Volkswagen To Focus On Electric Cars & “Mobility Services” Like Carsharing & Ridesharing

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Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller has taken to the airwaves again to emphasize the company’s refocus on electric cars, as well as “mobility services” like carsharing, ridesharing, etc.

The Wonderful Silence (Volkswagen Video)This is not the first time Mueller and other Volkswagen execs have indicated that they would shift toward an ambitious, leading (… potentially) launch into electrification in the wake of its diesel scandal, but the fact that they keep making such strong statements on the matter makes me think they are for real about it.

During the annual new conference last night, Mueller indicated that his aim was to “make electric cars one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks.” He also reiterated a target announced last year and repeated in January: to electrify 20 models by 2020. How much these models are fully electric cars versus plug-in hybrids (with small batteries) is not yet clear, but let’s hope many of them will be long-range electric cars built electric from the ground up.

As I stated earlier today when discussing Ford’s positive electric car news, there are several things that Volkswagen should be doing if it wants to really be a leader and be taken seriously in this new clean-car arena:

  • include super-fast charging (not just “fast” charging) …  and assuming it isn’t building out a real, comprehensive network for that (we’ve seen zero sign of anyone other than Tesla doing so), just suck it up and partner with Tesla on this.
  • include over-the-air updates that will improve the car for owners over time, and allow quicker/easier service and even recalls.
  • get serious about autonomous driving features.

These are all things we learned buyers hugely value, as shown in our Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want report.


Regarding the diesel scandal that has been the Volkswagen story of the century, and Volkswagen’s financials relating to that, the Associated Press summarizes:

The company said last week that it made a net loss of 5.5 billion euros for 2015 after setting aside 16.2 billion euros ($18.3 billion) to cover the costs of the scandal. Analysts say the final cost will be significantly higher.

Of the set-aside for the scandal, 7.8 billion euros ($8.8 billion) was devoted to fixing or buying back diesels with the rigged software. The company is currently working out a settlement with U.S. authorities in federal court in San Francisco, and has said that would include an offer to buy back as many as 500,000 of the just under 600,000 defective vehicles.

The company said its robust cash reserves of 24.5 billion euros at year end left it in a strong financial position. Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter said that the company would not propose any capital increase to shareholders at its annual meeting in June.

I think Volkswagen will squeeze through this, even if it needs to be propped up by the German government a bit to do so, but let’s hope the strong penalties and moral shaming will genuinely turn the giant car company into a genuine electric car leader. Again, though, that means more than just producing long-range electric cars — that means being a leader in the EV ecosystem and in leading tech like autonomous driving.

Of course, the company also needs to graduate beyond production of compliance cars like the Volkswagen e-Golf, e-Up!, and mediocre plug-in hybrids.

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80 thoughts on “Volkswagen To Focus On Electric Cars & “Mobility Services” Like Carsharing & Ridesharing

  • May be VW can own the EV pick up market place

    • I doubt they’d venture that far from their home base. But who knows?…

      • May be Ford is listening, they may need a push start

        • Let’s hope Tesla grows to the point where they can develop more than one model at a time. Elon has said several times he’d like to do a truck. Doing so might be the push Ford and GM need. (I personally see no hope for Chrysler under Sergio).

          • That would be great, I just can’t figure out where to put a bail of hay? Know one, has that option. I think Ford would enter that market place before Tesla. Not to say I can’t envision my self in a Tesla PU. Untapped market place, which Tesla appears to own.Tesla has their niche, and so has Ford. I just hope that some manufacture seizes the vacancy, it would make a statement.

          • Hopefully the Ford shareholders have their ears on

          • Yeah, if one of these automakers doesn’t get really serious about EVs soon, Tesla may well do the first pickup. But I’m guessing GM & Ford are eyeing that option.

            Chrysler/Sergio: Agreed!

          • You’d need 300kWh batteries minimum to make that work.

  • The big automakers are all talking about ride sharing and self-driving, not just evs. For their long-term business, these are much worse news than electrification. That’s just a change in technology, like that from propellers to jet engines in aircraft. A radical change in the way people use cars could shrink the market by 80%. There won’t be room for all of the current automakers.

    • 80% sounds pretty extreme to me. Has anyone done a thought piece and worked through the numbers in order to come up with 80%?

