Electric cars are put to the test

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FAU study helps make predictions about the future of electromobility

Electric cars could bring Germany one step closer to achieving the planned energy reform, but so far they have not managed to penetrate the market. Computer scientists at FAU are carrying out research into how to make the changeover on the roads successful. With the help of their partners from industry, they sent a small fleet of electric cars out onto the streets of the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region. The collaborative project e-NUE, part of the federal government’s initiative ‘Schaufenster Elektromobilität’ which focuses on electromobility, is now in its second phase.

Company fleets are considered to be a good place to start switching to electric cars. With this in mind, the Nuremberg-based company N-ERGIE Aktiengesellschaft added five Audi A1 e-tron concept cars to its vehicle fleet for one year. Employees drove the electric cars to meetings with customers and were also allowed to use them outside of work. Over the course of this year, FAU researchers collected huge amounts of data which provided information such as when and how long the cars were used for, how far they went, and how long they were charged for.

The researchers wanted to use this data to see how well electric cars stand up to the challenges of day-to-day use. For example, did the time taken to charge the cars – usually two to three hours to fully charge the battery – correspond to the length of the users’ external meetings? How many charging stations are needed to run the operation with maximum efficiency? Was the range extender – a small combustion engine which can extend the car’s range from 50 to 250 kilometres – used frequently? How have energy demands changed and how can costs be saved? How does this affect the carbon footprint?

This data is being fed into complex simulations created by researchers from the Chair of Computer Networks and Communication Systems. The models can already be used to make highly precise statements about how effectively electric cars can be used in company vehicle fleets. The data from the trials carried out at N-ERGIE was used to validate the simulations. The key topics investigated include range, energy requirements, emissions and charging infrastructure, as well as communication between cars and other elements of infrastructure.

In the second phase of the project, which will start in September, Audi AG will provide other companies in the Nuremberg area with a total of seven A3 e-tron vehicles, a plug-in hybrid model which is being launched this autumn. These vehicles will also be available to employees for professional and private use. In this phase of the project, the researchers want to record daily usage, electricity and fuel consumption, and charging behaviour.

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