Back in late October it was all over the media; the jubilation was huge. A German retrofitted Audi A2 equipped with new high-tech batteries was driven 605 km from Munich to Berlin on a single charge with an average speed close to 90 kilometres per hour, read here. It was a new record. The Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, even welcomed the electric car at the Brandenburg Gate – a national landmark. The symbolism could not have been more poignant.
Driver Mirko Hannemann even joked that there was still enough power left to charge the iPhones of the reporters, who had flocked behind the car in a media spectacle along the route. The record-setting trip represented the breakthrough that would herald in a new age of environmentally friendly mobility, and it became a symbol of German engineering prowess.
The 605 km distance smashed all records. Typically an electric car can travel around 70 km on a single charge, and so the 600 km distance represented a quantum leap. Electric mobility was no longer just a utopian dream. It was now reality.
According to the German Information Centre Pretoria:
In Japan, a battery-powered car has run 1,000 kilometres on one charge. That May feat was the work of Japan Electric Vehicle Club. The German engineers said their car was special because the battery was not installed inside the luggage area, but under the luggage area, meaning the full interior space of the car was still available.
German Economic Minister Reinhard Bruderle made sure to be photographed sitting in the car, indulging in its success.
According to the manufacturer of the batteries and electric motors, DBM Energy, the car has a lithium-metal-polymer battery and can function for 500,000 kilometres.
Hannemann, 27, the chief of DBM energy, said 50 experts spent six weeks adapting and tuning up the car for the run.
It was the long awaited feat needed to launch the German government’s ambitious goal of having five million electric cars on its streets by 2030, and by 2050 most urban transport would do without fossil fuels. Germany was on its way to becoming a world leading climate hero.
Is it all just a fraud?
Yesterday leading German newspaper DIE ZEIT wrote a report titled Dubious Record, raising serious questions about claims made by the heavily subsidized manufacturer. What has really raised eyebrows in particular are DMB’s claims that, as DIE ZEIT writes:
Its battery technology is ready for series production and is already affordable in niche markets, like forklifts. It allows 2000 charging cycles and 500,000 km of travel in an automobile. And that with unprecedented reliability. Even shooting through the batteries with live ammo neither led to a fire nor the release of poisonous gases. The wonder rechargeable battery “was able to maintain a constant power output”.
Those are awfully impressive claims. This led DIE ZEIT to ask: If that is so, then why all the future billions for further development? DIE ZEIT:
If that were the case, the auto industry would be at the start of a technological revolution, the military would have to convert over to this new munition-proof energy source. DBM managing director Mirko Hannemann has already received a top offer for its technology from Samsung for € 600 million – and turned it down. Why?
Independent testing refused
Die Zeit points out that when you’re playing with such high stakes, eventually you have to show your hand and become transparent. Potential investors want to see what’s really behind the mainly tax-payer financed record-setting Munich to Berlin trip. DIE ZEIT probes deeper:
Hannemann drove the car alone while journalists had to tag along behind.”
And in order for the 600 km trip to be recognised as an official record, it was supposed to be certified by a notary public. And the manufacturer refuses to subject the technology to independent testing. DIE ZEIT:
An invited notary public never showed up. German automobile club ADAC offered to test the super-car and its potent batteries, yet the company declined. Concerning an offer to organise an independent test, no reply came to DIE ZEIT by the press deadline. That’s not a good omen! The “breakthrough” in battery technology could very well turn into a PR disaster.”
Shall we call it electric-car gate? The “record”, which probably led to hundreds of millions more being approved for research, could very well turn out to have been just a hoax. If so – fooled again!
Update: hat-tip Dirk:
DBM technology “old and unsafe”. Financial Times Deutschland reports:
A packaging manufacturer had bought a DBM Energy battery for the forklift. Just two months later ‘incompatibility between the battery and the charging unit occurred,’ confirms Papstar-Logistik director Gregor Falke. 100 firemen were mobilized, 7 people had to be hospitalized.