      • This will be an exercise in futility. There are just too many moving pieces.

        Self driving and ride sharing are given.

        Employment patterns are bigger issues. We may not need so many to work or travel at fix hours. Manufacturing will become highly automated. Service industry is next due for employment shrinkage. Software people will ensure that.

        Only the intellectual jobs will remain but these are well suited for virtual offices and flexible timings.

        Downside will be leisure where people may just decide to live in self driving RVs. Those will not be shared.

        • Most people like having their own cars. Huge status symbol.

          Currently IC cars require a lot of hassle (learning to drive, govt regulation) and running expense (petrol, insurance, regular check-ups). Not to mention that you have to actually drive the thing.

          A cheap to run, self-driving EV will increase car ownership. Everyone can have their own customised travel pod.

          Travel 200 miles to see your nan and at the same time play X-box, read the paper, cook an omelette, drink a beer, send emails, have a nap, organise your stamp collection etc. The only real limit to what you could do inside a self-driving car is space.

          Commuting distances could increase, since you no longer need to squeeze onto crowded public transport or actively be driving. Sleep or work for two hours on the way to London or New York and buy a country house for half the price.

          • I wish that future was that easy to predict.

            Simply because commute becomes cheaper and easier, does not mean that everybody will start doing it. There may not be much need for it.

            It is also possible that most of the population starts living in happy cities designed by Disney. Everything becomes walkable.

            Traditional big cities like London or Paris may not have any advantage over new communities once the virtual offices take over.

            There may not be much requirement (work related) or desire (leisure related) to travel in future. Some people will do it. Yes, there are people who still write letters or keep farm animals.

          • The future is hard to predict. I recall how, back in the 1980s, one of the leading figures in personal/popular computing suggested that since hard drives were so expensive (they were incredibly expensive) that it might be possible for people to store their files online in a remote server and then sell computers for a lot less money (computers were expensive).

            He was roundly laughed out.

            Now we store our files in the clouds.

          • Bob i was one of the early adopters of computers paying the equivalent of over $15,000 for a no software, 8 kb memory with tape storage, black screen with a 8 pin dot matrix printer.
            Yes today computers are everyday items.
            It will not surprise if Electric Vehicles become the norm.
            Inner city commute will be done by autonomous vehicles all electric and congestion a thing of the past.

          • The first computer hard drive I purchased (30 megs for >$8,000 in 2012 dollars) figures out at $266,667 per gig. You can now buy a gig of HD for under a dime.

            EV prices won’t fall that far, the prices of bodies and electric motors are mature. Batteries are likely to fall a bit over 10x from the $1,000/kWh level of a few years back.

          • Yes the figures and information all point strongly toward drop in battery price and density of storage increase.
            If VW do not make a sensible meaningful offering then they will only shoot them selves in the foot.

          • Both feet.

          • Yes defiantly a crippling exercise however they are not exactly the only ugly mushroom in the field of not meeting emission standards not one diesel motor vehicle under drive testing has past so perhaps we should say ugly mushroom field of nightmares.
            However their EV offering has to step up to the mark and be some compelling offering not window dressing.

          • “However their EV offering has to step up to the mark and be some compelling offering not window dressing.”

            Yes, absolutely.

            We will know fairly soon, in three or four years. Either they will be selling lots of different models of EVs and some plug-in hybrids, or we will know that the company is doomed to go out of business.

          • Explain how the congestion is magicked away. In all probability, self-driving cars will make matters worse, because they will be available to people with various disabilities, those too old to drive, and children.

            The solution to congestion is congestion pricing plus public transport, as in Singapore.

          • Yes public transport is defiantly the solution.
            Using autonomous to get to terminal and from terminal to last point of travel does away with one person vehicle travel.
            As my post above 2 hours ago pointed out in one area i am aware of the harm caused by putting in freeways has been detrimental. Essential services will be able to do their job more efficiently once non essential vehicles are removed from the mix.

          • First, spontaneous car pools. As long as you’re willing to share a car then you should be able to ride for less money. People will, I think, do a lot of sharing. Especially commuting from the burbs into work.

            Second, no cabs cruising the streets looking for passengers. If self-driving cars don’t have an assignment they should take themselves off to the lot to park and charge.

