The students ask about the situation regarding the reserves of raw materials required for e-mobility, for instance “rare earths”. Conceding these as valid points, Winterkorn proceeds to explain that Volkswagen is currently investigating whether it is possible to abandon “rare earths” completely without reducing the energy efficiency of electric engines. “These are the kind of questions that we are faced with every day. Which is why we need the cream of engineers, physicists and chemists on board.”
FASCINATED BY THE OSCYLINDERSCOPE –
Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn at the “phaeno”
Science Center: “To be able to develop and
build good products, you need to understand
and master the fundamentals of science.”
The Volkswagen Group is meeting this need by hiring new talent extensively – in 2011 alone, it recruited more than 7,500 university graduates, over 3,000 of them in Germany. In addition to over 12,000 young vocational trainees, these boost a growing workforce that is already half a million strong. However, the Group chairman is not only concerned about his own employees and their families, but also suppliers and dealers: “Volkswagen is responsible for around ten million people who are directly or indirectly affected by our business decisions. We must always be aware of what this means.”
The second half of the two-hour lesson consists of a tour through the “phaeno” Science Center. The group lingers a little longer at the oscylinderscope – an interactive exhibit that renders physical vibrations visible. Winterkorn, too, is fascinated: “To be able to develop and build good products, you need to understand and master the fundamentals of science. This is something I say to every young developer starting out in our Company, and every time I meet a group of students.” Winterkorn, who has a doctorate in metallurgy, is a regular guest speaker at the universities of Budapest, Dresden and others with which Volkswagen and Audi have close ties.
The tour comes to an end at a Golf blue-e-motion parked in front of the entrance to the Science Center. “In 2013”, promises Winterkorn, “the first electric Volkswagen cars will enter series production”. Thanks to intensive research and higher production volumes, it is possible to cover the still-high costs of the storage batteries used. No sooner has the Chairman of the Board of Management opened the bonnet, he is asked by Robert, a student on the advanced physics course: “What do you think of the idea of fitting an additional small diesel engine that recharges the battery?” A delighted Winterkorn replies: “We call that a ‘range extender’ and it’s a concept we’re exploring in great depth at the moment.”
The 64-year-old Group chairman aims to set new standards with his innovative science lesson. “We need highly qualified young people who want to make a difference so that we can solve pressing questions about the future and safeguard the future of companies like Volkswagen. My aim is to show them that math, IT and science are fun – and offer exciting career prospects.” A message that well and truly hits its mark. Daniel, who is still undecided whether to study physics or economics, concludes that: “At the end of the day, science is more interesting.” Although she is still intent on studying international law, Hannah sees the automotive industry as an attractive employer, particularly in light of continued globalization. And Prashanth is now more determined than ever that his future lies in developing cars and engines.
1 Beetle fuel consumption in l/100 km: combined from 7.7 to 4.5; CO2 emissions in g/km: combined from 179 to 119.
2 Scirocco fuel consumption in l/100 km: combined from 8.1 to 4.5; CO2 emissions in g/km: combined from 189 to 118.