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The Battery Show Europe Interview: Jurgen Pampel, CEO,Voltabox AG

Thursday, 11 Apr 2019 ( #918 )
Jurgen has been CEO of Voltabox AG since 2017, having previously been CTO and VP of Sales. He talks here about Voltabox's recent successes, plus the company's plans to enter the US intralogistics market, and its development of future-orientated power electronics.

Voltabox's business was excellent in 2018, with your company regularly reporting good figures. Are you satisfied with the business development?
Voltabox has developed operationally according to our plan. We established our leading position as a pioneer for sustainable mobility in several high-growth market segments. Our jump in revenues in 2018 impressively demonstrates the continued strong organic growth. The acquisitions made last year will secure further market penetration for particularly large and powerful battery systems, such as for mining vehicles, and horizontal diversification, especially for pedelecs and e-bikes. Finally, the new contractual arrangement with our partner Triathlon in June last year paved the way for the conquest of the North American battery market for intralogistics applications. We look forward to meeting our targets and the operational expectations for the current year.

Which markets does Voltabox address and what are the expectations for the development of the global battery market?
Voltabox has established itself as a market leader in the development and manufacture of Li-ion battery systems especially for trolleybuses and forklift trucks. Furthermore, we have positioned ourselves to be a leading supplier of motorcycle starter batteries as well as batteries for automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and underground mining vehicles. Especially in the intralogistics market, the substitution process from lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion technology remains highly dynamic. As many cities seek to improve their air quality situation, innovative solutions for trolleybuses and e-buses - such as lithium-ion technology in the sense of a flexible backup battery - become more and more important.

According to the Association for Electronic and Information Technologies (Verband der Elektrotechnik und Informationstechnik), many e-mobility industry experts in Germany expect battery technologies to be a major growth sector in the German economy. With regard to the market segments in which Voltabox is already active, the market research institute IDTechEx assumes a global average growth rate of 17% for the period from 2017 to 2027. We believe that increasing connectivity and miniaturisation as well as mass electrification of transportation systems will continue to support demand for Voltabox's batteries and battery systems.

What are your USPs? How does Voltabox differentiate itself from its competitors?
Voltabox is a first mover in the field of safe, modern, sustainable lithium-ion battery systems for industrial submarkets. We made a conscious decision not to serve as many markets as possible, including any mass markets, thereby avoiding ruinous price competition for our business. Instead, we see ourselves as a technology partner for our customers and apply our strengths and development expertise to special, challenging applications. In this way, we help to sustainably shape the ongoing establishment of electromobility and provide our customers with clear cost advantages over the lifecycle of their vehicles.

In addition to our system competence, the central USPs of Voltabox are the modular system developed in-house (which forms the basis for the flexibility and scalability of our products), as well as our application expertise and the high degree of automation in production. As a member of the Paragon Group, which has been supplying the automotive industry for decades, we can draw on many years of experience in optimising production processes in terms of maximum efficiency and quality.

What are your key opportunities at the moment? What challenges do you have to face in 2019?
The intralogistics market serves as the best example of how we can tap new potential in market segments already occupied by us. On the one hand, we renegotiated the cooperation agreement with our distribution partner Triathlon last year. This enabled us to enter the direct sales market in parallel ? both in Germany and in other markets. After withdrawing our acquisition of Navitas, we will develop our own system for the US market on the basis of our flexible modular system. The launch of these new products for this market is planned in the course of the current year. Furthermore, we see opportunities to apply our technology in submarkets, such as agricultural and forestry vehicles, utility vehicles for public services, waste disposal vehicles, construction and surface mining vehicles as well as ground support equipment for airports.

What's more, the acquisition of Accurate last September enables us to enter selected mass markets. Through Accurate, we are gaining a further piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing a full-service offer for electrification to new target markets with strong margins ? so we are extremely pleased that the team is now part of us.

I have emphasised at any occasion in the past that recruiting is one of our greatest challenges. As I've already stated, we see ourselves as technology partners for our customers. We don't search for the simple tasks, but rather the challenging applications that you don't come up with just like that. This requires capable personnel who, in particular, have an understanding of the requirements profile of the respective vehicles. This is a characteristic that distinguishes us.

Voltabox is well known for its innovations and operative dynamics. What can we expect from your company in the foreseeable future?
Of course, our current focus is on the US intralogistics market in particular. As stated before, we are now implementing our standalone strategy with regard to our entry into the North American intralogistics market. To this end, we are currently developing a battery system based on the latest LFP cell chemistry. In the next step we will strive for UL certification as soon as possible so that our newly established sales team for the USA can take up work. We are very confident that our proven technology will quickly conquer this market, too.
Furthermore, at our competence centre for research and development in Aachen, Germany, we are making progress in the further development of future-orientated power electronics. Here, our engineers are currently developing a high-performance onboard charger (OBC) for charging directly on board a vehicle. The charger is characterised by an extremely compact installation space, which requires particularly reliable cooling. In addition, the functional model of a DC/DC converter was completed in the past fiscal year and is now undergoing validation. The voltage converter converts the DC voltage supplied from the lithium-ion battery system into a DC voltage with a lower voltage level in order to provide the onboard electronics with energy as well.

What fascinates you about your job, your mission?
Voltabox has embarked on an extremely dynamic growth path on which it never gets boring. To have the opportunity to lead this young, but very professional and experienced company into the future is the best task I can imagine. In addition to our groundbreaking technology, we have a great team that is really hungry for success. Together we are pursuing the goal of further developing and establishing Voltabox as the leading provider of lithium-ion battery systems, and fully exploiting our enormous potential within our targeted markets.

Voltabox is a regular guest at The Battery Show Europe. What are your expectations and goals for the trade fair?
The Battery Show Europe is an excellent place to initiate conversations, discuss customers' challenges and lay the foundation for partnerships. That's why we consider the show to be particularly valuable for us. Our participation in the past has always been extremely exciting. Therefore, we are very much looking forward to being represented again with a stand at The Battery Show Europe.

Voltabox AG is exhibiting at The Battery Show Europe 2019 at stand 818.
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