Survey: The future of e-mobility on the campus of TU Ilmenau

by Jens Wolling

After the Paris climate resolutions of 2015, in view of the new European climate targets, the Federal Constitutional Court ruling of April 2021 and the amendment to the Climate Protection Act passed by the Bundestag in June 2021, each and every individual, but also TU Ilmenau as an organisation, is faced with the question of what these resolutions mean for him/her personally and what the personal/organisational adaptation strategy to the (political) consequences of climate change should look like.


For some employees at TU Ilmenau, switching to electric mobility is part of the answer. Those who firmly believe in the future of individual transport are particularly willing to switch. You don't have to share this assessment (like the author of this post, for example), but at TU it's only a minority of under 20 percent who doubt that anyone and everyone (with enough money) will be able to drive their car around the world indefinitely whenever they want to in the future.

Survey on e-mobility at the TU Ilmenau

Of course, there are also doubts about electric mobility, not least about its environmental friendliness. In fact, however, these doubts are mainly present among those who cannot imagine switching from the good old gasoline or diesel to an electric car, or among those who do not own and drive a vehicle at all. But even in this group, most are convinced that electric cars are an environmentally friendly alternative (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Thus, favorable conditions for an e-mobility offensive are available at the TU. Against this background, the Thuringian Energy Research Institute at TU Ilmenau, or ThEFI for short, asked itself whether it would not make sense to support this trend and set up a charging infrastructure for e-vehicles on the university campus. In order to obtain reliable information on whether there is actually a need for this, an online survey of the members of the TU Ilmenau was carried out in March of this year, the main results of which are presented here (the figures quoted at the beginning also come from this survey).

High participation rate

A total of 679 people took part in the survey. Particularly among the permanent employees, the participation rate was very high at around 30 percent. This shows that the topic is of great interest to employees. Most of the survey participants feel well informed (42%) or even very well informed (19%) about the topic of e-mobility. This also indicates that the survey was primarily attended by people interested in the topic.

The main aim of the survey was to obtain reliable figures on the extent of the need for charging infrastructure on campus. Two questions were to be answered:

  1. Should charging infrastructure for e-cars be built on the university campus?
  2. What characteristics should this charging infrastructure have?

In other words, it was not only a question of whether such an infrastructure would be useful at all, but also how many charging devices would be needed, what kind of charging points would be in demand (fast charging points / slow charging) and whether it would be important for future users that renewable energy be used.

Survey on two scenarios

In order to be able to answer these questions reliably, it was first necessary to determine how many e-car users there already are at the university and how many people are planning to purchase an e-car in the foreseeable future. Figure 2 shows that there were already at least 41 e-car owners at the university in March and that a further 32 people have firm purchase plans for 2021. By the end of 2023, it is expected that there will be at least another 71 e-car owners.

Figure 2

In order to determine how much interest there is in a charging infrastructure, these 144 people were first presented with the following scenario:

"There is consideration of building charging infrastructure for electric cars on university campuses. One scenario would be that several parking spaces (say 10) at each of several locations scattered around campus (say 4) would be equipped with charging stations (for slow charging - no fast charging) where people could charge their electric cars during the day without having to re-park again. At the current market price, a kilowatt hour would cost about 30 cents. Billing should be done digitally, for example with the help of an RFID system or automatic recognition of the vehicle or parking space."

More than 80 percent of the 144 respondents said they would use this offer. An inquiry regarding the expected days of use revealed a relatively even utilization of the offer with the exception of the weekend (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

Subsequently, a scenario for fast charging was also described with the following wording:

"In an extended scenario, some additional fast charging columns (e.g. 2 each) are to be installed at several locations distributed across the campus (e.g. 4). According to the current market price, the kilowatt hour there would cost about 40 cents. Again, billing would be exclusively digital using either an RFID system or automatic vehicle recognition."

Respondents' interest in this offer was significantly lower. But even here, almost half of the survey participants stated that they would use this offer. In terms of the fast charging offer, it appeared that there was likely to be slightly higher demand on Mondays and Fridays, but again overall the differences between the days of the week were not dramatic (Figure 4).

Figure 4

E-mobility only contributes to climate protection - if at all - if the energy used comes from renewable sources. Fortunately, this is apparently also clear to most potential users of the charging infrastructure. At the very least, around 80 % of e-vehicle users and interested parties stated that it would be an important reason for them to use the charging points if the energy came from renewable sources.

In conclusion:

  • There is already a significant demand for charging infrastructure, especially for slow charging stations.
  • Significant growth in demand can be expected in the near future.
  • During the week, demand is expected to be relatively steady.
  • The use of renewable energy (photovoltaics) should be ensured in any case.
  • Storage should be integrated as there is less demand at weekends.
  • Sufficient parking spaces are of central importance. The 40 parking spaces outlined in the first scenario are likely to be too few.
  • The kwh price mentioned is critical for some users, but is not a central obstacle.

The survey results are reason for the TU Ilmenau to once again focus on the topic of e-mobility on campus. The university management had already made efforts to install charging stations in the past, but no operator could be found for the project and, in addition, technical and organisational obstacles make the implementation of the project difficult. The ThEFI has set itself the goal of leaving no opportunity unused and is investigating new approaches such as setting up a test infrastructure powered by renewable energies as a stand-alone solution.

If implemented successfully, TU Ilmenau would bring the energy transition to life on campus itself, in addition to its broad-based research on renewable energies, grid stability, energy storage and electromobility.