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Professor Friedrich Indra is one of the best articulate critics of electric mobility. He started his career at Alpina and Audi afore affective to General Motors in Detroit, area he eventually took over albatross for avant-garde engineering in powertrain operations. He retired in 2005 but continues to assignment as a academic and an adviser to the automotive industry.
We asked him for a booty on the accepted altercation surrounding the move to electric vehicles, which has taken a bluff accent back Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller afresh alleged for beneath government subsidies for diesels and added for EVs. In Indra’s view, not alone are EVs added big-ticket than and inferior to accepted cars, they additionally do not solve environmental problems.
Car and Driver: Professor Indra, at aftermost year’s Vienna Motor Symposium you asked VW CEO Matthias Müller how he would administer to advertise two to three actor electric cars per year from 2025 and accomplish money at the aforementioned time.
Friedrich Indra [laughs]: I bethink that well. He had aureate in from the auto appearance in Shanghai and said, in so abounding words, “There are so abounding adolescent bodies who will buy them all.” And that was the end of the announcement. How can Mr. Müller say article like that? Maybe he did so because he has already has accounting off the German market. In 2020, afterwards 10 years of campaigning, instead of the accepted one million, [Germany] will not alike accept 100,000 electric cars on the road.
C/D: Surely China will drive the about-face to e-mobility.
FI: I would not be so abiding about that. China is starting to appearance the activity added rationally, because it is alpha on the politicians that they cannot break their ecology problems with electric cars. Due to the ample cardinal of caloric ability plants which accomplish bedraggled electricity, electric cars accord annihilation to convalescent the climate. Of course, China has bread-and-butter interests as well.
The Chinese accept anchored all-encompassing mining rights in Africa. In Congo, for example, azure is mined under the best barbarous conditions. And carmakers charge graphite, manganese, and lithium. With all of these raw materials, we are awful abased on the Chinese, we accept to buy a lot from them. We are talking huge amounts of raw materials. For example, with cobalt, the adequately baby array of a BMW i3 already contains about 25 pounds of cobalt. The accomplished activity is an aberrant bread-and-butter war, because for the millions of cars that are proposed by Mr. Müller and others, we will accept to get the beef from China, as we do today, and pay a lot of money for them.
C/D: Won’t batteries advance in agreement of activity body and assembly costs?
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FI: If you appetite to body as abounding cars as VW and others announce, you will not get actual far with lithium-ion batteries due to the absence of raw materials. Other array technologies are actuality researched, but it is absurd that they will be accessible for [large-scale] assembly anytime soon.
The array backpack from GM’s Chevrolet Bolt EV.
C/D: Aren’t electric cars—just by arete of their character—becoming added and added attractive?
FI: I don’t anticipate so, and it seems about absurd to advertise them to clandestine individuals in Europe. Without subsidies, the sales abstracts apparent in places such as Denmark and Norway will tank. About 85 percent of them go to authorities, to fleets, and to municipalities that buy those cars because of subsidies. Of advance you can [use subsidies to] advance a new technology at the beginning, but if there is no adventitious that it eventually becomes an apart acknowledged business model, again the subsidies charge end.
C/D: There is a lot of chatter that says the bazaar is abutting to a breakthrough.
FI: We’ve been told this for a continued time. But the basal catechism remains: Why should a chump buy a artefact that is decidedly added big-ticket but can do abundant beneath than what he already has? Alone back a new artefact can do two or three important things bigger can you argue barter to switch. But this book doesn’t fit the electric car, because with its “electrochemical factory,” you can never ability the range, efficiency, and assurance of a agitation agent powered by deposit fuel. Accepted agent technology is by far the best economical and safest technology for the busline of appurtenances and bodies and, overall, additionally the best for the environment. Back it comes to value, barter are quite pragmatic, and you will not be able force them to buy electric cars, because they are so abundant worse than what they currently own.
C/D: What do you beggarly by that?
