E-mobility for the Next Generation

Kempten, the city on the river Iller is located deep in the south of Germany, on the northern edge of the Alps in the spa and holiday region Allgäu. The Allgäu is notable for its beautiful landscapes. Besides tourism the building of machines is an important factor of economy. The capital of the region is its beautiful, unspoiled landscape which requires high demands on the preservation of the environment, making the incorporation of e-vehicles in the existing infrastructure an interesting topic. Nonetheless, long distances between villages and towns, extreme climatic conditions with cold winters and hot summers as well as a hilly topography are imposing challenging requirements on e-mobility.

Since 2009 the Kempten University of Applied Sciences localised in this exact region has gained extensive experiences in the field of e-mobility. The main topics of research are electrical power systems, data acquisition and telemetry, power consumption models of several vehicle types to predict the energy consumption of the planned tracks, based on the adaptive driver model. Investigations of use-cases including e.g. taxi services, driving schools and tourism provide data such as usage parameters e.g. route distance, energy consumption and charging energy. Apart from that, driver assistance programmes like an app for vehicle driving distances are developed. ECO-coaching for fleet operators is another topic of applied research at the university.

All these experiences were incorporated in ENEVATE2.0. With its participation in the project, the university continued its  studies. This time, the activities of the university focused on adolescents as a new, important target group. After all, they represent the potential future users of e-vehicles. The university investigated the attitude and affinity of young drivers concerning e-mobility and modern communication systems as well as their demands on e-vehicles. Additionally, their willingness and possibilities to organise mobility needs in a collaborative manner were analysed.

Independent mobility is of prime importance for young people, but is a challenge in the rural Allgäu. Due to the low population density it is not possible to operate a quality public transport system in an economically manner in the region. The declining supply entails a declining demand and a growing interest in the property of an own vehicle. Especially residents of outlying areas or villages increasingly rely on their vehicle to stay flexible. Young drivers, however, cannot always afford an own car to become mobile beyond a timetable and bus route, what turns car sharing into an interesting option.

To reach a large part of the target group, the Kempten University of Applied Sciences collaborated with the local ADAC, the largest automobile club in Europe, and driving schools as well as with “Fach-” and “Berufsoberschulen”, vocationally-orientated upper secondary schools. In all cases, young drivers were brought closer to e-mobility and given the opportunity to experience the technology themselves.

Concerning the ADAC, e-vehicles were integrated in the safe driving training to offer young drivers the opportunity to get in touch with e-mobility and to compare electric to conventional vehicles. Additionally, trained instructors informed about the topic e-mobility during the training.

The feedback of the participants after the training was absolutely positive. 50% of them already had a positive attitude towards e-mobility before the training, the other part changed its attitude in a positive way after having experienced an e-vehicle. The young drivers were particularly impressed by the quietness, the acceleration and also the riding comfort of the vehicle. During the training, existing concerns about the restricted range of e-vehicles were discussed and vanished as the participants realised that they were able to satisfy their daily mobility needs with a fully charged car. The studies of the university regarding the organisation of mobility needs of young drivers did indicate the trend of adolescences hardly making use of the public transport system. Only one fifth of the participants traveled to school this way. More than half of the adolescents already owned a car and more than one third of them was engaged in car sharing.

Besides the participation in the safe driving training of the local ADAC, the university introduced an electric driver instruction vehicle to enable an early access of adolescents to e-mobility. The car was being shared by three local driving schools to guarantee a high occupation rate. The response of the adolescents to the e-vehicle was positive.
According to the instructors, the students were curious about the new technology and enjoyed the benefits of driving an e-vehicle. A great advantage that the instructors could perceive especially for students starting their training was that the standard automatic transmission in e-vehicles enabled the students to fully concentrate on the traffic what facilitated driving in a more anticipatory way. The excellent acceleration turned the vehicle even more attractive. Initial inhibitions of students concerning the vehicle diminished once they got more familiar with the car.

In the case of the vocationally-orientated upper secondary schools that participated in the project, different classes got the opportunity to autonomously organise a micro-car sharing. During the project, they coordinated the usage of an e-vehicle supplied by the university. Furthermore, the topic e-mobility was present in various lessons e.g. in physics
or energy and environmental engineering. Most students were already involved in a car sharing even before the project started. The organisation of the vehicle was generally characterised by the geographic proximity of the participants and organised spontaneously, without long lead times. The students applied a rotation and car sharing system in which the driver regularly changed. During the project, the organisation continued this way. Arrangements regarding the e-vehicle usually occurred via internet based social networks or personally in school. The car was sought among the students and constantly in use during the whole time of the project. The exceptional design that was drawing attention, the excellent acceleration as well as the technology made a great impression on the adolescents. The students felt like ambassadors for e-mobility and were proud to be seen with the vehicle. A fully charged car was able to cover the students mobility needs. During longer stays they made it a custom to connect the vehicle to the nearest charging station. A comparative study including a new vehicle with combustion engine demonstrated that the e-vehicle was more popular. Apart from the new technology that was of interest, the possibility to charge the vehicle at school and all charging stations was  responsible for this outcome.

The study demonstrated that young drivers used the vehicle in a different manner than other target groups, e.g. they utilised the car at different times and more often so that there did not exist the possibility of a further usage. Another insight gained through the project was that the students were able to cover their mobility needs even without a personal vehicle as they were very flexible regarding time. When car sharing was an option, usually all their needs could be fulfilled. Initial concerns of the students in relation to the range of the e-vehicle vanished over time and with growing experience.

In total, the research demonstrated a distinct environmental consciousness as well as a great interest and enthusiasm in the technology among adolescents. Two third of the adolescents had already informed themselves
about e-mobility before the project, most of them during their free time. After the project, most of the students expressed the intention of buying an e-vehicle in the future. Car sharing is already quite popular among young people. Factors that would convince adolescents still not engaged in car sharing to join are other participants living nearby with similar destinies and timetables. Apart from that, cost saving would be another incentive for students to participate.