23 million people live in and move around Shanghai every day, one of the numerous Chinese cities with a population of over a million. Urban mobility in the Middle Kingdom follows its own rules and is increasingly setting trends. The Volkswagen Group is looking far into the future at its research laboratory in Shanghai, where it is driving forward the development of new technologies such as e-mobility.
To understand the challenges facing the mobility systems of the future, you have to see Shanghai at night from a skyscraper – the sea of lights extends to the horizon. Almost 100 million people live in the metropolitan area of the Yangtze Delta. “A region as dynamic as this is the ideal place to look for new trends and solutions”, is how Dr. Tobias Giebel comments on the impressive backdrop. The electrical engineer heads the VRC, or Volkswagen Research Lab China, in Shanghai.
RESEARCHING TOMORROW’S MOBILITY –
Dr. Zhang Bin (left) and Dr. Tobias Giebel at
Volkswagen’s Research Laboratory
The laboratory at the Tongji University campus has been part of Volkswagen’s global research network since 2006 – along with the research headquarters in Wolfsburg and the facilities in Palo Alto, California, and Tokyo. Giebel’s team works closely with the Group’s other research centers. Volkswagen’s joint ventures in China – Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Company and FAW Volkswagen Automotive Company in Changchun – are also important partners for the researchers. “We are working together with China’s top vehicle developers”, says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Head of Volkswagen Group Research in Wolfsburg. “China is an extremely dynamic market and is becoming increasingly important for Volkswagen. Having our own research team on the ground here is absolutely essential for a company like us.”
“One of the key focuses of our work is new drives”, explains Giebel. “But we also devote a lot of time to studying the behavior of Chinese customers to find out what they want from their cars in the future and what they think about certain new technologies”, adds his colleague Dr. Zhang Bin.
The state-of-the-art laboratories offer an insight into the everyday work of the two researchers. For example, lithium-ion batteries are charged and then discharged several hundred times in special chambers. Some tests have already been running for months. The aim is to assess the long-term efficiency of the batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles. “We are focusing on electrochemical processes as well as safety”, explains electrical engineer Wen Jiang. The high-performance batteries are manufactured in China. Volkswagen is working together with the producers to adapt these batteries to comply with the standards of the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA – German Association of the Automotive Industry).