Mr. Thomsen, in a utopian world, what would the topic of mobility look like for you in 30 years?
Mobility will be primarily CO2-neutral from the mid 21st century since the age of fossil fuels will have come to an end. Most mobility of people and goods will be performed with autonomous vehicles, aircraft, ships and in tunnels and partially evacuated tubes.
Recreational mobility, meaning for fun, rejuvenation and exercise, will still play an important role for people in 30 years.
What do you think could get in the way of this utopia?
The speed of technological progress as we are currently experiencing it could be slowed by political, social and demographic problems. But history shows that innovation is and will remain a formative part of our cultural history – and that it is deeply rooted in human nature.
Back to reality: What is your assessment of the current situation in Europe: Where is (urban) mobility positioned today and how will we be moving in 520 weeks, or in the future?
What trends are you currently observing in the automotive/bike industry and in procurement?
In all honesty, the current urban mobility is generally just chaos with enormous potential for improvement. The trend in large cities of increasing the charm, while decreasing the traffic, noise and pollution can be seen everywhere – with very different approaches and emphases. We are currently watching a race of good ideas, although the solutions can vary greatly depending on the region. Cars as we have known them for over 100 years are increasingly being pushed out of cities to make room for cyclists, pedestrians or even small autonomous delivery drones that in future will quietly and discreetly take over many supply tasks.
Combustion engines are being replaced by electric motors and traffic volumes and congestion continue to grow. Traffic planners are facing serious challenges – especially in cities. In your opinion, does mobility still have four wheels in the future? Why? Why not?
Yes. Combustion engines are a thing of the past and will not be making a comeback (except for some classic cars that will stick around). The question of what mobility of the future looks like in cities, however, is not a matter of the shape of the vehicle or the number of wheels on it. Instead, the focus is on quiet, efficient and safe mobility solutions for people and goods.
Because these vary greatly, the range of vehicle categories will also be broadened accordingly. And don’t forget: Not everything has to happen on the road or the sidewalk: tunnels, tubes and the air are three-dimensional spaces that will massively impact our previous two-dimensional thinking. Every city will make more use of these options in the 2030s.
What do you think about electric motors as the drive of the future? What are the opportunities and risks of electric mobility?
Cobalt, lithium and graphite are needed for batteries. There is a discussion that cobalt will only be available for another 11 years at most. How do shortages of raw materials affect the prices? What will the battery of the future look like?
The electric motor will remain the motor type of choice for almost all vehicles in the coming decades: bikes, cars, airplanes, ships, robots. It is so much more efficient, low-maintenance, reliable than the combustion engine. The storage of energy in batteries or in the form of hydrogen is a major change and challenge, but absolutely feasible. The good news for us is that the materials required for a battery are abundantly available and easily recyclable. Many public debates about this topic are not necessarily based on facts. The percentage of cobalt in modern batteries is rapidly declining – many batteries, such as the very widely used LFP battery, don’t use any cobalt at all. But the high demand for these raw materials will inevitably affect prices in the coming years. From an energy efficient perspective, however, including battery manufacturing and recycling the battery-electric drive is currently unbeatable.
We heard that you also ride an S-Pedelec/ Stromer in your private life. How did you decide to purchase a Stromer and what do you use it for?
Yes, when the Stromer ST2 was introduced about 10 years ago I was just amazed by the technology and the technical data. It was the first e-bike with “over-the-air updates”, regenerative braking and an app. I had already bought my first Tesla Model S back then and thought that this e-bike was in the same innovative league. I still ride my bike today and even rode it on a tour from Lake Zurich to the North Sea – just on a whim. It worked out great and was so much fun. It’s a good alternative to my car for my daily trip along the Seestrasse from Stäfa to Zurich.
Mr Thomsen, thank you for talking with us.