Patrick Plötz – leaving the combustion engine past behind

Patrick Plötz is the Coordinator of Business Unit Energy Economy at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).

Patrick Plötz owns his own electric car as of this year. “We needed a new car and I said I didn’t want anything with an exhaust in 2022,” says the 41-year-old. The purchasing decision, the first weeks with the new car, the planning for the first vacation trips were exciting experiences for the family man. Because now he personally experienced what he has been researching in his job for years.

“We opted for a small battery because we take breaks with our kids every two to three hours anyway.” In the first few weeks, he still had the impulse to charge the car every day at the power socket at home. “But then I also became emotionally aware that that’s not necessary at all, because of course, I don’t drive 300 kilometers every day.”

Research on sustainable mobility

That the purchase of an electric car goes hand in hand with a change of habits is something Patrick Plötz has long known – from user surveys that he has implemented himself. Plötz, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, heads the Business Unit Energy Economy at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in Karlsruhe. Here, he and his team implement empirical studies, not only on EVs, but also on electric trucks and fuel cell vehicles. He takes a look at a wide variety of technologies – as unbiased as possible.

“We don’t sell electric cars, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells or batteries,” the researcher emphasizes. However, he says it is important to him that tax funds are used efficiently. “It’s always easy to call for subsidies. But there are also opportunities in regulatory law to bring things to market quickly.”

Patrick Plötz is also monitoring political measures to reduce carbon emissions – and he is calling for an ambitious approach, especially from the European Commission, which is setting the framework conditions. He recently examined, for example, how much CO2 European transport can still emit to meet the 1.5-degree target. The result: 2035 is actually already too late for a ban on internal combustion vehicles; it should actually come even sooner. Plötz also advocates that alternative drives achieve a high market penetration – and that people ride their bicycles or take the train more.

From physics to the energy industry

Patrick Plötz made a very conscious decision to take up a scientific position with social relevance after completing his studies and doctorate in physics. “I have always been very interested in the big questions about the universe and atoms, and I find quantum physics incredibly fascinating. But I kept asking myself during my dissertation: Wouldn’t it be great if many of these smart physicists also contributed something to the pressing problems of our time?”

On the side, Patrick Plötz also studied philosophy and the history of science out of interest. To this day, he likes to pick up a philosophical book in his free time and to visit ancient cities during his vacations. While he rides his bicycle to work and likes to take the night train for business trips, the researcher also sometimes uses airplanes or cars in his private life. “In the past, my wife and I often took the plane to southern Italy. Now we like to stay within electric car range on vacation.” After all, with two small children, no one wants to sit in the car longer than necessary anyway. Janna Degener-Storr


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