Weeds & Seeds: Volks-wagen vs Street-scooter

Exit Volkswagen!

Volkswagen Tofino
Volkswagen AG, much like this van, is no longer fit for purpose. Photo by Sean Maynard 2009-08-04 at Tofino Botanical Gardens.

I was looking forward to driving (if not owning) an electric Volkswagen Buzz. This is no longer the case. I can no longer support the immorality of Volkswagen. Volkswagen AG is no longer fit for purpose.

First, there is the Dieselgate scandal involving 11 million cars that produced more NOx pollution than authorized, harming human health and killing thousands. Volkswagen’s actions were clearly immoral.

Second, Volkswagen lead experiments on 10 macaque monkeys to test the health impact of exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2014. Again, Volkswagen’s actions were clearly immoral.

Third, Volkswagen partially funded an automotive lobby group that tested the effects of NO2 exposure on 25 healthy young people. This was in 2015. For yet a third time, Volkswagen’s actions were immoral. At this revelation, I have reached my breaking point.

In Europe, Volkswagen is not paying fines, and executives do not seem to be going to prison. So, if government cannot be trusted to punish Volkswagen, at least to the extent of the damage it has deliberately caused, then consumers will have to take matters into their own hands.

Volkswagen will have to be boycotted for at least ten years. The start date for this ten years should be the last date when illegal/ immoral behaviour was revealed. At the moment this means a boycott at least until January 2028.

Volkswagen probably should have been dissolved as a company, and had its assets impounded.

Enter Streetscooter!

Consumers are not the only ones annoyed at Volkswagen, but for different reasons, although perhaps both are grounded in Volkswagen’s arrogance. Much to the annoyance of Volkswagen, Deutsche Post has designed and built its own electric delivery van.

These vehicles allow Deutsche Post to meet demand for e-commerce deliveries without adding to air pollution in German cities. They also replace conventional Volkswagen vans.

Deutsche Post became a manufacturer when conventional vehicle makers turned down requests to build electric delivery vans, in limited numbers by automotive sales standards.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller is quoted as saying, “I am annoyed beyond measure. I, of course, ask myself why Post did not talk to our VW Commercial vehicles division about doing something similar.” Unfortunately, that comment misses the truth, Volkswagen were asked, but declined.

Deutsche Post bought electric-vehicle manufacturer StreetScooter in 2014, where they use over 5 000 vans and 2 200 bicycles (and tricycles).  The goal is to operate only battery-powered models. In addition StreetScooter is about to sell products to third parties, like bakeries and airports.

Advances in CAM allow almost anyone to use potential parts suppliers to design, engineer and test new vehicle concepts. There is no need for a large staff of engineers, or invests in tooling and factories. This transition by first undertaken by brand name automotive companies to keep their own costs down after the global financial crisis, starting ten years ago in 2008. They farmed out research and development relating to parts and sub-assemblies. Thus, it is not the brand names that own technical and engineering expertise, but increasingly a network of suppliers. In 2018, these produce components that constitute 80 percent of a vehicle. This contrasts with about 56 percent 30 years earlier. This is a perfect situation for new entrants, such as Google and Streetscooter.

Win Neidlinger, director of business development at Streetscooter GmbH, told Reuters, “We are purposely not reinventing the wheel. We do not produce a single component ourselves. Everything comes from a supplier.”

Parametric Technology Corporation is a bit difficult to say, so it is a good thing that they have changed their name to PTC. Windchill software, made by PTC, costs 300 to 1,000 euros per user per year. It is used by 90 percent of the top 50 automotive companies. It is also used by Streetscooter to communicate with a network of 80 suppliers.

Software systems are becoming more accessible, because automakers, after spending years and millions to customize in-house development programs, have begun switching to standard systems. This is necessary to access their network of suppliers. Open architecture, interfaces and standards have all become part of an industry launched code of conduct for product lifecycle management.

Deutsche Post knew that with increasing e-commerce orders, increased inner city delivery trips would mean increased pollution, unless it switched to zero-emission vehicles.

Electric vehicles are simpler in design than internal combustion engine cars require only 10% of production staff during assembly. This dramatically lowers production costs. Neidlinger adds, “We designed it as a tool. So the fit and finish does not need to be as good as in a passenger car.” The vans are designed to last 16 years, operate six days a week, for 10 hours at a time. Some components need to be particularly robust. Doors are expected to be opened and closed 200 times a day.

