VW Bets Big on Electric Cars

Sure, Tesla grabs all the headlines. But never forget that Toyota was one of the pioneers of hybrid electric vehicles. Some of the other big carmakers such as Volkswagen are going all in to bring better electric cars to market.

VW – maker of the iconic Beetle and the much-loved Golf hot hatches – has hatched a strategy starting in 2020 to sell at least 150,000 plug-in, electric-only vehicles a year. Remember, VW got caught faking pollution tests on some of its diesel cars. The company seems to have survived that fiasco. Whether it’s in spite of or because of that bit of corporate deception, VW plans to sell the most electric cars in a year ever, eclipsing Tesla’s sales records.

Keep in mind the electric vehicle pledge accounts for about 1.5% of the 10-million cars VW produces each year. By 2025, the electric car number is expected to reach 1-million electric vehicles a year with 50 fully electric vehicles on the market. By 2030, every model from every VW brand – Audi, Bentley, Porsche, etc., – will have some form of electric option.

VW has spent a billion euros converting a plant in eastern Germany to build only electric cars. The company plans to open five electric car plants in China and another one in the United States over the next 10 years.

Those are some big plans. What can we see coming from the German carmaker in the next few years?

Call it the third wave of VW’s history. The first was 40 years of Beetle production in the 20th century. The second wave arose with another 40 years of water-cooled, front-wheel-drive-based internal-combustion cars. Here comes the third wave, which the company says will be as disruptive as the company’s transition from the rear-engine Beetle to the front-wheel-drive Golf 40 years ago. VW is returning to the basic Beetle configuration with rear-drive, rear-motor vehicles.

The basis for the electric car revolution is the Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) system, which has been in development for three years. It’s a toolbox filled with EV building blocks of various axles, drive trains, wheelbases for different types of vehicles.

So what about the cars?

For a glimpse into VW’s thinking, look at the vehicles introduced at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. The I.D. CROZZ and I.D. BUZZ made their debut and were displayed along with the original Volkswagen I.D. concept vehicle. The I.D. CROZZ and the I.D. BUZZ are VW’s early models designed to help Volkswagen launch an EV revolution.

The first model we’re likely to see in 2020 is an electric compact sport-utility vehicle based on the I.D. CROZZ concept vehicle. Then a revival of the beloved Volkswagen Bus is expected in 2022.

The I.D. CROZZ is about the same size as the 2018 Tiguan four-door, with the interior space of a mid-size SUV. The power train combines an 83-kWh lithium-ion battery pack with an electric motor driving each axle. The front motor is good for 101 hp and the rear 201 hp, for a combined system output of 302 hp. VW says the vehicle will offer a range of up to 300 miles. Technology includes voice-activated doors and trunk and planned self-driving modes.

The rear motor will be the primary driving force, and the front motor engages when needed for traction. Drivers can activate the front motor when driving off-road or in snowy conditions. The low-slung position of the lithium-ion battery pack improves handling with a low center of gravity and 48/52 front-rear weight allocation. The Volkswagen vehicles will be designed for speedy recharging compared to today’s models. The CROZZ will recover 80% of its charge in 30-minutes using a 150 kWh DC charger.

The CROZZ concept car features the I.D. Pilot self-driving system, which Volkswagen plans make available in 2025. The I.D. Pilot uses four laser scanners that pop up from the roof, ultrasonic and radar sensors and cameras to guide the vehicle. Users can activate the system either by voice control – “Hello I.D., please activate Pilot mode,” or by touching the Volkswagen logo on the steering wheel. A three-second touch on the logo activates the self-driving mode where the wheel retracts and the ambient lighting switches to red. In manual driving mode, the ambient lighting shows as light blue.

Drivers interface with the car through Active Info Display, an electronic rear-view mirror, an augmented reality heads-up display and digital door panels. Users will interact with these features by voice and gesture control, touch displays or capacitive button fields. The instrument panel is centered around a 10.2-inch touch tablet for infotainment, HVAC and communications functions.

The “Open Space” design concept interior creates an airy, flexible cabin with lounge-like amenities, from the Alcantara-covered quilted seating surfaces to the motion-controlled virtual lightshade – a feature of the panoramic glass roof that uses LED strips to illuminate the interior.

If you’re interested in an electric vehicle, keep an eye out for the new lineup coming from VW. If you missed your chance to buy a Beetle, you have another opportunity to be a part of VW history in the next phase of automotive technology.

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