Interview with Carla Gohin, Director of Innovation at Groupe PSA
The PSA Group has begun to roll out its electric vehicle strategy, the latest step in its Push to Pass plan designed to prepare the company for the advent new methods of mobility. We speak to Carla Gohin to take a look at the road ahead.
PSA intends to launch 100% electric versions of all its models by 2025. How realistic is this aim?
The best way to encourage the use of electric vehicles is to reduce their cost. At present, 40% of the cost of electric vehicles is linked to the battery ecosystem. Lithium ion technology is a full generation away from maturity. We are working on improving the efficiency of cobalt, a key component, which is extremely expensive. The next generation of electric vehicles will be equipped with solid-state batteries. This technology could be used by the major electricity suppliers, which is why we are sharing our roadmap with them.
The second way we can democratize the use of electric vehicles is by dramatically increasing the number of points of recharge and the speed by which a vehicle can be recharged. At the end of September 2018 there were 22,000 recharging points in France; the objective is to have 500,000 by 2030. We must also look seriously at how we can have domestic recharge stations. Installing recharge stations in private residences still takes too much time and is very complicated to achieve.
How far are we away from seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads?
Today, we are in the middle of stage II of our Autonomous Vehicles for All (AVA) program, which focuses on perfecting the driving system. On the highway it is already possible for a vehicle, once it is in the flow of traffic, to let the autopilot adjust the position in relation to the vehicle in front. The next stage will be to make it possible to leave your car entirely under the control of the onboard computer when cruising at speeds under 40mph. For example, the A13 [a main artery into Paris] is routinely traffic-jammed during the morning rush hour. In the near future, you will be able to engage the autopilot and concentrate fully on another activity, like reading or responding to emails. This function will be available in 2022 or 2023.
You support the use of 5G, yet the EU has chosen to retain Wi-Fi as the future standard. What impact will their decision have on your strategy?
This issue goes beyond autonomous vehicles. There will never be level-five connected vehicles (100% autonomous) without a strong enough connection, and Wi-Fi will never be up to the job. The only technology capable of connecting vehicles is 5G. What’s more, China has forged ahead with this technology and will launch its 5G network in 2019, demonstrating that it is the technology of the future. By choosing Wi-Fi over 5G, the European Commission has displayed a very short-term vision. We will continue to work with Wi-Fi, but it is company policy to also work with 5G.
Free2move is your vehicle-sharing subsidiary. What alternative modes of transport does it promote?
Society’s expectations are changing, with the sharing of vehicles replacing ownership, and this has pushed us to propose a range of solutions where ownership is not obligatory. Our Push to Pass plan endorses a manufacturing and supply backbone encompassing renting, car-sharing, car-pooling and intelligent fleet-management by proposing a range of services. For example, we have launched a shared solution app, where the user can choose from the entire list of car-sharing options to find the one most adapted to their needs. Over 1.5 million people already use the Free2move app.