At which point did you realise that a breakthrough in electric mobility for everyone is on the horizon?
During the course of the project, I realised that we’d be able to make the necessary range affordable, which is no easy task. At the same time, the topic was increasingly trending in social and other media, making the need for a drastic technological change all the more important – and that’s when I realised that we were on the right path with the ID.3.
When you look at the project as a whole, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Just imagine: the ID.3 features a rigid platform – a chassis, if you will – with MEB (modular electric drive matrix) label and a battery block right in the centre. But it’s not just any battery or electric motor installed under the bodywork. The Vehicle Safety department has to work with colleagues in bodywork construction to find new solutions which optimally support such an innovative vehicle architecture. Specially designed for electric application, the components such as the high-voltage battery and cables need to be well protected in case of an accident, as damage during a potential crash is absolutely unacceptable.
In addition, the ‘centre airbag’ was something entirely new for us technologically speaking. This airbag is relatively new even in the automotive sector and prevents the driver’s and front-seat passenger’s heads from colliding, for instance, if the ID.3 flips. The request for this safety feature was received rather suddenly and with little lead time – and we didn’t have any existing technology or development we could fall back on. We had to pull out all the stops in simulation and testing and ultimately found an extraordinary solution we can all be proud of. After all, this technology makes the ID.3 that much safer than it already was.
In detail, what do you think is the most fascinating technology in the new ID.3?
Personally, I’m fascinated by the idea of electric driving – even over longer distances. And I’m inspired by the thought of generating energy with the solar panels on the roof and thus driving with zero emissions. I can’t wait for my first ID.3.
What pushed you the most as you were developing the ID. range?
Technologically speaking, the ID. range – and thus the ID.3 – represents uncharted territory for all of us. I wasn’t entirely sure we’d be able to make the vehicle both attractive and affordable for many people. And, of course, there was always the question: How do we make an electric car safe for the mass market? This meant lots of new challenges, but tackling them was fun – and still is, of course.
What have you personally taken away from the project?
The project requirements were truly enormous. But we did it, which took a lot of effort on everyone’s part. Entering uncharted territory and tackling challenges gives us all courage – even if these might seem near impossible at first. This successful development work is directly related to the fact that we need to change our energy and materials cycles around the world. This project has made me optimistic that we can do just that.
What noticeable benefits have the digital simulation solutions resulted in – i.e. the precalculations of a crash?
The requirements made of a car – especially when it comes to vehicle safety – are now so complex that they can only be solved with simulations. That’s because only a simulation can reveal the function with the necessary depth. For example, simulations already independently identify the optimal shape of a component. Take for instance the previously mentioned side skirt component: supercomputers (‘topology optimisers’) can identify a highly optimised profile shape within a period of several days, provided boundary conditions such as the material and wall thickness of individual sections have been entered. The result is that the battery is protected, the bodywork and chassis can absorb as much energy as possible, and the passengers thus enjoy maximum safety. Particularly when it comes to side skirts – because they’re large components with lots of material – a whole lot of weight can also be taken off the vehicle using this method. It’s unbelievable what you can do with simulations these days. Nothing would be possible without them. And we’re continuing to work on solving as many technical challenges as possible using simulation.