Dr. Elmar Degenhart

Electric drive systems are the future of vehicle propulsion. We are convinced of this.

Statements by the Chairman of the Executive Board Dr. Elmar Degenhart at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on April 27, 2018 regarding the topic electrification

Electric drive systems are the future of vehicle propulsion. We are convinced of this. But electric does not automatically mean clean. The ecobalance of electric mobility is not looking too good at the moment.

Breathing clean air thanks to Continental’s technologies © Continental AG

This starts with the extraction of raw materials. It moves on to the generation of electricity, and is similarly affected by the storage and distribution of electricity. And it continues right up to the recycling and disposal of batteries. All of which is not green enough.

Today, electric mobility’s contribution to climate protection is therefore relatively limited and will remain so for some years to come. The biggest hurdle is the battery. It is too big. It is too heavy. It is too weak. And, above all, it is too expensive. We do not anticipate there to be a competitive battery technology until after 2025.

In the future, we can imagine producing battery cells ourselves. Here, we have in mind batteries that use solid materials. This would require an attractive business model. We do not expect to make a decision on this until after 2020,

The market share of electric vehicles is increasing. But it is not growing as fast as many would like. I already mentioned the main reason. The drive systems with an acceptable range are still too expensive.

It’s being reported everywhere that our industry is producing more electric vehicles, but at prices that are not profitable today. This is not good business. This will not result in lasting success. The key question for policy makers is therefore: How sensible is it to attempt to push electric mobility quickly onto the market via regulation?

We did some calculations based on an extremely aggressive growth model that starts in 2020. It is possible, theoretically. But it is not very likely.

Electric-Vehicle market penetration of almost 75% of the vehicle population in 2050 (Scenario is based on estimates by Continental, estimated vehicle population) © Continental AG

Even under these highly dynamic conditions, we will have to wait until 2050 before we see nine out of ten vehicles roll off the production line with an all-electric drive system. If this were to happen by then, just three-quarters of all vehicles on the roads in 2050 would be all-electric. The other 25 percent would still be using combustion engines. In 32 years! That is still a long time away.

This leads to one clear and conclusive consequence. 

We will need various kinds of drive systems side-by-side well beyond 2030. By this I mean a combination of gasoline, diesel and natural gas. In addition, we need hybrid systems, all-electric vehicles and hydrogen.

This is why we are appealing to policy makers to set sensible exhaust-gas limits for effect climate protection. But let the industry choose the best technologies for this. Do not use regulation to force the use of solutions that are not economically viable.

After all, effective climate protection is not currently possible without combustion engines. Which is why we are making them even more efficient and even cleaner.

Examples of our clean-air technologies © Continental AG

We can achieve this thanks in particular to: Our highly flexible, efficient fuel-injection system, our highly effective exhaust-gas aftertreatment technology and our hybrid systems.

The best example is our 48-volt system. We were the first to bring such a system to market. Its battery is now also part of our portfolio. The battery cells contain lithium ions. We get these cells from our Chinese partner CITC.

Modern diesel engines emit much less carbon dioxide than gasoline engines. That is why diesel engines are so essential for climate protection at this time.

However, some people in Germany now want to ban diesels from cities because of the engines’ nitrogen-oxide emissions. But there are many measures for keeping the air in cities clean in the long term that have faster impact.

Here are three examples:

  • Flowing traffic instead of congestion. Efficiently managing traffic reduces nitrogen-oxide emissions by up to 40 percent.
  • Retrofitting diesel buses to comply with Euro 6 standard. This reduces nitrogen-oxide emissions, at least 80 percent lower than the Euro 5 standard.
  • Smarter parking. Quicker and more efficient thanks to apps and software.

For all that, we supply the right solutions.

Please click here for the complete statement (PDF, 1.7 MB) of the Annual Shareholders' Meeting 2018.