Friday, May 12th
Our day started with a bus ride to SGL for a presentation on their company and a tour of their factory. SGL provides a number of different carbon solutions for the automotive industry from carbon ceramic break disks (shown below) to carbon frames for cars like the BMW i3.
SGL is striving to find more and more applications for carbon fiber while also hoping to decrease its cost of production (what is really holding back the material). The benefits of carbon fiber are obvious and already being pursued by companies like BMW, Audi, and KUKA even because of its incredible strength to weight ratio. BMW is currently pursuing the use of carbon fiber frames in their electric vehicles to help reduce weight to further decrease their vehicles’ environmental impact. It was a nice contrast to get to see two very different approaches to provided structure for vehicles. Our tour of Hirschvogel and SGL showed two companies with the ability to produce similar end products, however, they are approaching the task in very different ways. It was exciting to get to see two companies striving to drive their industry forward, however, from very different perspectives on what that future should look like.
As we were leaving SGL, I noticed the car pictured below.
The car is a Trabant, the only car available in East Germany during the time of Germany’s separation. I found it interesting that such an old car would be found being driven by an employee of a company looking to innovate for the future and leave the past where it should be: the rear view mirror.
After our visit at SGL, we headed to the University for a presentation on BMW’s autonomous driving pursuits. The discussion opened my eyes to just how close we are coming to have driver-less vehicles “rule the road.” I am curious to see how well some of the more advanced features of autonomous vehicles are going to be accepted in a country that still has a large proportion of manual vehicles on the road.