, 2017-10-10 18:26:25

Now reading: The mobility of the future

e-Golf: Power consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.7 (combined), CO₂ emissions in g/km: 0, efficiency class: A+

Smart City. Smart Mobility.


Text: Sonja Bördner  |  Photos: Knothfoto, Oliver Killig  |  August 2017

The Transparent Factory (Gläserne Manufaktur) in Dresden is the new centre of expertise for electromobility at Volkswagen. Together with the state capital of Saxony, the site is putting the mobility of the future on the roads of today.

It stands like a palace made of glass, surrounded by greenery. At first sight, the Transparent Factory does not look like a place where cars are being made. The grounds are open, and anyone can wander in from Dresden’s Großer Garten. The inhabitants of Dresden have also recently begun driving up here in their electric vehicles to recharge the batteries – free for at least a year.

The Transparent Factory is is the new center of clean mobility at Volkswagen. This is where the Group is blazing new trails, working with partners from the research and urban planning fields to get smart mobility out and onto our streets. Volkswagen now produces only vehicles with electric drive in Dresden. In April 2017, the first e-Golf rolled off the production line here where the premium saloon, the Phaeton, was being made up until 2016. Each and every day, 35 new vehicles are manufactured. In May, Volkswagen also opened a charging station with four individual charging points – the biggest and most powerful station in Saxony. Four electric vehicles can be charged simultaneously using solar power, sponsored by Volkswagen and generated locally. The quick charger takes up to 45 minutes – enough time for a walk through the park.

Clean solar power is available free of charge for at least a year at the new charging station outside the Transparent Factory.

Straight from the Transparent Factory onto the road: Rainer Jopp, Quality Assurance Expert, gives the first ever e-Golf made in Dresden the seal of approval.

“We actively want to help shape electric mobility in Dresden,” says Siegfried Fiebig, spokesperson for the Board of Management of Volkswagen Saxony. “The charging station is our practical and clean contribution to a functioning infrastructure – and therefore to more electric vehicles.” The partnership with the City of Dresden, first agreed in November 2016, is aiming to speed up this development. In close cooperation with regional research institutes, Volkswagen and the state capital are aiming to establish a model city for clean, sustainable and networked urban mobility. The Transparent Factory will be assuming a role in this as a “Centre of Future Mobility”, where innovative mobility concepts are developed and put to the test. Fresh ideas are being delivered by young entrepreneurs working in a brand-new start-up incubator, a model project which radiates appeal.


»We are proud that the e-Golf is made here in Dresden.«

Dresden – the German Federal Ministry of Transport’s official test area for automated and networked driving – has big dreams. To incentivise electromobility, the city intends to erect an additional 250 charging points by 2025, and set up more than 70 central transport nodes for commuters changing their mode of transport – which are known as intermodal mobility points. These are places where anyone can switch to the vehicle that they need at that moment – from an e-bike to car sharing, or even local public transport. To steer the individual flows of traffic intelligently, Volkswagen has now linked its brand-new UMA app to data from Dresden’s state-of-the-art traffic control centre. Volkswagen will also be contributing to electrifying the city’s pool of vehicles with a fleet of e-Golfs. And not just that: “We are proud that the e-Golf is being built right here,” says Uwe Richter, the Head of the Smart City department at Dresden’s Economic Development Office. “So it’s natural that we want to see it on our roads.”

Volkswagen and e-mobility.

Volkswagen democratised mobility 80 years ago when it launched the Beetle, with the Golf being the next milestone in 1974. The radical change we are about to experience is a new but similarly far-reaching challenge. New technologies, digitalisation, connectivity and the demand for sustainability will change individual mobility from the ground up – and e-mobility will be playing a decisive role.

Intensive research into alternative drive technologies began at Volkswagen as long ago as the early 1970s. Today, the brand has an up-to-date range of partly or fully battery-driven vehicles that cater to different requirements:

the new e-Golf with a range of 300 kilometres (NEDC) as the electric version of the most successful Volkswagen vehicles ever, the e-up! primarily as a city runabout, and the two plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Golf GTE and Passat GTE.

