Kamelia Detig-Karlou
Sustainability 17.02.2022 4 Min.
“I want to be a role model.”

In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Kamelia Detig-Karlou.

Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.

So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.

In this edition of our series, Kamelia Detig-Karlou, responsible for e-mobility projects at the BMW Group, talks about her drive for change, the progress in battery technology and how she sees things through sustainability eyes.

Kamelia Detig-Karlou

Kamelia Detig-Karlou, you were born in Tehran and came to Germany to study. You studied chemistry, completed your doctorate and initially worked in the chemical industry. Today, you are responsible for sustainability and recyclates in the high-voltage storage system of e-vehicles. How did that come about? 

Kamelia Detig-Karlou: Sustainability has always been very present for me as a chemist. My studies were about recycling PET bottles, which was revolutionary at the time. When I joined the BMW Group in 2002, my areas of interest were in surfaces, powder coating and zero emissions technology in the paint shop. I then got into battery development via “Project i”. We have fathomed out what is special about the electric drive. This has allowed me to get to know the main components of the e-drive down to the smallest detail. Since the beginning of 2021, I have been responsible for sustainability – that is, carbon footprint, recyclability and use of recyclates in high-voltage storage. Sustainability is just as important in our decision-making as cost and efficiency. It’s about the entire manufacturing process, because we want to produce our vehicles completely sustainably. The high-voltage battery has the greatest impact on that. And that’s where I am now.  

This means you have arrived at one of the critical moments for sustainable mobility. What is your goal? What do you want to achieve?

Detig-Karlou: The counter question is: why are we so committed to becoming sustainable? Of course, it’s because the BMW Group wants to remain fit for the future. For me, though, it’s just as important, if not more so, that we have a responsibility towards society and our children. This means that everything we do in terms of sustainability should not only have a local impact, but a global one as well. The different laws and regulations around the world do not exactly make it easy for us, but I am very committed to transparency and standardisation of our processes – especially internationally. If we, in our position as technology leaders, provide a framework, that will help a lot.

Kamelia Detig-Karlou

Is there a particular reason why you took on this task?

Detig-Karlou: I am attracted by the challenge of looking at something down to the last detail. I want to get to the bottom of things, get to the substance and then find solutions. From solvent-free paint to high-voltage batteries. It also appeals to me to combine the technical side with the sensible goal of sustainability. I also enjoy seeing the result of my work, a great product, driving on the road. On top of all this, I learn a lot with every task and in every function. For example, that battery technology still has plenty of potential. This applies to sustainability in production as well as to the range and life cycle. Second Life, secondary use, is clearly an option for batteries. Social projects excepted, however, recycling is the more sensible alternative for me. Moreover, we are not only working on further developing the lithium-ion battery, we are always exploring new, sometimes revolutionary paths. And when I examine further developments, I naturally see them through my sustainability eyes. 

What other eyes do you see things through?

Detig-Karlou: Coming from a completely different culture and having actively integrated myself here in Germany, it is very important to me to create connections between cultures. I have been committed to this for many years. I find the different roles of women here particularly exciting. So I see it through cultural eyes and role model ones too.

Kamelia Detig-Karlou

In a single sentence: what motivates you every day?

Detig-Karlou: Driving to work electrically (laughs)! I always like doing something new, taking on a challenge. But it must be something meaningful. I also want to be a role model for my daughters and for many other women. Where there is a will, there is a way – that is what I want to show. 

So, when is it good enough?

Detig-Karlou: Every night when I go to sleep. But apart from that, I will probably never really rest. I have far too many interests preoccupying me. My father is still learning languages at 90 – if I take him as an example, I still have a lot of plans.

In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.

"WEffect – we make the BMW Group sustainable.“
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