Appointment with... Professor Malte Jaensch

Projects, Research |

“Appointment with... ” is a series of interviews introducing new professors of the TUM School of Engineering and Design (ED): A conversation with Prof. Dr. Malte Jaensch, full professor of the Chair of Sustainable Mobile Drivetrains at the Department of Mobility Systems Engineering.

Portrait picture of Prof. Malte Jaensch
Prof. Malte Jaensch was appointed Professor for Sustainable Mobile Drivetrains at the School ED in October 2021. Image: Andreas Heddergott / TUM

Malte Jaensch (*1976) is an engineer, entrepreneur and manager with a Doctoral degree and MBA qualification. He studied mechanical engineering at TU Braunschweig and completed his PhD in mechatronics at Imperial College London in 2006. Subsequently, Malte Jaensch worked as a senior engineer in the field of electrical machines at EVO Electric, a hi-tech start-up co-founded by him. Parallel to this, he obtained an Executive MBA in Technology and Innovation from the Imperial College Business School. In 2013, he returned to Germany to take the lead in setting up the electric drivetrain division for Porsche Engineering.
On October 1, 2021, Malte Jaensch was appointed to the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Together with his team, he develops drive systems for future, sustainable mobility at his chair. The main areas of research include electric drive systems, hydrogen and e-fuels, piston engines, fuel cells, energy & mobility.

Interview: Sophia Pritscher

Prof. Jaensch, how did you become who you are?

Malte Jaensch: Looking at it on a metaphysical level, it has been a combination of coincidences and the willingness to constantly do something new, something I had little to no knowledge of before. Moreover, a certain perseverance and a dose of luck.
For example, one element of luck was that I happened to end up doing my PhD at the Imperial College London in 2003. Back then, I was frankly not aware of what an outstanding university the Imperial is. I realized that once I was there. My decision to study for an Executive Master of Business Administration there also came about without any particular ulterior motives. I simply had a curiosity and a desire to learn, especially in field beyond engineering. Ultimately, everything paid off; and I mean that less financially than intellectually. All the new experiences and perspectives allowed me to develop a fundamental sense of how colleagues from other disciplines approach topics.

At what point did you realize that you were going to continue on the academic path after all?

I think it was last summer when I decided to take on this job. I am not completely unencumbered by this career path; my father is a professor of medicine. But it was never my career goal, just a nice idea. So, when I saw the job posting for the TUM professorship in 2019, I thought to myself, "why not?".
Now I am settled at my chair located in Munich's Schragenhofstraße, sort of an idyllic green island. Thanks to the granted financial appointment funds, I can transform the institute according to my ideas. Since the 1930s, the main emphasis has been on internal combustion engines. But we all know diesel and gasoline will have to become a part of the past very soon. I not only want to break new grounds in terms of content, but also modernize the facilities. I want to create a place where the future is being shaped.

What is your first research project at TUM? On what are you working on at the moment?

There are quite a number of projects that were initiated under the leadership of my predecessor, Prof. Wachtmeister. Those were part of the chair's equipment, so to speak, when I arrived here – which makes me very happy. The projects are mainly supervised by my two senior engineers and are exclusively dealing with synthetic fuels. Thus, with non-conventional fossil fuels which are still in the field of combustion engines, but explore a possible further development. This research is important because over a short to medium period of time, internal combustion engines will still have a future in some areas of mobility. Apart from passenger automobiles, it is not possible to convert everything to electromobility immediately. For example, heavy trucks and large container ships will be unable to operate without combustion engines. In the future, however, they should be powered not by fossil fuels but by sustainable fuels. What exactly these fuels will be is often not yet clear in individual cases; and that is precisely what we are investigating.
Gradually, we will expand this research so that we will have projects within the three key areas: conventional internal combustion engines with sustainable fuels, electric drive systems, and hydrogen and fuel cell mobility. These various research directions also reflect the open title of the chair – sustainable mobile drivetrains. The scope for interpretation is something we have taken to heart: We want to conduct research in an open, unbiased manner and with a broad approach.

How do you move around?

Today I got to work by subway and on foot. Unfortunately, I now have some blisters because I was wearing new shoes - I should have kept that off. At home in the Swabian region, where I live with my wife and three little children, we have a multivan. An electrically powered vehicle for the mobility needs of a larger family didn't exist back then. Here in Munich, I'm always happy when I get to drive my small yellow sports car. I must confess that it is also a combustion model. Again, though, it was a problem of availability: there was no electric vehicle with the requirements and at the price I wanted. Necessity dictated the decision. Of course, it does not correspond to what I believe in. Therefore, this car will be the last combustion engine in my life.

What changes do you hope to see in the future?

I hope, generally speaking, that our society will become more mature again than it has been in recent years. Let's return to hard-earned, science-based discourse! People have to recognize complex topics as such, and discuss them with the tools of logic and rationality. And not present a solution within seven words on Twitter. We need less emotionality, less social media, more sobriety and more scientificity.
Specifically for the chair, I hope that we will have created a modern center for sustainable mobility in five to ten years. One that lives up to the claim of its name, both from the outside and from the inside. A place where future mobility is researched in a well-founded scientific manner. A work that my colleagues and I continue to enjoy.
As for my private life - not to forget - I want my family to stay healthy, my children to grow up happily and I myself not to fall into a routine where one day resembles the next. I want to continue learning, discovering new things, talking to new colleagues about fresh topics, experiencing permanent challenges and changes. I hope that life will never become boring.