At the fifth Magdeburg environmental forum staged by Daimler and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the two host partners called for the establishment of an infrastructure for electric and fuel-cell vehicles. The call is linked to extending Daimler's Memorandum of Understanding with UNEP, in existence since 2005, with the aim of reinforcing dialogue and the joint commitment for emission-free mobility among all parties.

At this international conference, 250 high-ranking representatives from the spheres of industry, science, politics and (non-)government organizations discussed solutions for road transportation of the future under the motto of "Sustainable Mobility – The Post-2012 CO2 Agenda."

"A concerted effort of all parties will make the transition to the age of sustainable mobility as smooth and efficient as possible," said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "We have developed the technologies and are now in a position to introduce them on the market", Zetsche continued.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "Climate change, congestion and the rising cost of fossil fuels demand transformative solutions to national and global mobility challenges. Car makers who seize the opportunities to harness cutting edge technologies and forge partnerships with innovative fuel makers up to city planners can make the transitions society so urgently need - those who do not may go the way of the steam engine and the pack horse."

Daimler's Rowwwap to the Age of Sustainable Mobility

On the road to sustainable mobility, Daimler is banking on innovative technologies for the drive systems of the future. The measures range from the optimization of vehicles with modern internal combustion engines, through further increase in efficiency with hybridization, up to locally emission-free mobility with vehicles powered by the fuel-cell or batteries. At the same time, Daimler is also committed to exploring future energy sources such as second-generation biofuels.

Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and responsible for Group Research and Development Mercedes-Benz Cars: "As automotive manufacturer, we see our responsibility in the development of innovative technologies and components for emission-free mobility such as the lithium-ion battery or the fuel-cell stack in close cooperation with our suppliers. By introducing electric and fuel-cell vehicles on the market already in 2010, we are demonstrating our intention to fulfill this responsibility." A further important requirement, continued Dr. Weber, is appropriate employee qualification. Along with comprehensive measures within the company, institutes of higher education can also make a valuable contribution in this regard.

Integrated Holistic Approach

An integrated holistic approach which extends over a vehicle's entire life cycle is crucial to this endeavor. An ecologically neutral balance can only be achieved if development, production, operation, and recycling of vehicle components and parts are taken into account. With environmental certification now granted for four model series of the Mercedes-Benz brand, the company is the world's first manufacturer to be given official recognition of the environmental compatibility of several vehicle models.

Infrastructure as Challenge

However, the greatest challenge at present is to establish the necessary infrastructure. Daimler has announced that it will release the first electric and fuel-cell vehicles as early as 2010 despite some uncertainty as to whether customers will be able to fill or recharge these cars universally by that date. "The technology is in the starting blocks," said Dr. Dieter Zetsche in describing the planned market introduction. "It is now time for the energy providers and petroleum companies, to show proof of their commitment as well. We have been approaching possible partners and taking the initiative."

Magdeburg Environmental Conference since 1999

The Magdeburg Environmental Conference was called into being in 1999. Three years ago the partners Daimler and UNEP signed a memorandum of understanding, in which they agreed to promote the use of biofuels with a view to the reduction of emissions in road traffic. At the time, Daimler resolved to create the necessary technical framework for a 10% blend of biofuel, an objective which the company has now fulfilled. The agreement has also given rise to research projects, for example for investigating and evaluating the introduction of possible sustainability standards for biofuels.