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“Raising Discussion to a New Level”

Innovative approaches and changing perspectives: the first Berlin Powertrain Symposium is setting new benchmark – November 30 and December 1, 2017 in Berlin

November 30 marks the start of IAV’s first Berlin Powertrain Symposium. The two-day event will be focusing on tomorrow’s fundamental issues – broken down into the focal aspects of “Demands and framework conditions”, “Overall powertrain system” and “Development process”. In the automotion interview, conference director Matthias Kratzsch, Executive Vice President for Powertrain Development, explains why the symposium will open up new perspectives for those attending.

Mr. Kratzsch, there’s no shortage of events for powertrain developers. So, why a new powertrain symposium?

Kratzsch: Simply because there’s no such event yet! It’s true, many conferences already center around drive systems – most of them, though, focus on internal combustion engines, transmissions and electric motors. We feel this is a very blinkered approach. In an age of hybridization and electric mobility, the powertrain must be viewed as a whole if we want to arrive at optimum solutions. Today, it’s no longer enough to define the combustion engine and transmission and then take the electric motor as the key component for optimizing the degree of powertrain electrification.

So, what should the approach be?

Kratzsch: The development process should begin by looking at all of the potential combinations of combustion engine, transmission and electric motor. This is, of course, an extremely complex matter, but it’s the only way we can develop concepts that exploit all of the technical options and reliably meet tomorrow’s demands with optimum solutions. Who says, for example, that driving dynamics must always come from the combustion engine? This can also be provided by an e-motor on a much broader scale than to date – with the consequence that we can significantly simplify combustion engine and transmission. This example alone shows that we must think along completely new lines for future drive systems. And this is precisely what IAV wants to encourage with the Berlin Powertrain Symposium. It’s about developing a new perspective and discussing new approaches.

How is the Berlin Powertrain Symposium structured?

Kratzsch: We have divided subject matter into three focal areas. The first one is devoted to the demands from policymakers and society which are changing more and more quickly. In many regions of the world today, decisions on new stipulations are often made at very short notice. For vehicle manufacturers, these often result in far-reaching decisions on new technologies which are sometimes still at the concept stage and then have to be developed to manufacturing readiness in a very short time. CO2emission and the airborne pollutants are the clear driving forces. This is why we have invited representatives of the government and from consultative institutions who will be providing us with a look at the years ahead. At the beginning of the symposium, speakers will be talking to us from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, the German Environment Agency and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. And a representative from innogy will be explaining how the power grid operators see electric mobility.

What will the second topic focus be addressing?

Kratzsch: This is about the overall drive system. Today, looking at all potential combinations of combustion engines, transmissions and emotors for a vehicle or even for an entire vehicle fleet gives us the choice of 20 to 100 million different possible combination. Are we all really aware of this immense complexity? Consequently, the key issues are: how can we find the most suitable powertrain for a vehicle in the light of this complexity? How do we assess the different target variables, such as CO2 emissions, consumption, mileages, weight or costs? How do we respond to the growing variety of models which could lead to lower volumes per segment – and, in turn, also come with implications for the choice of powertrain components? Incidentally, fuels and their production also have a significant influence on CO2emissions – whether synthetic fuel or hydrogen. We have top-class speakers for all of these aspects, among them experts from Volkswagen, Daimler, Bosch and Berlin University of Technology.

And the third focal topic?

Kratzsch: This will be taking a look at how we will arrive at tomorrow’s new powertrains – in other words, at the development processes themselves. This is a particularly fascinating area at the moment: On the one hand, drive systems and components are growing in complexity, making the layout and development process more complicated. On the other hand, we can make greater use of virtual development methods and simulations, and also draw on data from the field – which, in turn, can shorten development times. What will be the predominant effect? But that’s just one of today’s questions. Another question that concerns us is – with homologation taking longer in some parts of the world – what influence will this have on development? And how should development activities be spread across the globe? Might virtualization let us introduce completely new working and validation methods for our products? Besides BMW and Porsche, we have also invited speakers from Faraday Future and Hewlett Packard who will be presenting the perspective of an automotive newcomer and IT company. A further current trend will be addressed in the presentation that looks at artificial intelligence in powertrain development.

That’s a huge amount of information for conference participants. Will this leave any room for discussions?

Kratzsch: Mutual dialog is particularly important to us! This is why the first day will include six theme-based cafés that will give small groups of participants the opportunity to engage in deep discussion facilitated by the members of the advisory board. The aim here is not to reach consensus in all matters – it is far more important to provide an arena that enables all participants to air their opinions and leave them with new ideas, inspiration and impetus to go home with. I am confident there will be more than enough subject matter to discuss.

What else makes the Berlin Powertrain Symposium different?

Kratzsch: At the evening event, we are expecting Saxony’s Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich who, in his federal state, is actively driving forward new technology. In his keynote address, he will be focusing on policy demands on future mobility. Afterwards, participants will have the opportunity to discuss with him.

However, I would also like to draw particular attention to our high-profile advisory board. All of its members are senior executives from the automotive industry who make fundamental decisions in the field of powertrain development – this will guarantee the event’s thematic excellence. And finally, I am convinced we will raise discussion to a new level: we will be adding new members to the family of powertrain developers, opening up new perspectives for all of us.

Mr. Kratzsch, thank you for talking to us!