Quick, energy-efficient and affordable, the StreetScooter convincingly demonstrates that electromobility doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
"Climb in", says Achim Kampker. I jump at the invitation. He settles himself behind the wheel of his new baby, the "Street Scooter". The two-door electric car’s white plastic body shimmers in the shine of the early morning sunlight. The rooftop is light blue, like the sky. This choice of colours was taken seriously, symbolically and chosen as a gesture of respect: they’re the colours of the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University in Aachen (RWTH) which is the birthplace of the StreetScooter .
The sporty little prototype is the result of a concerted effort.
Together with 80 industry partners and a number of different universities, under Kampker's leadership the StreetScooter collaboration proved that it was possible, in a mere two years, to develop a sustainable electric vehicle that would also prove to be amazingly affordable. The StreetScooter’s debut drive took place at the 2011 IAA International Car Show in Frankfurt and it was received with considerable admiration and fanfare.
It’s easy to imagine that the sporty new two-and-a-half-meter long, Smart-sized car might soon become a perfectly familiar feature on city streets. Geared to those wanting short-distance travel options, the StreetScooter can be individually tailored with two-to-three seats with the option of having its own child seat installed. The trunk comfortably accommodates an average day’s shopping and a crate of water.
Kampker starts the engine with the press of a button. Soundlessly, and without any other discernable effort, the car glides onto the test track in Alsdorf, a former mining town near Aachen. In my comfortable seat, I lean back to enjoy the car’s unique driving sensation. In terms of the classic feeling associated with "hitting the gas", when the StreetScooter speeds up, there’s essentially no sense of acceleration. A second pedal beside the brakes that can indeed boost the horse power and speed, is essentially only there to provide drivers with some reassuring familiarity with the instruments.
Even the overall configuration is like a classic small car. There’s a well laid-out cockpit with an illuminated display: speedometer, light, blinkers and everything you’d expect to be there. What’s new is a battery charge status indicator that shows exactly how much energy, for how many more kilometres, is available. When that’s down the StreetScooter has to be hooked up at an e-station for recharging. Batteries of differing strengths are available for various driving distances between 45 and 120 kilometers.
The joy of the overwhelming success of the endeavour is written all over Achim Kampker's face. Ultimately, a whole lot of the heart and soul invested in this project came from the 36 year young professor. He’s both the initiator and the driving force, so to speak, behind the StreetScooter GmbH company, to which REHAU belongs as a partner. A glance in the rearview mirror: the earliest concept for the StreetScooter was conceived in 2008 at the machine tool laboratory (WZL) of the Technical University of Aachen.
In 2009 Kampker, already then the chair of the department of production management at WZL, began to bring to life a consortium for the construction of an electric car. Its goal, among other things, was to attract business partners to StreetScooter GmbH’s research and development efforts.
The idea behind it was very simple: rather than an otherwise long development phase until all the disparate components could be produced then assembled, it would be streamlined into a sumiltaneous production process coordinated by the Technical University in Aachen. "Such a platform allowed for a network of large and small companies with various competencies to join together," says Kampker, "so that we could carry out an integrated product development." That meant the cooperating partners from the various branches of automotive completion, like body or electric, would work simutaneously so that the car could be assembled in one integrated process. REHAU was responsible for the development of the modular battery concept consisting of the battery casing and the lithium-ion cells.
The short tour on the test track in Alsdorf wound to an end. Soon we were meeting some specialists wanting to be informed on how the future driven concept would be put into practice. That the Deutsche Post AG has offered a mid-2011 contract to develop the short distance car, indicates just how much promise and interest is emerging. Following the logistics concern’s specifications, StreetScooter’s platform should develop an individualised car for the nationwide delivery service fleet. It’s conceivable, "that we could produce customised industry-specific StreetScooter’s designed with compartments like flatbeds, for instance, where tools and materials would safely and conveniently be transported".
As we climb, the doors close quietly, and Kampker looks at the little electric car admiringly. He’s convinced that his car’s unconventional fabrication will prove appealing in electric mobility.
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