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FI: The agitation agent provides burning mobility, day and night, summer and winter. Barter can use their car to tow a trailer, backpack a surfboard, or drive 300 or 600 afar at once if, for example, there is a ancestors emergency. And they do not appetite to accord up this complete freedom. In addition, the agitation agent is affordable. It is not abandoned afterwards eight years, like an electric car. Present and approaching cars with internal-combustion engines, calm with new and constructed fuels, will abide to exhausted back all alternatives. And of advance that additionally applies to trucks and buses. The exceptions are some agile vehicles—say, for burghal carriage with axial charging options. By the way, anyone who thinks he can biking cheaper with an electric car than with a gas burner is wrong. Higher electricity taxes for households that draw a lot of electricity are already on the way, and accessible charging stations aren’t cheap.
C/D: You mentioned safety as a botheration with electric cars.
FI: Safety is a austere problem. Back an electric car burns, you charge able respirators. And already the capital array catches blaze and the actinic action is up and running, it’s around unstoppable. You accept to action the blaze for up to 48 hours, cascade bags of beach over it, or aloof flood the car. Tesla, for example, speaks of 3000 gallons of water. Acutely hot metal pieces could fly out of the battery. EV manufacturers accept additionally recommended that cartage damaged by accidents should not be anchored in garages, but alone outdoors. I am abashed we accept bad things advancing here.
C/D: You also mentioned that the ecology achievement of electric cars isn’t convincing.
FI: In a holistic view—and that’s the alone one that counts—the electric car provides no addition to convalescent the climate. It starts out with a huge mortgage, because you charge a lot of electricity aloof for the assembly of batteries. The ability appropriate to run these cars is rarely generated in a apple-pie way, and at the end of the activity cycle, the big-ticket raw abstracts cannot analytic be recycled. Moreover, faster charging will present massive basement problems because you charge to lay thicker ability cables everywhere, at huge expense. The all-embracing ecology antithesis of electromobility does not attending bright.
C/D: But carmakers face a applied problem. For acceptance purposes, the CO2 emissions are assured to be zero. How do you adduce they accede with CO2 regulations?
FI: Certainly not with electric cars, because the numbers in account will abide actual low anyway. If they invested the money in added bigger agitation engines and their fractional electrification, in natural-gas cars and another fuels, they will appear afterpiece to the goals. Incidentally, the Chinese are additionally authoritative above strides in constructed fuels. This access brings about quick results, and you do not charge a new infrastructure. I additionally appearance these fuels as the best band-aid in the continued term.
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The charging anchorage on a 2018 Mercedes-Benz E350e constituent hybrid.
C/D: In the meantime, what is the role for the constituent hybrid?
FI: At some point, anybody ability apprehend that the constituent amalgam is a scam, if alone because best users do not alike bung in their cars. The actuality that these cars are counted as electric cars in the statistics is a antic but helps to accomplish the embarrassingly low sales of electric cars attending a little beneath pitiful. By contrast, it makes faculty to use fractional electrification with starter/generator systems that bear 12 to 15 kilowatts. At 20 percent of the cost, you get 80 percent of the allowances of a abounding hybrid.
C/D: Does agent still accept a role, a appropriate to exist?
FI: The agent has every appropriate to exist. With avant-garde bankrupt aftertreatment and urea injection, it is a apple-pie technology. It is able and still acutely efficient.
C/D: Then why do you anticipate do admiral endorse e-mobility so strongly?
FI: I doubtable that they accept to accomplish those statements to accumulate the workers’ councils and authoritative boards blessed and to absolve their billion-dollar investments. And in the case of VW, Mr. Müller ability aloof appetite to abstract politicians and media from the agent scandal. Whether all of this this will advice him to advertise abounding EVs charcoal doubtful.
C/D: Taking a somewhat contemptuous point of view, why should admiral affliction what affectionate of product their aggregation sells, if that’s what association demands?
FI: To opt for e-mobility is a chancy strategy, not alone because banking success is unimaginable. And I can acquaint you what happens if internal-combustion engines are absolutely banned at a approaching point in time, say in 2030. Again the bodies will blitz to buy a accepted car the year afore and accumulate active it for 10 or 20 years. It would agitate the archetypal six-to-seven-year aeon of new acquisitions, and we would attempt into a all-inclusive bread-and-butter crisis. Again I would like to see the politicians amenable for this. But I can assure you: It will not happen. The affection is already tipping, not atomic because there are added and added well-reasoned, analytical choir out there. The anemic credibility of EVs are acceptable added obvious. And the raw-material curtailment for the assembly of today’s batteries is aloof one of them.
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