From the individual piece to series production: Battery prototypes for Mercedes-Benz vehicles

Sebastian Seitz powers ahead with the further development of e-mobility. As head of the battery start-up factory, he and his team produce sophisticated battery prototypes that are used to test the technologies for next-generation electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz. In his interview, Sebastian Seitz tells us why he loves being right at the pulse of development, what he particularly appreciates about his job as an engineer and manager, and why Daimler is much more than an employer for him and his family.

Mr. Seitz, with your team you are building batteries for the next generation of electric vehicles. What is the challenge here?

Electromobility is changing the automotive industry from the ground up. At Mercedes-Benz, we aspire to be at the forefront, and as part of the powertrain, the battery is a key component in achieving this. With our work in the start-up factory, we make a direct contribution, for example, when it comes to increasing the efficiency and range of electric vehicles. We are right on the pulse of development; this requires a lot of creativity, know-how and flexibility.

What exactly do you mean by that?

Every new component for our vehicles goes through an elaborate testing process. The batteries we build at the start-up factory in Kirchheim unter Teck (near Stuttgart) are extensively tested in trials on the test bench or on the test track and optimized for use in our new generations of vehicles. Each battery is virtually unique. Therefore, the production of a prototype can sometimes take several days. In addition, we have the opportunity here to incorporate the concerns and requirements of subsequent series production into the development work at a very early stage and thus influence product design in the interests of production.

And how do you proceed building a battery prototype like this?

We manufacture each battery by hand, precisely to the specifications of our colleagues in development. If, for example, the test setup has changed and an additional screw connection is required, we will find a solution for how to adapt the components. In the process, every change is precisely documented for the further development steps. This is pure engineering!

At the pulse of development. Sebastian Seitz in the start-up factory. This is where the battery prototypes for the next generation of electric vehicles are created.

As head of the battery start-up factory, you are responsible for the entire prototype production. How does a typical day at work look like for you?

A large part of my work takes place at my desk in my office – it is then a matter of planning processes and procedures. I often have appointments with the teams we work with, such as development, logistics and also controlling. Close coordination with our so-called battery prototype workshop in Untertürkheim, which also assembles test units, also plays an important role in our work. As a start-up factory, we are like a small independent production plant in the middle of the Daimler Group. That is especially appealing to me. Another important focus is the topic of occupational safety – this is a particularly high priority in our area.

Because you and your team have to deal with high voltages during battery production?

That's right. In production and assembly, we work in the high-voltage sector. Our employees who work at the battery assembly stations have extensive training and must also wear special safety clothing. The safety of our employees is our top priority.

Everyone in Sebastian Seitz's team wants to make a contribution to advancing electromobility.

And what does your team look like?

In the start-up factory, I am responsible for one foreman and 65 employees. Everyone has top qualifications and is enthusiastic about technology. I am always happy when I come to the workshop and see how committed all the team members are. Everyone wants to find the best solution and make their contribution to advance electromobility. You’ll find the passion of each one of us in there.

Keyword passion: What do you enjoy most about your work?

On the one hand, the human side is important for me as a manager, for example when I can support colleagues in their professional development and taking their next career steps. What I particularly like about my job is that, despite my office work, I am very close to technical topics as well as production. For example, if there is a challenge with a battery, I like to work on the solution – for me that's just part of being an engineer.

How did you actually end up at Daimler?

In 2010, I graduated with a degree in technology management and then applied to Daimler. At the time, it was a development project for a commercial vehicle engine. During my studies, I did an internship abroad with the Daimler Group at the Detroit Diesel Cooperation in the USA, and this made the job a good fit for me. I was able to put my experience from my time in Detroit to great use when I started. And besides, Daimler has a long tradition as an employer in our family.

My grandfather and my father always raved about Daimler as an employer and its commitment to building excellent vehicles. I feel the same way today.

You'll have to explain that to us in a little more detail!

I am already the fourth generation from my family to work at Daimler. Two of my great-grandfathers worked for the company almost 100 years ago. My grandfather and my father always raved about Daimler as an employer – about the friendly working atmosphere and, of course, the claim to build excellent vehicles. I feel the same way today.

What are your next plans at Daimler?

What always impresses me is that Daimler actually invented individual mobility with the automobile – and we are currently taking another big step with electromobility. I want to make my contribution to this in the coming years as well.

One last personal question: What was the most beautiful moment you have experienced?

I am an absolute family man and have a four-year-old daughter and last year my son was born. Watching my own children grow up is simply indescribable and always special for me – and maybe one day they will become the fifth generation at Daimler (laughs).

In person: Sebastian Seitz (39) has been fascinated with machines and engines since he was a child and enjoyed helping out in the workshop with his father when he was working on the family car – a Mercedes, of course. Later, he decided to study technology management at the University of Stuttgart, from which he graduated in 2010. Today, the engineer uses his design skills and passion not only to produce the battery prototypes for the next generation of electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, but also to build a cozy home for his family in his hometown of Esslingen am Neckar.

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