There were many long faces at the start of the World of Energy Solutions on Oct. 10 last year, after attendees arriving in the morning at the International Congress Center Stuttgart, Germany, discovered that considerably fewer exhibitors were present than in past years and even the inauguration event of the symposium had as little as 80 attendees. But as it got more crowded on the second day, the organizers remained confident about 2017, when the Electric Vehicle Symposium, the biggest trade show and conference on electric transportation, will take place at the same time as the 17th WES.
Of course, the number of exhibitors or attendees is only one indicator of a successful event. A bigger factor in what makes the rent of an exhibit or the attendance at a symposium worthwhile is the content offered. Still, the bare numbers provide important information about trends and developments.
In 2016, they showed that in the end, more exhibitors came to the Stuttgart premises than were expected at first, although 96 organizations meant 24 fewer than in 2015. The conference also had to cope with fewer attendees – a 30 percent drop to 350 registrations – and there was indeed some criticism of the program here and there. But all in all, most sessions drew a large enough audience.
The exact reasons for the decrease in numbers can only be speculated about: Some say, there just aren’t enough novelties to present. Others explain that they want to focus their attention on the EVS. Some say the conference is becoming less scientific, while others praise the variety of topics offered, but would wish for presentations to go into more detail.
One positive thing that cannot be stressed enough is that Peter Sauber Agentur Messen und Kongresse had considered carrying out this meeting of industry stakeholders at all – despite considerable difficulties – and assumed all the risk. Both Landesmesse Stuttgart and e-mobil BW had announced beforehand not to co-organize the event anymore and rather spend two years on preparing for the EVS30. Peter Sauber, who has organized the fall event in Baden-Württemberg’s state capital for 16 years, insisted on the date and delivered – despite considerable financial pitfalls – the usual professional conference experience.
The future of the WES is now secure – at least, for the time being – since a great many attendees will pour into Stuttgart in 2017 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the EVS from Oct. 9 to 11. Because of space requirements, however, the event will no longer take place in Stuttgart’s congress center, but in Hall 1 of the tradeshow premises. The World of Energy Solutions will then be combined with the f-cell and the Battery+Storage into an international symposium on electric transportation under the management of Landesmesse Stuttgart. The third part of the WES, however, the e-mobility solutions, will “be integrated into the EVS,” e-mobil BW announced.
Peter Sauber, who was asked again by Landesmesse Stuttgart to organize the conference, is already planning beyond 2017. He would like to put the spotlight more on the f-cell, but that would require several unmistakable signals from the industry. Lately, important sponsors – even large companies based in Stuttgart – had withdrawn their support from the event, creating gaps in financing and limiting the variety of speaker topics and attendee interests. Clear statements by the industry that it had realized the great importance of such a regular meeting each fall would provide a sense of planning security – not only for the organizer, but for the community as a whole.
Whether the f-cell will still take place in 2018 on the trade show premises or, for instance, in the House of the Economy, is a matter of secondary importance. To put the fuel cell symposium in the limelight, you may need to remember the old days, where a large, international conference took place in a relaxed atmosphere in the middle of Stuttgart. Attracting several hundred exhibitors to a fuel cell and battery trade show should be considered a failed idea, even if energy storage is becoming a centerpiece of the competition in Düsseldorf and Munich.
The already existing fuel cell products will become an increasingly important factor on relevant consumer shows, so that an f-cell symposium taking place each fall in Stuttgart remains essential – both for advancing these products and for sharing knowledge among researchers.
Author: Sven Geitmann