In a way it all began with Alfred Weber. It was his idea to take a VW Passat and integrate forms of technology in the car which MANN+HUMMEL uses to address the subject of fine dust pollution. His aim was to show what modern filtration systems today are able to achieve. He therefore became personally involved and pushed his vision of the “fine dust eater” vehicle. He quickly realized, however, in his position as CEO of a company with international operations such as MANN+HUMMEL, the time was simply not there to manage the project himself. As a result, employees were searched for to manage the project. The selection was made in our favor. That was in August 2017.
Today, one year later, we are still running the project. This means we must have done something right! But of course the management of the project is just a fraction of the total work. The success we have had in the course of the last twelve months is the result of the exceptional cooperation of many people from a number of very different departments. There would have been no other way to get the fine dust eater on the road. But first things first.
After we became involved our first task was to develop a team and working model for the idea of the fine dust eater. This involved us finding answers to questions relating to the different forms of technology we would use, potential customers, the partners we would involve and the practical implementation of the technology in products. Therefore we sat down together, drew up a concept, described the people we would need with special expertise to realize the project and then made a presentation to the company management.
We discussed the details, they gave us the go-ahead and then we started our work. The core team consisted of four persons. In this process, we concerned ourselves with technology and methodology (Stürner) and potential groups of customers and possible markets to acquire pilot projects (Raschke). Bastian Meister-Magsino took over responsibility for the concept, planning and electronics in the vehicles. Steffen Kroll was ultimately responsible for the whole configuration and the used measurement and sensor technology. In addition, numerous experts were required from different business units who depending on our requirements were authorized to support us with between 50 and 100% of their working time. This was on the one hand important for the actual product development.
But on the other hand we were also supported in the areas of marketing, information technology, purchasing and many other technical departments. In all of this there was a pioneering spirit to create something completely new and in this way to face the problem of fine dust in a completely new way. Yet the project was and is not just a playground for creative minds, but should result in a real business model. This is true for actual products and also the respective services which MANN+HUMMEL can offer afterwards.
At the 2017 Frankfurt motor show we duly presented our fine dust eater to the public and a highly interested media. This was because our approach was really new. While according to public wisdom engines and particularly diesels are blamed for the fine dust, the truth lies elsewhere. Fine dust occurs in road traffic through the combustion of fuel, but is primarily created by the wear of brakes, tires and road surfaces. This means a further improvement in the efficiency of engines will hardly have any effect on the overall level of fine dust pollution. Our fine dust eater, however, is not choosey where the fine dust comes from, it just filters out any fine dust which is present in the air. In addition, the brake dust particle filter ensures that the brake abrasion particles – which up to now have been an underestimated source of emissions – are captured before they can pollute the ambient air. And our NO2 fine dust combi-filter finally ensures that the passenger compartments of cars are free of pollution.
In total our fine dust eater vehicles are therefore suitable to retain large volumes of fine dust in order to achieve an overall fine dust neutral balance, i.e. I collect the same volume of emissions I emit. Our current test drives are designed to prove this and demonstrate the further potential for improvements. We have also already been able to win StreetScooter, a subsidiary of the German postal service, the Deutsche Post DHL group, as a customer where we are thoroughly testing the fine dust filter fitted to the undercarriage of the new electric delivery vehicles of DHL. If these tests are successful, there will be nothing to stop fitting the filter to the whole fleet.
And just as is often the case when many motivated people cooperate and mutually inspire each other, in the meantime we have now transferred our ideas even beyond the motor car. A new deployment scenario is represented by stationary fine dust filters. A first variant is located in front of our technology center on the Schwieberdinger Strasse road in Ludwigsburg. Here we have integrated a fine dust particle filter and blowers in an advertising pillar. The blowers pull in the ambient air and the filter retains the fine dust.
These stationary filters can be placed at particularly polluted locations such as on roads, or in underground railway stations or railway stations to considerably reduce the pollution at those places. Right now we are working on improving the air quality at the popular Neckartor in Stuttgart. Within a pilot project together with the city of Stuttgart and the state of Baden-Württemberg we will place stationary filtration systems to make the air cleaner.
All in all the last twelve months have flown by. On top of that the certain degree of uncertainty which both of us initially experienced as we were asked to manage this project has now completely evaporated. One reason is that in addition to all the challenges it has been a lot of fun to push a really new vision. Another reason is also that one can do something for the environment in a way which is more visible than before. When we discussed our new tasks with our kids, they were finally able to understand what we are doing all day long: “Daddy’s making the air clean!”