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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
A powertrain for Austria electric cars
Professor Helmut List’s life’s work has been driven by a desire to reduce harmful vehicle emissions.“We are heading for a level where we can really say it no longer affects the air quality in the cities,” he says, “so that is the goal we are immediately trying to achieve.”
List is chief executive of AVL, a family-run company based in Graz, Austria’s second city. He joined in 1967, taking over from his father, who founded it after World War II. Research and development in innovative systems for internal combustion engines have always been at the heart of the company. Fifteen years ago, List decided to move into complete “powertrain” systems. A powertrain governs all the aspects that generate power in a vehicle, including fuel cells, electric drives, control software, transmissions and batteries.
Today the focus is increasingly on research and development for hybrid and electric powertrain systems, and pushing the frontiers of transport with the evolution of autonomous driving systems.
Road-testing Austria electric cars
For Aris Pofantis, one of the European Investment Bank’s lead engineers, AVL’s simulation abilities are crucial to its success. “This project for me is an enabler of the change that needs to happen in the automotive sector,” says Pofantis, who worked on the EU bank’s early-2018 deal to loan €70 million to AVL for its R&D. “Manufacturers need to cover thousands of scenarios through millions of test kilometres. The amount of data that needs to be collected and analysed is enormous. Road testing will always be necessary but the proper simulation tools will give the possibility to develop faster and more efficiently.”
Austria electric cars improve green driving tech
Working closely with AVL since 2007, the EIB’s investments have assisted in four key areas:
- AVL has a good track record and is a market leader in developing powertrain technology. The loan has allowed it to maintain and enhance its global reputation
- Expansion of the company, 10% year on year of highly skilled engineers, means that research has gone faster in electrification of power trains, hybrids, fuel cells and batteries
- Development of the AVL headquarters in Graz, building new offices and test-bed centres, as well as 45 affiliates worldwide
- Working collaboratively with over 150 EU projects over recent years creating an open development platform for the whole automotive industry in a complex and fast changing word.
Creative thinking is at the heart of AVL says Dr Markus Tomaschitz, Vice President, Human Resources. “We are working for and with the future. I think we are really good at understanding how the future might look, and then doing what’s needed today in order to be successful tomorrow.”
Dr Tomaschitz says the last few years have been ‘an amazing ride’, thanks to the EIB loan. The company has grown by 10% annually and next year is looking to employ 300 new staff.