Thomas Ulbrich is a man on a mission. This is underlined by the fact that he was brimming with energy while recently addressing the assembled mobility industry, media representatives and politicians at the Technical Congress of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) in Berlin, during which he spoke out in favor of a joint collaboration: “We are serious about our e-offensive. But we can’t do it all by ourselves, we have to work together.” Many – but not all – heads in audience nodded in approval. It was one of many days during which Ulbrich, the Board Member responsible for e-mobility at the Volkswagen brand, makes the case for a hand-in-hand collaboration that will foster the worldwide transformation to electromobility.
Mobility change is too great for one player
“We have already initiated the mobility change,” Ulbrich said in Berlin. “We must enable mass-produced electromobility in order to combat climate change. We also intend to achieve this through economies of scale in production.” This will mean: Group wide investing a total of €30 billion in e-mobility through 2022. By 2028, nearly 70 new all-electric vehicles will have been introduced to the market and a total of 22 million e-vehicles sold. But mobility change is too great a task for a single player to manage on its own – even if it's a major company like Volkswagen AG. This is why Ulbrich is turning to politics and industry to look for partners and supporters.
Putting trust in the German automotive industry
Oliver Wittke, Parliamentary State Secretary for the German minister of economics and energy, also spoke at the congress and expressed his agreement: “The automotive industry is facing monumental change.” But he added that people could put their trust in the strengths of the German automotive industry. No other industry is investing so heavily in research and development, Wittke noted. He added: “Lawmakers can create the regulatory framework, but the innovations have to come from the industry itself.” Wittke noted that the related support programs were being developed. But he said these programs had not been adapted to the latest climate protection goals thus far. To reach these goals, more must be done on behalf of the e-car, Wittke told the audience.
Quickly tackling existing barriers
Bernhard Mattes, the President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), stressed one other point: To be truly environmentally friendly and sustainable, e-cars must also use green power. And one other important aspect is: They need a well developed charging network to make these vehicles attractive to customers. Volkswagen AG is already active in both areas with IONITY and Elli. But it is still dependent on a partnership with industry and, of course, politicians. Therefore, renters and property owners must have the right to install a private wallbox at the parking place. Currently, this right does not exist. This and other barriers must be addressed quickly. “We need a master plan for e-mobility in Germany. Politicians, car manufacturers and energy companies must now pull together – also in the interests of Germany as a location for automobiles," demands Ulbrich. In the VDA this request is discussed quite controversially. There are clear advocates, but also opponents of focusing on the electric car. This is not unusual: With such a far-reaching system change, debates are almost normal.
Constructive discussions with Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
Before Ulbrich went onto the stage at the automotive association’s congress and reinforced his position with facts and figures, he met with representatives of Germany’s Greens party, or Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, in the Paul Löbe House of the German Parliament. He made the case for Volkswagen’s electric plans here as well and answered questions raised by the parliamentarians. The new generation of e-vehicles has not gone on sale yet. But Ulbrich made one clear point during the meeting: “Anyone who is familiar the industry understands one thing: It is a long-cyclical business. That means that we are now working intensely to reach our goals. And when I say that something will happen in 2025, then it will happen.” He then had to move on to talk to other industry and political partners.