            Third, no drivers circling the block looking for a parking place.
            Fourth, fewer people driving to drop off or pick up their older kids.

            Fifth, fewer people ‘driving to the store’. Fairly likely that self-driving cars will make delivery cheap enough (no driver) that you’ll order a new baseball or watermelon, tell the store when you’ll be home, and your purchase will be delivered. The delivery van will deliver to lots of people per run, taking them all off the road.

          • Also… if we are able to do other things while in traffic, because the car is driving itself, we will be willing to put up with more congestion…

          • I can see a time at which the work day starts at “9” but 9 is when they climb into a self-driving car. On the way to the office they will spend 20, 30, 60 minutes doing the email/phone message stuff that they would otherwise do at their desks. And some will leave before “5” and work on the ride home.

            That would smooth out the flow of cars, cutting peak numbers, and lowering the number of cars needed. It would also give people more time away from work.

          • “He was roundly laughed out.

            Now we store our files in the clouds.”

            …and terabyte storage on a desktop is cheap now!

          • A car is a symbol of masculine dominance and prowess because it’s a horse : a big, possibly dangerous animal that you master and subdue to.your will. Self-driving cars eliminate this weird status dance. They are just intelligent flying sofas: you tell them where you want to go, and they take you there. The decision to own one will be as cold-blooded as the choice between your own washing-machine and the corner launderette. For most of us, exclusive ownership won’t make sense.

          • Well, that means more individualism there James. If you got no family member that takes care of your laundry and you’re also not doing it yourself you pay someone else to do it.. same with food or anything else – the upper class does this for how long now?
            Automation and productivity gains will make this possible for more and more people (naturally on a lower level, but that’s details).

            Anyone thought of ‘virtual reality’ and that kind of stuff?
            There is kids in Japan that live their life mostly at home.. if one manages to finance that (what kind of services can you offer from home will be the most interesting question for the next 50 years I bet)?
            This could be the future for a big part of the population – self centered, self determined living within your own 4 walls.

          • Completely agree that exclusive ownership will decline. There will be very limited identity-extension in a driver-less “car”. No skill needed. No testosterone boost. No driver fun. No bigger-badder-faster.

            The focus of ownership pride will likely change for most people, towards efficiency of time usage during travel, and that might not be an argument which supports ownership at all. Autonomous Uber could be a very attractive option for most city dwellers.

            Also, by reducing the motivation to own a car at all, autonomous “cars” will perhaps also reduce the need for most EVs to be long-range, altogether.

            For those people who only occasionally need to travel long distances, perhaps an “Uber X-entended Range” option will suffice.

      • I’ll try to dig up some references – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen guesses that high. Nobody knows of course.

        • Tony Seba. Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation. Page 129
          One of my favorite books to make me sleep better at night.

          • I read a book about the algea revolution 15 years ago…

      • Some modelling was done last year for Lisbon – admittedly a city rather than country wide context and Europe not US – but interesting:

        “Results from a recent study by the International Transport Forum that modelled the impacts of shared driverless vehicle fleets for the city of Lisbon in Portugal demonstrates the impacts. It showed that the city’s mobility needs can be delivered with only 35% of vehicles during peak hours, when using shared driverless vehicles complementing high capacity rail. Over 24 hours, the city would need only 10% of the existing cars to meet its transportation needs.”

        • That sounds a bit like an idyllic situation rather than what is likely. But interesting nonetheless, so thanks for sharing!

    • Ride sharing may be a thing in the cities, but for the suburbs and rural areas no one wants to deal with waiting for a car and not being able to store stuff.

      • I’m not sure you’re right. I live not rural, but really rural. There are people out here who do commute to work daily. Forty/fifty miles on mountain roads, not fast highways.

        Imagine a self-driving four seater that picked up four riders every morning in time to get them to their 8AM punch in time. That would cut commute cost to well under 50% of what people now spend.

        Or a self-driving car that you could order up for a shopping trip to town and you could reserve the cargo space or half the cargo space for your groceries. Some people might need to go to a doctor’s appointment and others might just want to go clothes shopping or pick up something that they need that doesn’t take up a lot of space.

        People who had to be somewhere on a specific day, at a specific time might pay a premium. People with a flex schedule might get a lower rate.

