Are electric drives the future – or do they have too much competition from fuel cells? Will our vehicles soon be fully autonomous – or will driver assist system continue to support people driving behind the wheel? Are air taxis the solution to an imminent traffic collapse – or are car-sharing models the shape of things to come? It is clear that the "future of mobility" is still far from certain, as revealed in the exciting discussion on this topic, to which several business divisions of the Berghof Group had invited jointly on July 9 as part of the "Chamber of Commerce Innovation Days 2019".
Hard to believe, but true: Berghof has been tackling the subject of fuel cells for more than half a century. In one of its first projects, the Berghof Research Laboratory, the nucleus of today's Berghof Group, developed a method on behalf of Bosch for manufacturing porous films for fuel cells. "As you can see: When it comes to exciting new technologies Berghof is often a real pioneer", is how Mark Böttger, Head of Communication and Marketing in the Berghof Group, sums up the transition from the past to the present when welcoming guests.
This typically rings true for the hot topic of autonomous driving too, which even today can be clearly defined in purely technical terms: To enable our vehicles to be driven by an autopilot from A to B in future, manufacturers need to equip them with systems allowing cars, vans or trucks to independently detect and respond to their environment and potential hazard sources.
And it is here where specialist expertise by a business division in the Berghof Group is called for – Berghof Testing. "Modern front bumpers are equipped with high-performance systems for recording the vehicle's surroundings – so-called radar and lidar systems. We develop and manufacture intelligent test systems that test all ultrasonic and radar sensors installed in the bumpers for fault-free functioning at the manufacturers before assembly in a vehicle", states Key Account Manager Thomas Roth, when explaining how Berghof Testing makes road transport safer and more comfortable.
Talking of safety: Another division of the Berghof Group, Berghof Fluoroplastics, has developed a pressure compensation membrane for large-volume high-voltage batteries in electric vehicles. This membrane compensates the fluctuating internal pressure of the closed housing, protects the batteries against penetration by water and enables controlled degassing in an emergency – so-called thermal runaway. "The unique characteristics of this membrane are its ability to burst at a defined overpressure so as to prevent a fatal chain reaction in the battery block", explains Gerd Schollenberger, an engineer specialized in complex plastic developments, who has already successfully implemented this membrane in diverse projects together with Berghof Fluoroplastics.
Many experts are predicting a chain reaction of the positive kind – especially when it comes to electromobility. As a result, Berghof is also expecting continued strong demand in another business division in the years ahead: Berghof Process Management with its HVSP systems for testing the function and safety of vehicle batteries directly in production. "These systems are distinguished not only by their modular design, this making subsequent extension easier when developing the production facilities – but also by their intelligent test software, this providing optimum values for test time and production rate", declares Peter Deckelmann, Technical Sales Manager at Berghof Automation GmbH.
Like many other experts, Hartmut Riegert, a CEO of REFU Elektronik, one of the leading providers of power electronics, also expects a real electromobility boom in the next few years. "I'm totally convinced electromobility is set to be the dominant topic in the future of mobility – simply because electric motors are much more efficient than any combustion engine. For me, the question is therefore: What area will electric drives not be used in?"
According to this thesis hotly discussed among relevant networks in the rooms of Berghof Testing, three young companies are ensuring further topics of conversation with their visions for a new form of mobility. Thus Intervall Beratung from Stuttgart and Smart Data Deutschland from Darmstadt are taking different approaches in examining how increasing digitalization will affect mobility of the future – while Troodle Mobility Solution from Reutlingen is hoping to make the provision and use of passenger options much more simple, convenient and ultimately popular with its app.
The concept behind the Innovation Days organized annually by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Reutlingen has worked out perfectly once again: When pioneers come together in one space, the best discussions and ideas are sure to result – and not seldom important partnerships between companies or persons.