Passion for the zero-emission future
Tim Karcher is CEO of innolectric AG and has shaped the company since its foundation. What drives innolectric? What motivates Tim and his team to advance electric mobility with their own products? He answers these questions in an interview.
I’m more of a cross-over person. I started with an apprenticeship as a draftsman for structural engineering. I learned to draw with ink on tracing paper. In order to develop myself further, I started studying industrial engineering in Bochum.
During my studies at the Bochum University of Applied Sciences I came into contact with electric mobility for the first time through the SolarCar project. The team leader at the time gave a presentation on the project on campus. I was immediately fascinated by the opportunity to become part of the team.
The whole project has completely turned my basic understanding of automobiles upside down: To let a car drive only by solar light, not at walking speed but at over 100 km/h and average speeds of 50 km/h on long distances. That sounded too good to be true – but it really is!
What particularly motivated me was our interdisciplinary team. Although I have a degree in engineering, my focus is clearly on management. Here I was able to make a difference with so many disciplines working together and after a few months I took over full responsibility for the team management. During the development of our car we asked ourselves the question whether it is possible to drive such a car all over the world and under different conditions than in sunny Australia. How far will you get? This question and everything that followed put electromobility at the top of my agenda and was groundbreaking.
After all, something unique and great has emerged from this thought: We were the first university to achieve the status of a vehicle manufacturer by achieving full road approval for our car. We had help from politics, science and testing institutions: Everyone believed in the goal and together we made it possible. The approval enabled us to implement our idea of demonstrating that a solar-powered car can be used worldwide and challenged the status quo of mobility. But the approval was only a ” way to an end”. We have managed to create a complete round-the-world trip with the solar generated electricity of the vehicle. From autumn 2011 to December 2012 we drove around the globe from Australia. For this we were awarded a Guinness World Record, which probably nobody will beat so fast! From then on, it was clear to me that I wanted to push e-mobility further.
That’s right. Between a student project and a growing technology company like innolectric, there are worlds apart. And yet the experience gained from such a project is still helpful in today’s business world. And very important: The essential skills and virtues are the same and shape our everyday work here in the team. First of all, you don’t build a company without commitment. This is also not a one-man show, you need a team that actively believes in the same vision. Fun at work is essential. Understanding your own work as valuable and beneficial is a key motivating factor. When topics don’t let you go, you identify with the content and are passionate about it: that’s an enormous force!
The interdisciplinary work in the team is similar in the company as in the SolarCar project: software development, hardware development, systems engineering, project management, production management, marketing, finance and other fields of activity… But today the topics are much more complex and larger. In addition, we are not a “student group” as people often think of young companies. The mixture of experienced and young dynamic colleagues is good for the daily work.
Also the responsibility has increased significantly. At that time I was responsible for a project over three years, today it is a company that is many times bigger. But that motivates me and drives me to become better.
A very exciting question. From the gut: Yes! It is without question an emotional topic and I am attached to it with heart and soul. The mobility industry is one of the most important industries in the world, and e-mobility is the push for a disruptive market change. Old, classic principles and ideas are suddenly being challenged. This is moving and also important.
With today’s experience as an employee, consultant and decision-maker, I would certainly do many things differently. But my basic attitude has remained the same: e-mobility is the absolute future – both on and off the road and especially in the commercial vehicle sector. Building a start-up has been an incredible challenge – full of privation and demanding. In the end, I feel a sense of satisfaction that tells me that it was worth it!
Photo of Tim Karcher: © Julia Scheibeck // junited.photography