. Thus, the costs can be adapted to consumers’ requirements, as most daily journeys are just about ten kilometres. Users need not worry about the service life of the battery or proper recycling, as the energy storage units are leased.

Users of the StreetScooter will not be asked to sacrifice comfort or safety either. The vehicle is equipped with two front airbags, ABS and ESP. With a battery voltage of 60 volts, there is no danger to emergency services in the event of an accident. Also, workshop service personnel do not require special training. Aachen’s municipal utility company is convinced of the StreetScooter’s usefulness as storage for peak load current and has provided a quarter of a million Euros to help fund the project.

The StreetScooter prototype was designed as a 3+1 seater, which also has space for a child seat. The modular system facilitates a future model range from a compact two-seater or convertible to a commercial vehicle. It is based on a frame made of steel profiles which can be extended relatively easily. As with these elements, the engineers use standard products wherever possible, some of which are adapted or slightly modified. That optimises costs. The same applies for building the car: the innovative product concept allows the StreetScooter to make do with 20 instead of the usual 100 assembly stations.


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