There is a danger of Baden-Wuerttemberg falling behind in the field of electric mobility


The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzed the globally leading regions for electric mobility in the study “Elektromobilität weltweit: Baden-Württemberg im internationalen Vergleich“ (Electric mobility worldwide: Baden-Wuerttemberg in an international comparison) and compared them with each other. The study, compiled on behalf of the State Agency for Electric Mobility and Fuel Cell Technology Baden-Wuerttemberg e-mobil GmbH and the Cluster Electric Mobility South-West, paints a mixed picture: Baden-Wuerttemberg actually has the potential and prerequisites needed to be successful in developing, manufacturing and using electric vehicles – but internationally it only ranks in the middle at present. It will only succeed in catching up with the world’s leaders if far-reaching changes are initiated in the automotive industry without delay.

Baden-Wuerttemberg is currently one of the world’s leading car manufacturing regions, as underlined by the presence of premium car-makers like Daimler, Porsche and Audi. However, this leading position could change in the future if the automotive industry in Baden-Wuerttemberg does not adapt to far-reaching changes in the sector. Due to the finite nature of fossil fuels, growing environmental awareness and changes in mobility behavior, alternative electric, hybrid and fuel cell drives are becoming more important, as is electric mobility in general.

To find out how Baden-Wuerttemberg‘s automobile industry has to adapt long term to ensure its international place among the world leaders in the future, the Fraunhofer ISI conducted the study “Elektromobilität weltweit: Baden-Württemberg im internationalen Vergleich“. The strengths and weaknesses of this German state were elaborated based on comprehensive analyses of nine leading electric mobility regions such as California, Paris, Tokyo or Seoul plus a detailed analysis of Baden-Wuerttemberg itself. Building on the insights and findings gained here, the Fraunhofer ISI derived recommendations for action that show how the transition to sustainable mobility can succeed.  

Cornelius Moll, who worked on the study at the Fraunhofer ISI, points at the large differences between the individual regions: “Our results show that, at the moment, Baden-Wuerttemberg is neither a lead supplier of electric vehicles or technologies, nor a lead user. On the supply side, the leaders are the Japanese regions of Aichi and Tokyo and Seoul in South Korea“. Japan, for example, has set global technology standards for manufacturing electric and hybrid vehicles, while Seoul has proven expertise in developing and producing batteries. California, in contrast, is way ahead of the other regions in actually applying electric mobility as demonstrated by its well developed charging infrastructure and high numbers of new electric vehicle registrations.

Baden-Wuerttemberg is in danger of not being able to catch up with the above mentioned technology leaders if the state continues to focus on conventional vehicle technology. As Moll explains, the state has major weaknesses, especially concerning the research and production of battery and fuel cell technologies: “There are no manufacturing capacities in Baden-Wuerttemberg capable of mass producing lithium-ion battery cells. Given that especially these components have the biggest innovation potential and also promise the highest value added, these findings should be classified as extremely critical“. The “wait and see” behavior of many large companies in the automotive industry weakens the development of electric mobility in general. Technology development in a few “lighthouse companies” and limited cooperation with SMEs in developing key components could result in many SMEs being left behind internationally.

On the other hand, Baden-Wuerttemberg has well-established supplier and innovation networks in the automotive industry that also include excellent research institutions. A solid educational infrastructure as the source of skilled workers and the large car manufacturers’ proven expertise in system integration are other aspects that give the state a good basis for the technological transition to electric mobility. The researchers at the Fraunhofer ISI recommend that stakeholders in the state’s automotive industry should set up electric mobility innovation projects along value chains, integrate SMEs in research and innovation to a much greater extent, and improve the transfer of knowledge and technology between all the players involved such as SMEs, large companies and research institutions.

The activities launched by the Cluster Electric Mobility South-West to establish innovation networks are a positive example of what can be done. In addition, to safeguard Baden-Wuerttemberg’s position as an automobile producer, long-term strategies should be developed and international innovation projects should be initiated with technology leaders in other world regions to exploit learning potentials. Besides public research funding, considerable private sector investments are also needed to create the relevant production capacities in Baden-Wuerttemberg for new technologies like batteries and fuel cells. Only if these exist can a growing demand for electric vehicles be met in large series production. Otherwise there is the danger that Baden-Wuerttemberg will fall behind even further and could only make up the ground lost with great difficulty and at high cost.

The study (only available in German) “Elektromobilität weltweit: Baden-Württemberg im internationalen Vergleich“ can be at the project's website.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.