The StreetScooter Work introduced in 2015 is equipped with 20.6 kW /h lithium-ion battery packs and is powered by asynchronous electric motors, The peak/continuous output is stated as 48 /38 kW and 130 Nm of torque. The range is said to be 118 km (NEFZ) or 80 km (Deutsche Post approved), but this depends on the load weight, traffic and environmental conditions. This distance is possibly adequate in inner cities, but little short for use in rural areas. Charging to 80 percent takes 4.5 hours, a full charge takes 7 hours, using a Schuko socket with 230 V and 16 A maximum. The load capacity is 710 kg. Internal cargo volume is 4.3 cubic meters. The body structure is made of steel and the exterior panels are made of structural plastics. Its unladen weight is 1 420 kg, with a total weight of 2 130 kg. It is fitted with ABS brakes and has a driver’s airbag. Dimensions L/B/H of the pickup version in mm are: 4 649 / 1 805 / 1 840. Deutsche Post board member Juergen Gerdes told Reuters, “It did not cost billions to develop and produce. You will not believe how cheap it is to make.”

streetscooter work pickup
With a vehicle like this Streetscooter Work pickup, I could enter the world of real men, but in an environmentally more sustainable way. Of course, real sustainable people don’t buy vehicles. This vehicle is in my preferred colour. (Photo: http://www.spijkstaal.nl/)

Compared to a Volkswagen Caddy that this vehicle replaces, there is an environmental saving of 3 tons of CO2 per year. With electric motors the total cost of ownership is no more expensive than an equivalent ICE van.

In September 2016, Deutsche Post presented a larger version, designated StreetScooter Work L, which has 8 cubic meters of space to carry up to 150 parcels weighing a total of 1,000 kg.

Enter Ford!

In July 2017 serial production started in Aachen for Work XL, based on a Ford Transit. Batteries are modular, between 30 and 90 kWh, given a range of between 80 and 200 kilometers. The charging time is around three hours at 22 kWh. Plans are to produce 2 500 electric vehicles. This would save 12 500 tonnes of CO² and 4.75 million liters of diesel. The Work XL has 20 cubic meters of cargo space for over 200 parcels.

The production of these vehicles makes Deutsche Post and Ford the largest producer of battery electric medium-heavy delivery vehicles in Europe. “I regard this partnership as a further important impetus for electric mobility in Germany,” says Jürgen Gerdes. “The move underscores Deutsche Post’s innovation leadership, it will relieve the inner cities and improve people’s quality of life, and we will continue to work on completely CO2-neutral logistics!”

Ford is probably the best placed company to work with Deutsche Post. First, the Work does not threaten Ford’s F-series of light and medium duty vehicles, which are the best selling models in both the United States and Canada. It doesn’t threaten the Ranger series either, although if the Work proves successful, there could be lost sales, here. Second, an electric Work would supplement Ford’s offerings, and attract new, electric oriented buyers.

Third, delivery vehicles are especially important for their signal effect. These are seen by the public daily. There are five positive characteristics that the Work can signal: a) range confidence; b) low operating costs; c) durability; d) operator safety; and e) environmental suitability.

I will end this post with an appeal to any readers who have connections with Ford. If Ford wants someone to evaluate the suitability of a Work in Scandinavia I would happily volunteer, especially if I could get the vehicle at reduced price. Yes, there should be seating for three, with each given appropriate airbags. Yes, it should be able to pull a 1 200 kg trailer.

Notes:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/04/volkswagen-shocking-behaviour-punish-consumers-must-punish-it

http://europe.autonews.com/article/20180117/ANE/180119731/ford-ready-to-help-electric-mail-vans-go-global

https://www.streetscooter.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/STSC_Datenblatt_GB_WORK_Pickup_92017.pdf

Weiss, Richard (24 March 2017), “Even Germany’s Post Office Is Building an Electric Car”. Bloomberg. “Even Germany’s Post Office Is Building an Electric Car. When Deutsche Post AG couldn’t find a zero-emission delivery van that met its needs, it bought a startup and developed one. Now Europe’s largest postal service may start selling those vehicles—dubbed StreetScooters—to others, showing the potential for disruption in the rapidly changing auto market.”

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