        Suburbs. Spontaneous car pools. Put in your arrival time and place. System puts together a ‘best fit’ carpool for that day/time. Tells you what time to be at your door.

        Want to go grocery shopping? Reserve cargo space on the return leg. You could easily come home in a different car with a different set of people.

        • All good points. Here’s an alternative scenario:

          You live 50 miles from a mid-sized city in an ex-burb. You need to drop a two year old off at daycare in the morning before heading to work, 40 minutes away. How do you deal with strapping in an infant car seat every morning, a task that takes a good 10 minutes to do correctly?

          Maybe you can order a car that comes with an infant seat, and have it show up at 7 am each morning. But one week into this arrangement, little Timmy throws throws up all over back of the front seat.

          Now two other riders in the car, passenger A and passenger B (complete strangers), are upset because they have to get to work while Timmy needs to get to the doctor, and the car is idling by the side of the road because it was told to stop while everyone argues over the destination. Meanwhile, Timmy throws up on passenger A’s new dress shirt.

          • Undoubtedly one could paint lots of hard to deal with situations, however this is not really an issue.
            The situation you point out is dwelt with by another car picking up the passenger A and B.

          • There are many similar scenarios and solutions for them, certainly. The problem is how do you tailor those solutions so that the issue is made minor enough to get people to forgo owning a car, something which makes all those problems moot to begin with? It’s not us green car advocates that have to be convinced this is the way, but the apathetic mid-career family mom or dad for whom car ownership has always been a fact of life.

          • For people who live in the city jurisdiction they will have a card which will give them transport for free. The system will be part of the community service obligation taken on by local government and yes part of your rates.
            For visitors rather like toll roads you register to use at very cheap rates.

            I do remember a transport study done in the early 1970s where light rail was to be utilized instead the government opted for freeways, now they want to rectify the huge mistake.
            The cost was going to be $15 a year at that time about $75 now in today’s money.
            The engineering, programming and maintenance of an autonomous system is not exactly hard.

          • Here’s what you can do, Andy.

            Make a list of all the problems with car sharing you can imagine.

            When you get done list them and we’ll give you the answer – “Arrange for a non-shared ride”. You’ll pay for the entire car rather than 1/2 or less but you’ll get there and get there without the cost of owning a car.

          • We’ll see, Bob. We’ll see!

          • Seriously…10 minutes for a car seat? 30seconds max. here.

            But yes to the rest. Also EVs are supposed to be cheaper and I don’t see people living without their car when it is even more affordable than today.
            City, no kids…why not but otherwise…
            There are theories about “peak car”, I believe it when it is happening.

            Talked to a friend that is working on the autonomous software for the next Audi (mobile eye and Nvidea unit). This will all be ICE cars first anyways. All this car sharing scenarios are post 2025 also.

          • The generation that wants a car just for the sake of it is getting old. People that drive their cars everywhere no matter if it makes sense or not.
            Those people think that they’ll lose freedom without a car that they own and drive themselves, when in reality they’ll have more money and time to do the things they want to do.

            The younger generations just thinks differently. A lot of people under 30 that live in or near citys don’t really need a car anymore. Often times they don’t even want one (like me). Cars are expensive to use and maintain. Way better to use public transportation, Uber, carsharing and so on.

            As soon as there are self driving cars around, they’ll spread like a virus. There is a reason, Uber said they want to buy the whole Model 3 production of 500k autonomous cars and apparently struck a deal with Mercedes for 100k autonomous S-classes.

          • But in reality people are easily corrupted by the luxury owning a car is.
            I talked like you before I had kids and a car.
            Drove a bike and public transport.
            People want to own a car. All over the world.

          • People don’t want to own a car, they want to have the benefits that owning a car brings. But with autonomous cars you can have them without owning one yourself. That’s the whole point I’m trying to get across.
            Yes of course there will still be people that want their own car or want to drive the cars themselves, but the majority will be fine with autonomous carsharing. You’ll see.

          • Same to you….we’ll see.

            People want peace…there will be no war.

          • Having kids is a good point and that means for some a car is a necessity rather than a desire. I’m looking forward to the day our household is car free, the bloody things are a millstone! Freedom bought vs total cost of ownership vs total run time would be an interesting graph.

          • It’s hard to justify luxury in the eye of the economist 🙂
            This freedom is worth more for some than others.

