The "Trabi" is about to undergo a revival: The cult-status car from Germany's former East could soon be returning to the streets in the form of a modern electric vehicle. A consortium of German manufacturers presented an initial concept car at the IAA motor show. Also on the scene: The experts from IAV. Huge press furor on September 15, 2009: A consortium of German companies presents a remake of the Trabant at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt. Whereas the design of the vehicle clearly hugs the shape of the original on the outside, the "Trabant nT" will be brimming with cutting-edge technology within. Instead of the sputtering two-stroke engine, the new Trabi is set to be driven by an e-motor. The targeted traveling range of 160 kilometers will permit journeys longer than merely round-town use – because on average Germans drive their cars no more than 50 kilometers a day at most.
Car That Is Cult and Likeable To Boot
Behind the project are model-vehicle makers Herpa from Dietenhofen in Bavaria, IndiKar Individual Karosseriebau GmbH based in Wilkau-Hasslau near Zwickau and automobile designer Nils Poschwatta. Their aim: To make the Trabant nT just as simple, robust, lightweight and practical as the original – yet at the same time also economical, innovative, unusual and blessed with a high "likeability factor". It all began three years ago when Herpa's Managing Director Klaus Schindler came up with the idea of a Trabi revival: The miniature model on a scale of 1:87 sold so well that the Herpa designers created a 1:10 model of a modernized Trabi, presenting it to the public at IAA 2007. With an altogether positive response, the "New Trabi" was born – bang on time for the original's 50th birthday. Searching for competent development partners, the initiators also struck lucky in Chemnitz: Udo Wehner, Senior Vice-President for Functions in the Vehicle Electronics business area at IAV, was excited by the project from the word go. "The new Trabant nT is all about driving fun coupled with environmental awareness and a focus on the bare essentials", Wehner says. "Plus the fact, more and more people in our highly complex world want technology that is rid of complication and easy to use – and this is what the Trabant nT is all about." And in any case, as one of Saxony's chief automotive service providers, it was a real honor for IAV to support this promising project on its doorstep too.
Lights From a One-Stop Shop
In addition to the electric drive and electrics/electronics, the experts from IAV were responsible for the Trabant nT's lighting concept in particular. "We started working with designer Nils Poschwatta in early 2009, recalls Christopher Wolf, Senior Vice-President Electrics/Packaging in IAV's Vehicle Electronics business area."It wasn't just a matter of getting the looks right but also of meeting all the prerequisites for obtaining approval later on." Once IAV's lighting experts had developed the components, the lighting prototypes were produced at various companies, with prototype control units from IAV being used to control them. The Trabant nT features a halogen lighting system that is complemented by modern LED technology for daytime running light and turn indicators. "That is state of the art in this vehicle category", Wolf says. "For cost reasons, we consciously dismissed other options, such as xenon light." Yet during the course of development, IAV's specialists could not help but forge new paths: Even in advance of the first prototype, they simulated light as seen through the eyes of driver and onlooker, optimizing it before producing the first 1:1 prototype. To assess prototype performance, actual luminance images were compared with simulated results. This provided the basis for quickly identifying and rectifying the causes of possible variations. But the scope of IAV's contribution to the lighting system is unusual too: "We took care of all the development work from the drawing board to the prototype – right through to the prototype acceptance stage", Wolf says. "Normally the design concept comes from a component supplier." IAV is not trying to compete with the established manufacturers – on the contrary, the company is setting out to use this project as a way of demonstrating its expertise as a competent judge in the field of lighting technology. With this in mind, the lighting experts will also be launching a road show to present the Trabant nT's entire lighting system at customers.
Lighting Experts at IAV
IAV has been operating a department dedicated to the subject of "Light and Vision" since July 2007. Its lighting experts provide the interface between OEMs and component suppliers: "It was our customers' wish to get support in developing components too – say in headlamps, taillights and interior illumination", Wolf adds. "This all starts by laying down the requirements on the component as well as prescribing the design and specification for the component supplier." The Light and Vision team also attends to making sure new components conform to approval requirements, i.e. meet all the pertinent standards. IAV's experts continue to stand by their clients with support and advice as neutral facilitators during the development process too. This is where IAV can always draw on its expertise in the entire vehicle. IAV is currently in the process of constructing a new, modern lighting shop at its Chemnitz operation. "We are turning a shop into a state that is neutral in effect on lighting, enabling us, for example, to provide a completely blacked-out environment", Wolf explains. "A new infrastructure is also being set up there for camera-based measurement techniques." In future it will be possible to measure the efficiency of lighting systems using digital cameras and evaluation software on a cost-effective and reproducible basis. This will then also provide the means in Chemnitz for investigating driver assistance systems with cameras and lighting assistance systems. "Initial measurements are already in progress, with the new facility set for completion in 2011", Wehner explains. For the time being, the presentation at IAA marks the end of IAV's involvement in the Trabant project. What lies ahead for the project's future now depends on the consortium – and on whether an investor can be found to take the vehicle forward to mass production. "Leaving the vision behind us – we are now starting the realization phase" says IndiKar Managing Director Ronald Gerschewski. "Our aim is to get the vehicle up to production level." All being well, the first all-electric Trabant nTs could be making their debut on our roads in 2012.