VOLKSWAGEN'S VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Volkswagen has some fantastic ideas of what lies ahead in the future of motoring. Here are just a few of them
THE FUTURE IS ELECTRIC, whether you like it or not. Governments, the auto industry and even consumers are making a huge push towards electrification. It’s the biggest revolution in mobility since the invention of the internal combustion engine, and this shift throws up a whole lot of questions — some of them questioning the very fundamentals of cars as we know them. We were part of a small group of people that got insight in to Volkswagen’s plans for the future. Not only did they reveal to us more about electric cars, but also into autonomous vehicles and how they will completely redefine the driving experience. The approach to the future is two pronged — with electric cars being developed on a priority basis, to get them ready for mass production while autonomous vehicles are being developed in parallel with the timeline for their production having a lot to do with government regulations. Here’s what we know so far: Toolkit (MEB) platform is fully optimised for cheap but effective mass production of electric cars. It essentially has wheels at four corners and a floor-mounted slab of batteries — picture a skateboard. The motors are integrated in to the axles and any body style can be built over it — it frees up so much room for the designers, they are no longer constrained by engines and transmissions. Case in point: the ID range. The platform is similar to a Golf size car, but the fact that there’s no engine, it will be as spacious as a Passat. It will be launched in Europe in 2020 because by then, VW can optimise it to be priced similar to a standard diesel Golf. Battery tech will have moved ahead and more charging infrastructure will be in place as well.
VW expect to have 25 per cent of its sales by 2025 coming from purely electric cars, and a large portion of the remaining 75 per cent to have some form of electrification — plug in hybrids, mild hybrids, the works. By 2030, they expect 50 per cent of all sales to be electric. Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, head of the VW Group’s R&D believes that by 2025, people’s perceptions would see a paradigm shift as well. Electric cars will be the norm, while conventional cars will be looked at as unnecessary. 50 billion euros purchasing batteries! In 2025, they’re going to need four factories as big as Tesla’s Gigafactory to deal with their demand. At least for the next few years, Volkswagen will continue purchasing batteries from suppliers in Japan, China and Korea and will not manufacture them in-house. They don’t even buy them as individual cells, but as pre-assembled modules, which they package in to a battery pack.
These MEB cars will be anywhere between 400-600km depending on how you spec them, but questions still arise about charging infrastructure. VW says that the onus of building infrastructure lies 50:50 with the industry and the government. The type of chargers can vary — anything from a lamppost equipped with chargers to full blown charging stations. Charger tech is also getting better — VW is developing a 350kW charger that can supply 350km worth of juice in 10 minutes. The tech is not quite ready yet and we wont see it before 2022, but it is coming. They also estimate that for a sensible level of motorisation, four charging stations are required per 1000 inhabitants. This will be a challenge in a country like India, but we’ve overcome bigger hurdles with the ICE and this will eventually be overcome as well.