As one of the best-known and most popular locations of the automotive industry in Saxony, the Transparent Factory Dresden is known beyond the state borders. As the largest OEM, i.e. "Original Equipment Manufacturer" or car manufacturer in Saxony, Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH represents a very obvious part of the value chain around electromobility. We take advantage of this impressive setting to talk to two absolute electromobility experts: Danny Auerswald and Carsten Wald.
The Transparent Factory Dresden: The Transparent Centre for Electromobility
Have you ever wondered what the production of electric vehicles looks like in practice? The Transparent Factory in Dresden offers you unique insights. As one of three production facilities of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, it was put into operation on 19 March 2002 and has become a visitor magnet and centre for electromobility. Until 2016, the Transparent Factory Dresden served as a production site for the Phaeton, and until the end of 2020 for the e-Golf. Since then, the all-electric VW ID.3 has been built. Customers can accompany the production of their car and collect it afterwards. More than 2 million people have already visited the Transparent Factory Dresden, which provides work for around 350 employees.
Our experts: Danny Auerswald and Carsten Wald
A conversation is only as interesting as its participants. Danny Auerswald studied industrial engineering in Dresden and started at Volkswagen in 2008, first as a management consultant, then as an executive assistant. In 2016 he became Director of Volkswagen in Malaysia, where he was responsible for the plant in Pekan. After four years in the Far East, he took over the management of the Transparent Factory in Dresden in August 2020. Carsten Wald heads the Electromobility Division at SachsenEnergie. The graduate electrical engineer has been intensively involved with e-mobility for more than ten years and coordinates the construction and operation of public charging infrastructure in the Dresden and eastern Saxony region with his team.
The expert talk
Do you still remember the start of the Transparent Factory Dresden?
Carsten Wald: Yes, because as a Dresdener I couldn't imagine at the time that cars could be produced in the middle of the city. I was very excited: When will it finally start?
Danny Auerswald: The topic was emotionally charged. Vehicle construction in the middle of the city is unusual. But the architecture still seems timeless even after 20 years. From my point of view, the Manufaktur has enhanced Dresden as a location.
When did you first encounter the topic of electromobility?
Wald: Actually, earlier. I was a trainee at an energy supplier in Nuremberg and was given the task of testing an electric vehicle from VW, a Golf Citystromer. I never thought that would become a full-time job for me.
Auerswald: By the way, the Citystromer was built in Zwickau...
Wald:...and had a range of about 50 kilometres, maybe 100 in good conditions. Driving was already very easy, silent and impressive back then.
Why is it that the history of mobility can be told particularly well in Dresden?
Auerswald: We took up the topic of electromobility here very early on, in 2016. From 2017 until the end of 2020, we built the e-Golf. We are looking at the mobility of the future, the ecosystem around it, the charging infrastructure and also the software. Together with the city, we are developing Dresden into a model city for electromobility and digitalisation.
What do you personally appreciate about electromobility?
Forest: Honestly? The dynamics behind it. You can drive calmly, but accelerate quickly out of nowhere for an overtaking manoeuvre. Which is also safer in the end.
Auerswald: Hovering over the road. And noticing the advantages for yourself at the traffic lights: the drive strength at start-up and the quiet background noise.
What arguments do you use to convince sceptics of e-mobility?
Auerswald: Get in and go.
Forest: Electromobility can be experienced in the truest sense of the word. Beforehand, you should ask yourself: What do I use the car for? And then simply try it out for a week
What questions about electromobility do people from your circle of acquaintances approach you with?
Forest: With practical questions: How do I charge at home? Where is the best place to install the wallbox? Can you recommend an installation company?
If you are interested in the topic, take a look at our Wallbox Guide 2022!
How committed is Volkswagen to the charging infrastructure?
Auerswald: We are trying to take away people's reservations. Directly in front of the Transparent Factory Dresden we have one of the largest charging parks in Saxony with soon more than 40 charging points and we are noticing how demand is increasing. The city of Dresden is a strong cooperation partner and recognised the issue of fast charging early on. Already 40 percent of all charging points offer this option. I go shopping at the Altmarkt-Galerie and when I come out, the car is fully charged. We would like to see more of these positive examples.
Wald: These examples exist: The city of Dresden has decided that parking electric vehicles in public car parks is free for two hours.
How many charging points has SachsenEnergie already installed to date?
Forest: At the turn of the year, there were more than 500 public charging points in the state capital and the East Saxony region. The goal is to have 800 by 2026. But we can also optimise the existing charging points so that, for example, more vehicles can charge quickly at the same time. The whole thing is already future-proof, what has been built up there.
But sceptics doubt that the infrastructure will really keep pace with the boom in electric cars.
Auerswald: The doubts are justified if the approval procedures and the roll-out of the infrastructure do not gain momentum now. Customer demand is really exorbitantly high right now.
Wald: Wherever concerns such as the protection of historical monuments or environmental protection play a role, approval procedures can take up to two years. You have to start early to avoid miscalculating.
How far has Saxony come in expanding its infrastructure?
Wald: The ratio between registered vehicles and public charging points should be 15 to 1. We are slightly below that because we were surprised by the rapid increase in the number of registrations last year. In terms of utilisation, however, we have managed everything well. Saxony is in a very good position.
Will the grid be able to withstand electromobility at all?
Wald: We once simulated the effects of one hundred percent electromobility in a single-family home settlement. The timing and duration of the charging processes alone are distributed to such an extent that the load on the grid is lower than expected. That has allayed our greatest fears. And when we renew the grid somewhere, we already take into account how electromobility will be there in ten years.
Auerswald: Bidirectional charging, i.e. the use of vehicle batteries as temporary energy storage, can also help to smooth out peak loads. The automotive sector is currently pushing this forward massively. And many electric vehicles that we will be launching on the market from summer 2022 will support bidirectional charging.
Wald: Yes, and when you consider how much time a car is parked, especially in summer, what could be better than feeding the solar power into it?
If you take a look into the future: What will actually be normal for us in vehicles?
Auerswald: Digitalisation and the networking of vehicles will increase significantly, autonomous vehicles will inform each other about sources of danger. And the vehicles will define themselves more strongly as living spaces.
Forest: Charging will become easier and easier for users in the future. In the future, they will then only be able to plug in their vehicle without needing an app or credit card.
Where in Saxony is the most beautiful charging station?
Auerswald: I recommend the charging station in front of the Transparent Factory. You can visit the Hygiene Museum here, take a walk in the Großer Garten or root for Dynamo Dresden in the stadium.
Forest: The blue lagoon at Lake Berzdorf near Görlitz immediately comes to mind. If you arrive early, you can load your car not far from the lake and go swimming.
We hope you found our experts' talk together as entertaining as it was interesting. Saxony has a lot to offer as an automotive location. The Transparent Factory in Dresden is definitely worth a visit. If you have any further questions on the subject, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
This interview was taken from SachsenEnergie's customer magazine "helle", which is published four times a year.