Daimler AG experts Jana Krägenbring-Noor and Claudia Ansorge-Kneer about environmentally sound forms of future mobility.
There is wide-ranging debate on the question of how to satisfy modern travel and goods transportation needs, while also respecting the environment. Daimler AG has long been committed to acting responsibly in this respect, though the impact of sustainability on strategic direction has never been as significant and multi-faceted as it is today. There are two employees in particular who are driving the process of cultural change at Daimler AG: Claudia Ansorge-Kneer is involved in fuel cell development and Jana Krägenbring-Noor is tasked with gearing the company strategy towards greater sustainability and environmental protection.
Ms Krägenbring-Noor, Ms Ansorge-Kneer, if it were possible to travel into the future and witness the results of the work you’re doing today, what would you be particularly happy about?
A.-K.: The fact that I spent a considerable proportion of my professional life on a meaningful, important path. And that I can say to my kids: “We worked on something that will markedly improve the lives of future generations.”
K.-N.: I feel the same way. What we are doing today is setting the course for the future: working on ensuring that Mercedes-Benz vehicles remain a reliable means of getting from A to B, perhaps autonomously, but that they do so in a way that is carbon-neutral and powered by renewable energies. If we can achieve that, then we will have accomplished a great deal.
You are both integral parts of the group’s mobility transformation goals. What is it about this subject that interests you personally?
K.-N.: Sustainability is not only a very topical issue, but a critical issue that affects us all, and I feel very honoured to be personally involved in the project and to have the opportunity here to make a difference with my work.
A.-K.: I am interested in the big picture – the energy revolution taking place around the world is fascinating to follow, and it is wonderful to be actively involved in shaping this change within the automotive sector. Some of my colleagues have to drive long distances to work every day – they put themselves through a lot because they love their jobs and don’t want to work anywhere else. We are hard at work forging the Daimler AG path toward zero-emissions driving, based on battery technology and fuel cells.
How are fuel cells relevant in this regard?
A.-K.: Our idea is that the fuel cell should serve as an energy supplier for electric engines. I have been with the company since 1998 and have long believed fuel cells to be an effective form of propulsion.
What advantages do fuel cells present?
A.-K.: Hydrogen can be easily stored and transported, and it can be supplied via petrol stations – and water is available almost everywhere.
How can that fact be exploited in practice?
A.-K.: Well, we have observed that alternative energy sources based on wind and solar power are on the increase, and sometimes weather extremes lead to these energy providers producing a surplus of energy: currently whenever that happens, wind farms pause their operations entirely – but it would surely be better to make use of the surplus energy.
How could that be done?
A.-K.: There are several possibilities in relation to fuel cells. Lots of wind farms are located at the coast or even in the sea, which makes it a reasonable option to harness the surplus energy for breaking water down into its elements, thereby generating hydrogen.
Ms Krägenbring-Noor, how is the concept of sustainability being tangibly incorporated into the corporate strategy?
K.-N.: We are working to further improve our vehicles’ ecological footprints – not just in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, but also with a focus on resource preservation and using sustainable materials. We are looking at the system as a whole, performing lifecycle assessments across all our areas and comparing the results. This work that we are doing encompasses the manufacture of vehicle parts, production processes at our plants and the use of the vehicles, and vehicle recycling. The more regenerative energy and sustainable materials we use, the better the car’s footprint.
Do you feel that efforts to promote sustainability are moving quickly enough?
A.-K.: Developments in this area are certainly moving at speed. Just look at the recent hype around electric engines! Work on fuel cell development began at Daimler AG way back in the 1990s, when fuel cell power units were so large they took up the entire storage space; the units we’re using today can easily fit into a GLC or B-Class. We really have made great progress.
K.-N.: I have found my colleagues to all be very open to our sustainability strategy. Some people have certain reservations of course, and a lot of questions are asked. But wherever I am, I can see that everyone is motivated to tackle the issue. They all know that the time has come to actively transition to a more sustainable way of doing things – you can feel this shift in the air.