The products that Volkswagen has to offer will be complemented by a range of e-services and after-sales options – from the Charge&Fuel card for easy payment at the charging station, to car rentals for e-customers. Visit Volkswagen online for an overview of the full range of products and services.


Electromobility made in Dresden.

Light streams onto the parquet floor through the glass facades. Golf vehicle bodies in different colours hang from the ceiling. The huge bars of the electric overhead monorail have a firm grip on them, transporting them silently to a turntable. It is remarkably quiet for a car production facility. No compressed air, no welding, no hammering can be heard. “The vehicle bodies from Wolfsburg are given their inner life here,” says production manager Jens Schlender. “Almost 700 parts are installed in the e-Golf.” Almost none of this is audible either. Even in the test area on level 1, where the finished vehicles are taken to check the quality of the axles, brakes or the driver assistance systems, it’s very quiet. “The electric engines just don’t make any noise,” Schlender says.

Quiet, clean and safe is also the way the production employees work. They don’t need to do any heavy lifting; that’s done by two robots that used to help install windscreens and wheels in the Phaeton. The two lifting systems suspended from the ceiling are new, and used to position the cockpit in the vehicle and help with installing the doors.

The staff members control the technology using joysticks. “This means that screwing in the bolts has become manual work again,” says the head of production. Digitalisation has long since taken hold. The well-qualified employees train for the assembly process in detail on the screen. “The virtual training program functions like a computer game,” Schlender says. “Only when they achieve a specific level are they ready to work on a real vehicle.”

Electromobility, networked driving, innovative services – the topics of the future shape the self-perception of the Transparent Factory.

Volkswagen and its partners are helping to shape intelligent mobility.

A new interior for the vehicles – and a new image for the production site. As a centre of expertise for electromobility, the Transparent Factory has a lot to offer. It is open for anyone who wants to know how a car that runs on electricity functions. On a tour of the production facilities, visitors can learn close up how an e-Golf is made. In the future, VR headsets will add an additional visual dimension to the tour.    


»The market for mobility services is growing at a rapid pace.«

Going beyond the reality: visitors touring production are expected to soon be able to use VR headsets.

And yet the right vehicles are only part of the story. If you want to become the world’s leading provider of sustainable mobility, then you can’t just make do with the production of e-vehicles and driver assistance systems. “Cars and drivers will form more closely integrated networks and make use of services that are maybe inconceivable today,” says Siegfried Fiebig. The market for mobility services is growing at a highly rapid pace, with a growing pool of data being used to create more and more new services for users. These are, for example, being used to avoid traffic jams, to generate individual detours and to navigate electric vehicles to vacant parking spots and unoccupied charging stations – ideally, all in real time. “Volkswagen would like to play a decisive role in shaping the development of intelligent cities with intelligent solutions,” says Fiebig.

There are a lot of ideas about how to do this. Volkswagen has only just launched its UMA app, which uses swarm intelligence to evaluate flows of traffic in urban areas. All over the world, students are devising innovative software programs, and young researchers and entrepreneurs are founding start-ups. They focus on digital trends and develop solutions for analysing mobility profiles, intelligent car sharing or clean delivery operations. In this era of digitalisation, it’s not only the idea itself that matters, but also the speed of its implementation. “Products are evolving at a rapid pace. The technical capabilities that we are employing today didn’t exist in this form two years ago,” says Mark Riedl from sunhill technologies. This Erlangen-based company was until recently still a start-up, but has now become Germany’s market leader for mobile payment services in the mobility sector. Its TraviPay app, for example, allows users to purchase parking tickets in many cities while mobile, and the Charge&Fuel app allows cashless payments to be made at electric charging stations. Volkswagen Financial Services recently acquired sunhill technologies.

We are exploring the right new ideas.

