Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla, the 48-year-old head of Volkswagen future research department, flicks through a large folder with images of cars that look like they’re straight out of a science fiction movie. Some are small, others large, some drive on two, others on three or four wheels, some are powered by electricity, others by hydrogen or even the leg muscles of the person at the wheel. ‘It’s incredible how many fascinating vehicle and mobility concepts we get each year,’ Müller-Pietralla says.
The folder contains images for the Interior Motives Design Award which Europe’s largest carmaker has supported for the past fi ve years. Students from all over the globe design vehicles to win prizes acoording to the yearly changing briefi ng themes. This is just one way in which the German car giant tries to get some insight into how its customers will behave down the road.
It is Müller-Pietralla’s job to get some idea of what the future will look like – and he is convinced electric mobility has the future. ‘Electric mobility will become a serious competitor for fuel and diesel engines. Not only because electric vehicles are sustainable, but also because their driveability is perfect. The torque is awesome, the car is silent, low in vibration – those are all characteristics that we have always wished for the fuel engine to have. And now we’re going to get all of this. If the customers experience that, and the battery technology improves as well, then the acceptance for electric cars will rise exponentially, and the shift will come.'