Electric Vehicles — A Thought Leader’s Perspective

By ANSYS Advantage Staff

Professor Burkhard Goeschel is the former CTO of Magna, a former member of the BMW Management Board, and the current head of the FIA Commission for Alternative Powertrain technologies. He has a passion for the automotive industry and motor sports. In a three-part interview series, he shares his views on the present and future of the automotive industry with Rob Harwood, ANSYS global industry director. This third part focuses on his insights into the technology and market for electric vehicles.

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Electric Vehicles

Professor Burkhard Goeschel

Rob Harwood: In addition to autonomy, another disruptive force in the automotive industry is electrification. Experts seem to be saying that the future of autonomous vehicles will be electric. Yet hybrid and electric vehicles have been around for a long time and have not really dominated the market. Why is that, and do you see that starting to change?

Burkhard Goeschel: Hybrid can be quite advantageous, especially if you have other benefits like driving in a special lane. However, the big step forward is a fully electric vehicle because it provides a lot of other advantages in addition to the power source. The package of the car is quite flat and open so it is easy to load, and does not contain many of the components of a traditional vehicle. There is an electric motor, a battery in the floor and a drive line from the motor and that’s it. Because of this, electric vehicles are easy to configure, even in ways unusual to us now. For example, a car could be designed so that passengers can walk in from the front and traverse to the rear. It is easy to handle. And, from a manufacturing standpoint, it can be produced in a totally different way from cars that exist today — it can be made on demand. This is the future of the industry, this simplification. Electrification changes the role of existing car manufacturers because the value they are currently able to produce is decreasing. Much of the value in cars today is coming from outside companies in high-tech. This is what car manufacturers are facing.

Car charging

"Charging requires an infrastructure, so most car manufacturers have collaborated to build up a new community to push a common charging system forward."

RH: After “dieselgate”, companies like Tesla are making electric vehicles sexy and with a high level of performance. Are we seeing the end of the internal combustion engine?

BG: It will still take time, but in the end IC engines will be mostly gone. As long as electric cars are sexy, they generate emotions and sales. It is always a question of how to capture the emotions of the customer. With an electric vehicle, you can make the performance of the car exciting and very emotional because there’s a lot of design freedom.

RH: You have been a pioneer of electric motor sport. Does that cascade down into the technologies that proliferate into regular electric vehicles?

BG: During our first four seasons racing in Formula E, there was a significant improvement in the efficiency of the electric motor, the management system of the powertrain, new inverter technology and the introduction of silicon carbide semiconductors that reduce losses by 70 percent. Battery changes are no longer allowed in Formula E racing, so each car must complete the whole race with one battery, which encourages battery development. So, yes, technologies developed in electric motor sport are incorporated into commercial electric vehicles.

RH: What do you see as being the biggest challenges to making the widespread adoption of electric vehicles a reality?

BG: It is the battery and charging system. Battery systems are developing, but charging requires an infrastructure, so most car manufacturers have collaborated to build up a new community to push a common charging system forward.

RH: If we were to look forward over the next 50 years to the end of the second full century of automobile production, what do you think is going to be the most exciting technological development in the industry?

BG: That is difficult to evaluate. Electrification will happen without any doubt. If the internal combustion engine almost disappears in the next 50 years, some gas cars will remain. In a real sports car, you want the feel of driving that will be lost with autonomous vehicles. To feel the excitement of driving and handling a car, I drove race cars. People want to feel this kind of excitement when driving, so driving will still exist.

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