Marta Cudeiro, Ph.D., knows how to turn electric energy into a driving experience. As lead engineer, she ensures that the next generation of Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles will have an even greater range. In her interview, the team leader for Energy Efficiency and Certification at Mercedes-Benz and Spanish native explains why a completely new work method is needed for the development of the cars of tomorrow, how she came to the company as an Erasmus student and what her daughter's driving license has to do with her professional goals.
Marta, how can electric mobility become a successful model?
It is important that electric vehicles demonstrate clear advantages in many areas in comparison to combustion engines. If customers really don't have to think about range – for example, if they can use their electric vehicle to drive to their holiday destination – then we have really made it in society with electric mobility . In our team, we are currently developing concepts so that we will achieve exactly this goal at Mercedes-Benz with our new generation of electric models.
How do you proceed with development?
For our tasks, we need a different mindset compared to “classic” vehicle development. In classic vehicle development, the different units like engine, suspension, body and interior each work independently. With electric cars, this is different - all systems have a much greater influence on each other. That is why we view the vehicle as a single unit from the very beginning and work even closer together across units. For example, we put our heads together with the design colleagues to see how a car can have better aerodynamics, namely as little aerodynamic drag as possible, and at the same time look good.
What other areas are you working on to increase the range of the new electric models?
Apart from aerodynamics, we are optimizing roll resistance and the weight of the vehicle. Electric cars need a body that is as light as possible but is simultaneously robust. At the end of the day, the safety of the passengers on board is the most important thing for us. Another important point is to improve the efficiency of the power train and the auxiliary equipment.
What is the structure of your team?
We are a colorful team made up of six colleagues from three different countries with various different specialist areas: from classical engineering to economics. Each one of us contributes new perspectives and this is the best basis for innovations, I find. In addition, we work closely with the teams that carry out the tests on our vehicles on the test bench, in the wind tunnel or on the test track, for example in Immendingen . We are also in frequent contact with our colleagues in the quality department when it comes to the certification of new models on the markets globally.
What areas do you focus on as a manager?
For me as team leader, it is especially important that each team member has fun at work – and also gets a certain level of freedom. Each of us independently looks after a certain vehicle model. What I find particularly exciting here is the different approaches to our challenges. For range tests, one colleague prefers computer simulations while another would rather do an additional trial on the test bench. And afterwards, we can all benefit from our experiences.
How did you originally come to Mercedes-Benz?
I am originally from Spain and studied mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University in Barcelona. At the end of my studies, I wanted to gain experience abroad. Germany is seen as the country of engineers, so that's why I registered as an Erasmus student at the university in Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz simply stand for exceptional developments in the sector. I found the company to be a very attractive employer and applied to the Group to write my thesis .
And after your studies you stayed in the company.
Yes. As a student, I felt I was well looked after and learned a lot in that time. Working alongside my colleagues felt right from the very beginning. Initially, I worked in engine development for five years. At the same time, I also did my PhD here at the University of Stuttgart. I then transferred to the e-mobility unit and worked on the development of an electric smart car.
How was your time as a doctoral student at Mercedes-Benz?
It was nice that I wasn't just writing an academic work but that the results of my research were also directly feeding into the new vehicle models. If I see one of the vehicles on the road today with the engine that I collaborated on, it is of course really cool for me as an engineer. And there is a lot of support for PhD students in the company, lots of opportunities to do advanced training, a good network of doctoral students and plenty of opportunity to exchange ideas. All of it is really helpful.
What plans do you have at Mercedes-Benz?
In my opinion, the automotive sector still has a lot of opportunities when it comes to electric mobility. My personal goal is for my daughter, when she does her driving test in 16 or 17 years time, to ask me why we used to all drive cars with combustion engines (laughing).
One last personal question: what is an absolute necessity in your dream office?
This is easy - exciting tasks and good-humored colleagues. I am in the right place at Mercedes-Benz. We really have a lot of fun at work – and we're not short on humor either (laughing).
In person: Marta Cudeiro, Ph.D. (33) was practically born an enthusiast for technology – just like her, her father also is a passionate engineer. Fascinated by mechanics and the flow of energy, the native of Catalonia decided to study mechanical engineering in Barcelona and finished her studies with the Erasmus program at the University of Stuttgart. Today, the city on the Neckar river has become her second home where she, her partner and their daughter like to recharge their batteries. When Dr. Marta Cudeiro isn't working at Mercedes-Benz finding solutions to make the new e-models more efficient and provide them with more range, or spoiling her daughter, she likes to play sport – or relax watching classic films. She says she loves masterpieces from Billy Wilder such as "Some like it hot" or "The Apartment".