Interview with Andrew Shepherd, Alternative Energies and Development of Accessories of SEAT and Jordi Caus, engineer and responsible of e-Mobility of SEAT
1) What are the key factors of sustainable mobility?
Jordi Caus (J.C.): To define the important factors we can`t forget that everything comes out of an environmental problem. We are aware of the climate changes that scientists say is happening and that why there are policies at European level. It is necessary to optimize efficiencies, CO2 emissions and other pollutants in all sectors. This is a problem that occurs worldwide and takes us all as a society to work at it to change it. At the user level, today there are clear economic advantages in the case of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), and in the case of the electric vehicle (EV) and there will be even more as the costs of technology reduces.
2) CNG and electricity are postulated as two alternatives to gasoline and diesel oil. What pros and cons have each one?
Andrew Shepherd (A.S.): The advantages of CNG can be summarized in the three ‘S’: the Save Money, as the economic advantage; sustainability; ecological advantage and security. These vehicles are designed from the beginning to work with GNC. The cars leave the factory with all the guarantees of quality and approval required by law. The big disadvantages currently are the infrastructures. In Spain there are fewer than 40 public points where you can refuel CNG. However, there are only 11 points in Catalonia, there are about 500 electric charging points.
Regarding the autonomy, the SEAT León TGI, for example, has a total range of 1360km in gas mode, the environmental and economic option has 420km plus 940km of additional range thanks to the 50l fuel tank. The León TGI can go 100km with the current cost of fuel for 3.50€. That means that you can drive from Barcelona to Madrid with 20€, which is 30% less than doing the same way with a model of diesel and 50% in the case of the petrol model. Another economic advantage presented by the Natural Gas is its low tax, which, at European level and until 2018, will be very little taxed. A disadvantage would be the economic cost when refuelling from home. Although there are gas compressors, this represents a cost of electricity to compress, meaning it would increase to 40% of the additional cost
J.C.: The range of the electric vehicle is below 200km and its use is focused on the urban environment. The VE is not designed for journeys like Barcelona – Madrid, because there is no quick recharging infrastructure. That’s why we focus so much on the plug-in hybrid, for autonomy and possibility to make long journeys. The advantages of electric vehicles are, more efficient alternative organic emulsion and a new driving experience. A disadvantage is the high cost of operating the car, in this sense, amortization is not particularly clear, as it depends on the type of vehicle. The factors of amortization would be the residual value, subsidies and kilometres per year made. Another problem, shared with CNG, would also be the infrastructure recharge (domestic recharge), which today is still expensive.
3) Where is the sustainable mobility heading and in which aspects are being worked?
J.C.: The Sustainable mobility addresses a mix of different technologies. Today, we know that there is no technology that is to be imposed. Gasoline and diesel in the next five years will continue to work in efficient engines. There are alternatives such as Natural Gas, the plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Any forecast for the next few decades indicates a mix of technologies and mobility much more adapted depending on the type of need and market demand. Regarding the technical level of electric mobility, we are working on increasing the battery power to do more kilometres of autonomy and also lower costs to make this technology more affordable on the market. Commercially, we are working with the residual value of the vehicle and its amortization.
A.S.: The Natural Gas continues to be primarily methane gas. Biomethane has also a great future, which is methane from renewable sources, and methane can also be obtained from biomass. The waste generated in modern society, for example, is a source of methane and we are currently studying it.
4) Gas Natural Fenosa and SEAT signed a strategic agreement recently, could you explain in what it consists?
A.S.: The strategic agreement of SEAT with Gas Natural Fenosa is very important, mainly to address the lack of infrastructure. In Spain and in a company like SEAT, there is interest in the advantages of using CNG. Therefore it is necessary to give a boost to promote it as fuel, to be able to have models available in the market and create infrastructure available so customers can refuel. The union of SEAT and Gas Natural Fenosa, two leader companies in their segment, mean a very important alternative for Spain. This project will work on various aspects: communication, marketing, business models and I+D. This enables, for example, the installation of charging gas in SEAT dealers to complement the existing natural gas network throughout the country. At SEAT we want that our Spanish customers enjoy the many benefits of CNG, as do as our European customers from Italy and Germany, where its use is widespread.
5) We know that SEAT bets for the CNG, and has completed several tests in electric vehicles. At what point do you find yourselves now?
J.C.: SEAT is committed to all technologies. About I+D, we are working on new projects, such as fleet vehicles, which we have given to various companies and institutions, but that project ended in 2013. Internally, the tests are still used to collect data, along with the one we collect on experience with client. The company is working analyse the optimal point to enter the market, also following the demand of our own client.