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About this book

The volume is dedicated to the electric car. It examines the extent to which the electric car can contribute to sustainable transport development as part of a new mobility culture. The technical, cultural, political, social and aesthetic dimensions are considered. It will be shown how the general social framework has to change in order to make the electric car a success.

Table of Contents


1. Introductory Remarks

Plea for a New Mobility Culture
The electric car is coming. The German government decided to support the expansion of electric transport beyond 2012 with millions of euros in funding—one million electric cars are meant to be on German roads by 2020.
Oliver Schwedes, Marcus Keichel

2. Dominion Over Space and Time

On the Cultural History of the Automobile
2012 was considered to be the year with the highest gasoline prices in the history of the automobile. Nevertheless, the number of fuel-guzzling SUVs (sports utilility vehicles) continued to rise to 16% of new car sales. Models such as the Porsche Cayenne enjoy great international popularity. This car combines the prestige of the Porsche sports car, established over many years, with the brawny form of a sedan, which rises above the normal level of other cars and offers the comfort advantages of a luxury car. At the same time, environmental organisations have been advocating the purchase of new cars with low fuel consumption and pushing for a maximum speed limit in Germany since the 1980s.
Wolfgang Ruppert

3. Object of Desire

The Electric Car in the Field of Political Power
In the last three decades there have been various diagnoses of the times we live in, all of which attest to a profound social change. Since the general diagnosis of a “new complexity” by the social philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1985), various attempts have been made to conceptualize and encapsulate the new social conditions, starting with postmodernism or postfordism, through to the risk society, the thrill-seeking society and the network society. Even if each of these attempts at definition has captured an aspect of the current dynamics of development, none of the descriptions has prevailed in characterizing a new society as a whole.
Oliver Schwedes

4. Completely New Possibilities

On the Design of the Electric Car
If one enters the term “electro-mobility” together with the sentence fragment “completely new possibilities” into a search engine, one gets an astonishing number of hits. With one click numerous quotations appear, expressing the spirit of optimism surrounding the electric car. Spokespersons from energy companies extol the sales opportunities for electricity, suppliers of automobile parts see business potential in the field of battery development and engineers rave about the options in vehicle construction. Although the subject is by no means new, electro-mobility now seems to have been positively received on a broad scale, now that the political will to implement it is at hand.
Marcus Keichel

5. The Benchmark Is Still Current Behavior

Everyday Experience with the Electric Car from the Users’ Point of View
When we talk about Germany as a location for innovation, we have in mind the research and development activities of industry and science as well as the institutional framework established by political policy. The users of the innovations, on the other hand, are generally not taken into account. Thus, the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI) of the Federal Government stated in its report that the transformation of the energy system requires “a committed, coordinated effort on the part of all actors” (cf. EFI 2012: 5), but it does not mention the users of innovative, environmentally friendly products. This is surprising in that the success of innovative technologies depends directly on their acceptance and the public’s willingness to use them. This applies particularly to consumer-oriented products such as the electric car: if the electric car is to make a significant contribution to reducing CO2-emissions and reducing the dependence on oil, the demand for electric cars must increase significantly. Electric bicycles have already achieved some success in the course of a temporary “hype” about electric mobility. So far, however, they have only been used as a supplement to the existing choices in means of transport.
Christine Ahrend, Jessica Stock

6. “Focus Battery”

On the Technical Development of Electric Cars
The preoccupation with electric cars seems to be subject to a cycle of about 20 years. In the 1990s, an intensive development phase preceded the current work on tasks relating to electromobility (cf. Schwedes, Chap. 3). The electric car was supposed to go on sale in the USA in 1998. The background was a legislative initiative by the state of California which stipulated that 2% of the vehicles sold there had to be zero-emission vehicles. But even before that, after the first energy crisis at the beginning of the 1970s, very similar issues had been addressed (cf. Dreyer 1973; Weh 1974; Braun et al. 1975). The goal then as now was the development of a city car. During the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, a BMW 1602 was even built as an electric car to accompany the marathon runners.
Henning Wallentowitz

7. In Place of an Afterword

Report from an Ongoing Self-experiment
Three years ago—I didn’t note down the exact date nor did I take a farewell photo—the last automobile I owned was taken away. It was a 1996 silver-blue-grey Jaguar XJ-6. The upscale car was already quite old and would have needed an overhaul for a few thousand euros. If my love for automobiles had been as pronounced as half a century earlier, between 1955 and 2005 for example, I would have invested the money without grumbling. The same goes for the sinful purchase price, which is, of course, now exceeded by every 1-year-old Passat. But the looming TÜV (roadworthiness) inspection strengthened the temptation to try out a life (almost) without a car. And to bring the knowledge I had accumulated about the overall harmful effects of gasoline-powered individual transport halfway into line with my actions. As long as the vehicle—which is a pleasure to drive—was parked outside my front door, it’s not likely I would have switched to public transport, taxis and the occasional rental car.
Claus Leggewie


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