Design solutions for a greener future

06 Jan 2016
5 min read
Jens Niepelt, managing director at Otto Wöhr, talks about design solutions and his vision of a greener future for inner-city car parking.

Tell us about your business.

Otto Wöhr is a family-owned business near Stuttgart in southern Germany. It was founded in 1902 as a locksmith and since 1959 has specialised in mechanical parking. Since 1974, the business concentrates solely on the development, production and installation of mechanical and automatic car parking systems.

What’s in your portfolio?

We have the biggest range of products in the world, with a portfolio ranging from double parking, where two cars can be stacked on top of each other, to half automatic systems, moving platforms, turntables, to fully automatic parking systems for more than 1,000 car parking places.

How can we picture a fully automatic parking system?

We offer the largest spectrum of conveyor techniques that are based on palette technology, meaning cars are parked on a palette and all kinds of different conveyor techniques will transport the palette into another place. We have lift systems, palette moving systems, palette rotating systems and lift shuttle systems that go in all directions. Additionally, wealsooffer systems that work without a palette, meaning the car will be taken directly at its wheels and parked on flat surfaces.

The driver doesn’t have to park the car himself?

In our fully automatic parking systems you park the car in a sort of garage, a cabin which has a rolling door or a garage door, meaning every user who has a place usually has a chip or a card with which he can open this door. He can drive into a garage, where there is a palette in the floor, or, if it’s without a palette, it’s an even surface where the vehicle is parked, the user gets out and once he has left the car and the cabin, the parking is initiated. The door will then automatically close and the car will be parked fully automatically into a rack. Often, when it’s an underground system, the user won’t see where his car is being parked. When he comes back to get the car, he will again activate the process with his chip and the car is being transported back into the cabin, in the right direction for leaving the garage. There is nothing to worry about, everything is equipped with laser scanners and sensors inside the cabin to make parking easy and comfortable. The user is being advised when parking the car on the palette by a special guiding system.

What’s the advantage in semi-automatic parking systems?

Semi-automatic parking systems are for independent parking in 2 or 3 levels above each other, installed in the area of normal parking places. By lifting and sliding the platforms, access is provided to all parking places at the entrance level. It is a very compact way of parking cars.

Which is your most popular parking system?

Parklifts as well as Combilifts are very popular, because they can be easily installed in different type of properties, for example in residential and office buildings or hotels.

Where are your customers based?

40% is our local market here in Germany and 60% is export. Strong customers are Australia, Israel, Poland, but also England, The Netherlands and Belgium.

What are your most exciting projects at the moment?

We have many projects that are going at the same time. We are developing between 8-10 fully automatic projects for many hundred spaces. These big projects sometimes stretch over more than one year, up to three years sometimes. One of our biggest projects that we finished last month is a fully automatic parking system in Mumbai, India. It’s one project with over 1,100 parking spaces for an office building.

We also had a very nice project in London next to the Tower Bridge with Combilift systems, the first systems are already handedover and are in use, others will shortly be available to use. We also had a project at the former Port Authority near the Tower, Ten Trinity. The interior of the old port authority is being completed now and once building work is finished, our parking system will be opened for use.

Do you get to be on location a lot?

I am managing the distribution and therefore I am travelling a lot. We are involved in projects all over the world. I’ll be there to assist our sales partners in different project phases.

How do you see the future of parking?

We at Wöhr see ourselves as the solution provider when it comes to parking problems. When customers, architects or planners cannot deal with the classic, conventional parking solutions, they approach us with a project or an assignment. When parking spaces need to be created, we can help with our systems to park the cars in a more compact way and thus make the impossible possible.

We don’t see Wöhr as an alternative to conventional parking. There will definitely be conventional parking in the future if there is enough space. But wherever there are parking problems, like in cities, that’s where we can help. Either in areas where the location doesn’t work, or where the space isn’t usable for parking in a conventional way, that’s where we can provide our systems to make these properties usable for parking cars in a compact way.

What are the challenges?

I want to tell architects, planners and investors to approach us in an early phase of the project, because that’s when we can help and contribute, rather than when the whole building has already been planned.

Tell us about your proudest project.

We have had a very interesting project in Munich, at Donnersberger Straße, a residential area that had catastrophic parking conditions. People had to take long journeys and a lot of time in the evening after they came home from work, to find parking spaces in their neighbourhood. About 10 years ago we built a residential parking system underneath the street for 284 spaces, which is fully automatic, all on behalf of the city of Munich. The whole area became alive again, all the cars that previously had to be parked on the street have now disappeared underground, very comfortably. Residents don’t have to drive around looking for space anymore. The pavements were widened with only a few visitors’ spaces on street level, trees were planted and green spaces facilitated. The whole area has changed completely and is much more liveable than 10 years ago.

What’s next for Otto Wöhr?

We are currently working on a prototype for bicycle parking. Not only cars are important for us, but bicycles as well. Especially where green spaces are so important. That’s where we are also approachable for communities and large businesses who want to offer their employees possibilities to park their bikes.

What is your mission?

To help inner-city residential areas, which are chock-full of cars and with no space for children to play, to get cars out of the streets.

We are pioneers and constantly develop new ideas, depending on each individual requirement of our customers. They just have to tell us about their property and if we haven’t got the right system in our portfolio, then we have a strong engineering team who will develop special solutions.

Our mission is to use spaces the best way, to ease the pressure on the residential areas and to strengthen our commitment to a greener future and reduce the emission of CO2.

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