Interview with Martin Roemheld
More models, more quick-charging stations, more services: according to Martin Roemheld, Head of E-Mobility Services at Volkswagen AG, 2021 will be the year of electric mobility. In the first part of the interview, the expert talks about promotional concepts, the acceptance of electric mobility and explains why he feels comfortable driving his ID.3 even long distances with low remaining battery capacity.
Mr Roemheld, only recently, the Federal Government decided to extend the environmental bonus for electric cars until 2025. What do you think: is this a step in the right direction or do we need other subsidy schemes?
Financial incentives like these play a key role in the current transformation phase. However, quickly developing the charging infrastructure and optimising the model portfolio is just as important. At the end of the day, it's all about inspiring customers to embrace the "e-car" product – convincing them that e-cars are convenient, are the basis for an entirely new form of mobility and are the better alternative in many cases.
Why are some customers – whether they be company car drivers or private individuals – still hesitant when it comes to electric mobility?
There are a number of reasons for this. I like to compare electric mobility to smartphones. If you had a Blackberry back in 2005, this probably attracted not only the attention of your friends but also one or two doubtful glances. In 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and eighteen months later smartphones were completely normal. As far as I'm concerned what happened in the mobile phone market in 2007 will happen in the car market in 2021. We'll see more and more e-cars – our neighbours, colleagues and friends will all have them. And the more experience people have of them, the more they accept and trust them. This is also reflected in the way many people deal with the battery capacity of their electric cars. Although their vehicles could easily travel another 300 kilometres, they often charge them again after just 50 kilometres. We need to give people the confidence to drive their electric cars until they have just ten or 15 kilometres' range remaining – as they would with a petrol or diesel car. We can only do this if they trust the infrastructure and get used to dealing with the new technology.
Before the pandemic, I travelled to Sweden with my four children over the weekend. We left on Friday and came back on Monday, covering a distance of over 2,000 kilometres. It was great in the ID.3. You could have a good chat with no engine noise and the children were able to relax and play in the back. It was a great experience in every way!
How do you personally deal with the technology?
I regularly drive my ID.3 (power consumption in kWh/100 km (NEDC): 15,4-13,5 (combined), combined CO₂-emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+) from Wolfsburg to Dresden to see my family. It's a classic long-distance trip – and I'm now used to driving the car when its remaining battery capacity is below half. There's a simple reason for this: if I charge my car at a charging station when it has 50 percent charge remaining, the energy flows into the battery more slowly than it would if I had just ten percent. So I prefer to charge my ID.3 at a quick-charging station when it's nearly empty – charging it to 50 percent takes just a few minutes compared to charging it from 50 to 100 percent which takes much longer. The IONITY charging stations along the route – along with those on other long-distance routes – are reliable and have never let me down.
What do you think about the countless different billing models? Many people who are new to electric cars could find it all a little daunting...
Of course, the market is still establishing itself at the moment. The comparison with smartphones applies here too. Providers started out with fixed prices per minute. Now there's a whole range of clearly structured tariffs which allow you to choose what is best for your individual requirements: do I want a high data volume or not, do I make lots of international calls or none at all... The IONITY quick-charging network which customers can use with the We Charge card or the Charge&Fuel Card, for example, already provides a tariff which offers very cheap kWh prices at quick-charging stations for a fixed monthly price. If company car users often charge their cars in public places this is of course ideal. We could even see complete flat rate models in the future. Once providers have better understood customers' usage profiles, there will be an even bigger range of tariffs to suit specific customers. Incidentally, we as a manufacturer are also taking steps to make registering at charging stations easier. At the moment, you need the WeCharge Card or the relevant smartphone app. In the future, we'll offer Plug & Charge. We're recording the registration data in a software certificate in our cars so that the vehicles can communicate independently with the charging station.
Let's look at a specific use case concerning fleet customers: a fleet manager would like to start using e-cars in their fleet. Who should they speak to?
The major customer advisers are always the first people to speak to. They are the interfaces to the Group-wide know-how surrounding electric mobility. This means not only the vehicles but also the entire charging infrastructure – an area that our green electricity subsidiary Elli has focused on for all our brands since 2018. As a fleet customer, you get everything from a single source – from charging stations at your company site to home wall boxes for user choosers with the option of separate billing. We offer advice tailored to all our customers. In 2021, Elli will also develop a bidirectional charging product. Once it becomes possible from a technical and organisational point of view to feed electricity from the vehicle back into the grid, this will open up entirely new possibilities for the company. The fleet which is charging in the company car park during the night and functions as an electricity storage system can then make an active contribution towards creating added value.
Mr Roemheld, thank you for this interesting chat. Of course, we've got one last question: which e-car from the Group is your favourite?
You're sure to have noticed during the interview that I'm a fan of the ID.3. The car, the feeling when you drive it, the complete ecosystem around it – everything is right. Personally, I love the Porsche Taycan too – and as a family man, I'm really looking forward to the series version of the ID.BUZZ. I'm sure it'll be a great success...
News on the topic
© Volkswagen AG