Schaeffler's Schroeder thinks more urgency is needed to develop EV infrastructure.

Jochen Schroeder, heads up the new electric mobility division at German supplier group, Schaeffler. He talked to Laurin Paschek about the slow acceptance of EVs, the range of components his company offers, and the infrastructure challenges still faced by the EV industry.

Why did Schaeffler feel it was necessary to create a new, separate division for EV?The decision was based on the realization that electric mobility is picking up speed. The auto industry has been dealing with EV technology for years, but so far, we were talking about a niche business. That’s changing for two reasons. First, the various technologies had to be developed and they had to prove themselves so that more people would be willing to buy a hubrid or a full electric vehicle. Second, the public discussion about global warming and, in particular, about emissions in cities, has clearly intensified. It is politically clear that something needs to be done and this has resulted in new laws and regulations. Electric vehicles are not just driving emission-free, but they are also assessed as emitting zero grams per kilometer for the purpose of Europe's fleet-wide CO2 targets. Without higher levels of electrification, the CO2 targets for 2021 - and even more so for 2025 and beyond - cannot be achieved.

Which components and systems from your division are the main focus?We are looking at a broad range of solutions, from 48 volt hybrids to full and plug-in hybrids to pure electric vehicles. We are developing components and systems for all these concepts. Pure EVs may be a good solution for various use cases, but, for the foreseeable future, they will be facing some hurdles when it comes to longer journeys. That’s why there will be a lot of hybrid vehicles, which in day-to-day use don’t have any limitations. Automakers have a different approach to which electric powertrain components they develop themselves and which ones they want to buy from suppliers. That’s why we offer the entire range, from single components to complete e-motor powertrains, high-performance electronics and highly integrated gearboxes.  

What is the biggest obstacle in the way of greater acceptance of electric vehicles?The absence of a proper charging infrastructure as the biggest challenge for pure electric vehicles. That’s not such a big issue with plug-in hybrids, but drivers of pure EVs depend on a functioning infrastructure. There are two problems with this. First, many potential EV buyers still don’t have the opportunity to charge them near their homes, especially in urban areas, where EVs offer the biggest benefits. And second, charging times continue to be too long. In my opinion, even 15 minutes will, in the long run, not be acceptable to drivers of long distances. That’s because they have gotten used to acquire energy for a 500 kilometer stretch in five minutes.