From Oltimer to E-Car
While we are yet to discover where the future of mobility lies, the present day remains no less impressive. We’ve come to the biggest motorway service area in Europe, next to the German Autobahn 3 between Würzburg and Nuremberg, exit 76 for Geiselwind. Here there are not only 50 petrol pumps, but also concert and sports facilities, a motorway church, three of the fast-food restaurants that are first to come to mind, and a restaurant with its own butcher.
What we’re interested in here, however, is the new, ultra-fast E.ON Drive charging station for electric vehicles. As one of the biggest energy companies in Europe, E.ON is taking a leading role in the transition towards the new age of mobility. Geiselwind boasts the first of these stations, but many others are set to follow.
Here we have arranged to meet Michael M. Richardson, who needs to charge the battery of his car: a 1956 MG MGA converted to electric drive by his own company Retro-EV from Finland. Originally from the US, Richardson has just come from a classic car show in Birmingham. As he polishes his vehicle here and there, he tells us more about it:
At first glance, the car appears no different to an MG with an internal combustion engine. At second glance too. The challenge for the engineers, Richardson explains, was to consider how the MGA might have looked if the complete drive technology of today had been available back when it was built in Birmingham in 1959. It was with this in mind that every detail was carefully considered and designed, including Richardson’s favourite feature, the James Bond front grill, which Richardson now opens up with the help of an elegant hinge mechanism. Beneath it lies a CHAdeMO charging port, via which the MGA can take in enough power in 20 minutes to travel 150km. Alongside this system, the MG also has another charging option – a T2-AC 230 Volt under the flap at the rear, where the fuel tank filler neck used to be in the original version.
We settle on the wooden bench next to the modern, cleanly designed station, which forms a nice contrast with the classic vehicle and its very English green paint, chrome, wood and leather. The concept of the E.ON Drive stations is modular and scalable throughout. In future, contemporary-style lounges with a bistro and workspaces are set to make the wait all the more pleasant.
The four charging pillars in Geiselwind, which are suitable for any model and boast 150-KW capacity – set to rise to 350 KW from the end of 2018 –, are among the most powerful in existence and are now ready to meet future demands.
A refined form of upcycling
Retro-EV is a company that considers its business a refined form of upcycling, as Richardson puts it when he describes his vision. It is not intended as a protest against internal combustion engines, he explains, but rather a homage to wheeled works of art from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It’s the ideal combination of the artful design and engineering of this era and the technological possibilities of today. He raves about the special feeling of driving this electrified classic: the wind in your hair, the sounds and smells of your surroundings, the direct feedback from the steering wheel, and the essential information on a few simple analogue instruments. It’s a luxury product, so to speak, which incidentally also represents a very contemporary interpretation of luxury. The trend is away from the accumulation of possessions and towards special experiences, says Richardson. It’s no longer about showcasing your own success to the world around you and imposing it on the environment, but rather about quality, responsibility for the environment and our fellow human beings, and therefore about sharing the finer things in life. In all his explanations, anecdotes and theories, Richardson’s enthusiasm is palpable.
Indeed, in his response to the objection of many critics, who say driving an electric vehicle requires energy that doesn’t always come from clean production, Richardson also shows how his company is thinking big and thinking ahead: “Yes, that’s initially true for the moment”, he says, “but we as a society, and our governments and companies can do something to change that. We can say: Let’s work towards producing energy sustainably and set ourselves the goal of driving with 100% green energy. We can do it.”
Against this background, Richardson also values the involvement of E.ON Drive: “If the major players in the energy sector say: OK, we are committing to electromobility, we believe in it and we’re doing everything we can to make a business model out of it, then everyone will benefit more in the long term than if we just carry on as before.”