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EVs and smart machines rule IFA and IAA

Two of the world’s biggest tech and automotive shows coincided last week in Germany, with a common theme, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

This week saw two of the world’s most significant technology expos pointing the way to a smarter, more electric future. One of these, IAA Mobility 2023 in Munich, was strictly speaking an automotive rather than technology show, but high-tech advances dominated proceedings. Not too far away, at the annual IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, the focus was on sustainability and artificial intelligence (AI).

These concepts came together in Munich, too, where the highlight of the event was BMW’s new concept car, the Vision Neue Klasse electric vehicle (EV). Unlike most concept cars, however, it was more than merely a proof of innovative capabilities.

“The BMW Vision Neue Klasse combines our ability to innovate in the core areas of electrification, digitalisation and circularity,” said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the BMW Group. “In this way, we are always able to stay two steps ahead of the future: The Neue Klasse is already bringing the mobility of the next decade to the roads in 2025 – and leading BMW into a new era.”

Other major automakers, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz , also announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles in the coming years, with all three manufacturers also showcasing new self-driving car concepts. Not to be outdone, Volocopter and Lilium unveiled new flying taxi prototypes.

Audi unveiled the Q6 e-tron, the first model series based on a newly developed system called Premium Platform Electric, a modular platform for building EVs more cost-effectively. Audi has already announced it will phase out fuel-driven vehicles by 2033.

Mercedes-Benz also revealed its first EV model range using a modular system, the Concept CLA Class, based on Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA). Ola Källenius, chairman of Mercedes Benz Group, announced four upcoming MMA vehicles, with a range of more than 750 kilometres.

“We’re also exploring what’s possible in terms of sustainability with this vehicle,” he said. “Across the entire MMA fleet, we will reduce CO2 emissions in our value chain by more than 40 percent compared to the previous architecture.”

While AI ruled at IFA, sustainability also underpinned almost every showcase of new products

Samsung  announced that it would use recycled materials in all products by 2025 and reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030.

An initiative called the Net Zero Home project “aims to help customers save on costs, cut CO2 emissions and conveniently monitor household power use all at once via a single app, in homes that generate and manage their own energy”.

To help make the home of the future a reality, Samsung said, it had partnered with several global technology companies specializing in eco-conscious home solutions, including Germany-based solar technology, storage and charging company SMA Solar Technology and Swedish-Swiss electronics corporation and smart-homes innovator ABB.

Symbolising its commitment to reducing impact on the environment, Samsung unveiled the A-40% washing machine, designed to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent by using intelligent technologies to optimise washing performance. An AI Wash feature reduces washing waste by intelligently adjusting the soaking, rinsing, and spinning times based on the amount of water and detergent added.

LG announced that it would launch a new line of energy-efficient appliances, Sony said it would make its products more sustainable by using recycled materials and renewable energy, reducing its packaging waste by 20 percent by 2025, and Bosch launched a new line of appliances that use AI to save energy by learning one’s usage patterns and adjusting their settings accordingly.

Robot vacuum cleaners almost overran the show, as companies competed to demonstrate their individual approaches to pumping AI into household appliances.

The Roborock 15 Pro has a massive 770ml onboard dustbin to ensure users don’t need to keep emptying it. The Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni is square, the better to get into corners. The DreameBot L20 Ultra is the first robot vacuum cleaner that can remove its own spinning mops, raising them when it goes over a carpet, for example. Budget options were on display from the likes of market leader iRobot, Yeedi, and SwitchBot.

Amid all the high-tech, however, it was a low-tech approach that earned the biggest plaudits. Fairphone, a manufacturer that focuses on making smartphones as repairable as possible, launched its new flagship handset, the Fairphone 5, with a major “innovation”: the owner can take it apart with a standard screwdriver and replace most parts themselves.

The company says it is made out of 70% fair and recycled materials and is built by people who are paid a living wage. It offers a 5 year warranty and software support until at least 2031 – the longest such guarantee in the industry. It is shipped with the current version of Android 13, the current version of the smartphone operating system (OS), and Fairphone promises to deliver at least five updates to the OS.

That was probably the most common-sense approach to sustainability unveiled in Germany this week.

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