Michael Zettel develops hardware for the LSR at our strategic technology partner E-Works Mobility. In this interview, Michael shares his insights on the hardware development for the LSR, explains why we developed a specific 5-mode-cooling-system, and how RC cars and the Volkswagen “Käfer” sparked his interest in electric mobility.
Michael, tell us your story. How did you get into electric mobility and what inspires you to work in this field?
My interest in electric mobility unconsciously developed from an early age. When I was a kid, I bought an electric RC (radio-controlled) car. A friend of mine had one with a combustion engine, so I got the chance to experience and learn about the advantages of electric drive at an early age. My electric RC car was simply much cheaper, less maintenance-intensive and still offered more “driving pleasure” due to its superior control precision. In addition, I could use my electric RC car more often because it didn't disturb the neighbors with noise and pollution. A few years later, at the age of 17, I bought my first car: a classic 1966 Volkswagen Beetle. The car still had a combustion engine, but pretty soon the 40 HP Boxer experienced an engine failure. At that point it was clear that the next step would be an electric motor in this car. This is how my Beetle became fully electrified.
"That would have been an absolute bestseller and they would hardly sell any combustion engine vehicles anymore."
With your electrified Beetle, you combine automotive tradition with the automotive future in your everyday car. As a hardware developer, what do you think of the following insight from Herbert Diess in the car nation Germany? "The time of classic car manufacturers is over. The future of Volkswagen lies in the digital tech corporation - and only there."
I generally agree with Diess’ statement . In my opinion, Mr Diess is one of the few who is heading into a future that can actually work. At the same time, however, I also think that the automotive manufacturers and their suppliers in Germany have slept on electric mobility for far too long. If the German manufacturers had had the foresight to choose the right technology from the very beginning, they probably wouldn't have to fight for survival today. They would have a vehicle on offer that combined the price, efficiency, and charging network of a Tesla Model 3 with the high-quality workmanship and good chassis and suspension which Germany is famous for. That would have been an absolute bestseller and they would hardly sell any combustion engine vehicles anymore.
Let's talk a little bit about the Leiser LSR. What is your personal opinion on this project and how does it compare to the other numerous electrification projects you have already contributed to?
I am a huge fan of the Beetle and Porsche. I especially like the approach of the early Porsche models. In those days, a sporty car was built that didn't need excessive amounts of power. The cars were light, simple, and aerodynamic. This simplicity is the reason why I am passionate about the Leiser projects. With the LSR we can focus our development efforts on the perfection that makes a Porsche 911 what it is: attention to detail, high-quality and replicable implementation and, of course, maximized driving pleasure thanks to the electric drive.
"To achieve maximum performance during acceleration and charging, the battery requires a temperature window that is specifically increased for these situations."
You are one of the tech geniuses in the team and have been working on the LSR project from the beginning. What are your biggest challenges in the development of this vehicle?
In general, electrifying a vehicle and getting it running is our everyday routine. In development of the LSR project, the special challenges were the high performance levels, the limited installation space of the 911, and in the conceptual and operational preparation of a very low-volume production. Our conversion solution must not only deliver perfect functionality and reliability in any driving situation but also had to be accommodated in the smallest possible space. All that had to be executed to meet the highest quality standards and to be efficiently rolled out into a micro-series production. Thus, for example, one focus of our attention is ease of maintenance and automatic fault diagnosis and management, which are considered at every stage of development.
In addition, due to the LSR’s high performance levels, the cooling system presents us with another set of challenges. When the car is in the max-performance “LSR Mode”, the inverters and the motors generate a lot of heat despite their high efficiency. At the same time, the battery needs to be operated at the optimum temperature range at all times. For example, to achieve maximum performance during acceleration and charging, the battery requires a temperature window that is specifically increased for these situations. Our specific five-mode liquid cooling system in conjunction with high-performance pumps was developed in-house to address this requirement. Depending on the selected driving or charging mode, the system allows all components to be kept at the individual optimum temperature, thus enabling not only extreme but also replicable maximum performance. At the same time, it also delivers significant efficiency gains. With a cold battery, for example, the surplus heat from the motor, which warms up much faster than the battery pack, is directed straight to the batteries.
Tell us your very personal thoughts on Leiser. What is your personal motivation?
In my opinion, the perfect car combines the best chassis, workmanship, weight and aerodynamics with the best propulsion technology out there - which is clearly battery electric. Leiser does just that. To be quite honest, the excessive performance levels of the LSR would not be necessary from my personal point of view. Then again, I have to admit that it actually fits the 911 quite well...
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