“In the future, we’ll be driving cars differently to the way we do today.” Of this Martin Wesner from the car-sharing platform CarlundCarla.de is convinced. “The vehicle will increasingly become a means to an end.” This highly promising start-up is one of six to move into the Startup Incubator in the transparent office block in August. Working right at the heart of vehicle production operations, the young entrepreneurs program algorithms, test apps and build prototypes in the think tank, while on the factory floors next to them the e-Golf is being assembled.

It’s the perfect place to find inspiration. They have 200 days to develop their ideas to market maturity. The Volkswagen network of partners, customers and suppliers, along with in-house and external mentors, are by their side to help them. “We are thrilled by the immense innovative force of the young company founders,” says the plant manager at the Transparent Factory, Lars Dittert. “This program shows we have chosen the right path.” The practical test will follow in early 2018. “Then we’ll know which of the projects has found its wings.”

This is how new companies, new business ideas, new applications can be created – with the kind support of Volkswagen and the Smart City of Dresden.

The start-ups and their projects.

The start-ups at the Transparent Factory are experts in big data, and evaluate traffic data flows in the urban area. They are devising ways to expedite the expansion of charging stations and to make car sharing even more sustainable, or looking at how navigating to vacant parking spots might function and which clean solutions could allow heavy goods deliveries to be replaced in central city areas.

CarlundCarla.de from Dresden – corporate car sharing.

CarlundCarla.de are already doing business with their platform for the rental of commercial vehicles. Their new car sharing model also incorporates fleet management: different customers have different needs that can complement each other. This is a way to increase capacity utilisation. Their concept also makes provision to open it up to private users. If someone who rents a vehicle for business is on holiday, then this vehicle can be made accessible for everyone, just like it can at the weekend.

Geospin from Freiburg – geographical big data analyses.

This spin-off of the Smart City research group at the University of Freiburg evaluates user data and explains customer behaviour in relation to geographical data. By using processes such as deep learning and predictive analytics, Geospin creates prognoses for optimal locations for different business ideas. In Dresden, for example, Geospin intends to use navigation and movement profiles to identify optimal locations for charging stations and car sharing.

LoyalGo from Dortmund – charging stations with local advertising.

These young entrepreneurs intend to promote the expansion of charging stations for electric vehicles in cooperation with local retailers. To do this, they have developed the LoyalGo station with a screen – a digital poster financed by advertisements. Using the digital bonus system LOYEES, already established in Dortmund, local retailers can make special offers to customers. The entrepreneurs now want to introduce their LoyalGo stations to Dresden.

Smart City System from Nuremberg – parking spot navigation.

This start-up developed a sensor system that detects in real time the occupancy status of car parks and navigates vehicles to vacant parking spots. The system eases traffic congestion, because drivers no longer have to search for parking spots. The company’s idea is a logical supplement to the UMA app, which was launched by Volkswagen. The start-up staff are working in the Incubator on optimising their sensor system and getting it set up in Dresden. This will coincide with the digitalisation of parking facilities in the Saxon capital.

Tretbox from Berlin – three-wheel delivery bikes with electric drive.

The company that automotive designer Murat Günak has built up focuses on clean parcel delivery for the last kilometre within the city and in residential areas. Instead of diesel-fuelled transport vans, Tretbox intends to offer its modern electric bikes with exchangeable containers for the parcel logistics industry. Tretbox intends to build a prototype at the Transparent Factory. The start-up is also hoping for support with marketing the vehicle, which will also be able to drive autonomously in the future.

Ekoio from Leipzig – smart co-pilot IDA.

This start-up has developed a telematics solution that processes vehicle data on the basis of secure cloud technology. The intelligent driving assistant IDA is new for the private customer sector, used to help drivers when interacting with a smartphone without forcing them to actually hold it. IDA will allow telephone use to be reduced while driving, thereby helping to increase safety in road traffic. Ekoio plans to continue development of IDA in the Incubator.