            If we are kids free we will surely go for a cheaper car but I don’t see going without one.

            A small car is about half the cost of what I need now.
            Cheap cars run at around 0.20-0.30€/km. Almost hassle free if you do it right.

          • Again, I think it depends on location. We have one kid without a car with no problem (and would be nearly pointless to get one). Another on the way, and it still doesn’t make sense (here) to get one, since we walk most places and then occasionally take a tram somewhere not far away and then very occasionally rent a car to go visit the in-laws in another city/town.

            We are thinking about justifying a Model 3 … but it’s certainly not needed. Maybe we’ll feel more of a need when the kids are older and have tennis lessons, swim practice, etc., all over the city. We’ll see.

            Of course, would be a very different story if the place we live wasn’t so wonderfully planned/developed….

          • As estate agents (realtors) say in the UK “location, location, location”.

            We are firmly in the netball, swimming lessons, extra-curricular period of family life which makes it extra frustrating as we aren’t in area which has solid public transport so we do depend on our car.

            I’ll probably still be grumbling when I’m 70 and still have a car 🙂

          • Younger people are waiting longer to get their driver’s license.

            Many of us olds grew up in rural settings. You didn’t bike or walk to see your friends. You drove, sometimes several miles. And most of our social time was Friday and Saturday nights. (And you certainly didn’t “entertain” in your bedroom with the door closed.)

            Now so many of us live in cities and dense suburbs we just don’t need cars as we did.


      • And then there is the wild card of runaway climate change with 2 Billion additional people. Our privileged lives may become way too expensive to maintain.

      • Why would you wait? Pre-schedule it.

        • Many people live spontaneously.

          • Spontaneously call for a car.

            Get in.

            Go where you want to go.

          • I spontaneously call for an Uber and wait some not all that long amount of time…It beats paying for a second car by a long shot. I am not in the mountains but most people aren’t either.

    • “There won’t be room for all of the current automakers.”

      Add a growing Tesla, Faraday Future, Google, Apple, Karma, LeEco, BYD, Kandi etc

      • They do have a bit of a point. Even if VW started selling only BEVs starting tomorrow, there are a billion passenger vehicles already on the roads, and on average it takes 10 years to turn over half the fleet.

        Those vehicles are going to continue to need fuel for two decades, minimum.

        • Turnover may speed up. The market for inefficient ICEVs might dry up and they will head for the crusher faster.

          But, yes, we are likely to continue to need petroleum to fuel some cars for 20 years and certainly longer. Just less and less every year.

          • It seems a factor of how much someone can afford to jump onto the cheaper recurring cost vs the steeper upfront cost. The people with less money will pay for the higher recurring cost because they cannot afford the higher upfront cost.

            It is not invalidating your statement but it does point out how unfortunate it is that capital rules…

      • Check your twitter feed. I sent that link to you yesterday 🙂

        • Man, I haven’t checked my Twitter feed in ages, and got behind on it ~1 year ago 😛 Too many social channels. Am also far behind on Facebook, Google+, and email. 😀 😛

          • I could always send you articles by post 😉

        • But, FYI, Kyle is a good one to tweet stories to. 😀 He’s staying on top of his.

          • I’ll pester him instead then!

          • I’m also sending you a note on email about where to pester me. There is 1 channel that works in a timely fashion. 😀

    • Astounding arrogance on their part.

  • The corporate damage done to VW is very large.
    To make a meaningful effort to make EV’s may or may not rescue the brand.
    They will be watched closely in their offerings and if not of a sufficient standard will be pillared.
    I hope they make a 250 mile range fast charge vehicle with top safety rating.
    The fact that not one diesel vehicle tested in England passed emission testing while driving is not widely known, as VW are associated with cheat devices, they will be the focus of attention.

  • There should probably by a US constitutional amendment to give the right to drive as it is going to be under threat.

    • You do know the motor vehicle has killed and seriously maimed more people than the wars from the day it was put on the road. The car is the worst consumer product ever. It is a privilege to drive not a right most people do not realize this.

      • Uh-oh. Shouldn’t have opened that can of worms. 😉

        • ok i will delete it

          • Nope. This works better with your post intact.

  • On the “20 models by 2020” thing… By my count they’re already at 13 electrified models either on-sale or committed to:

    Golf GTE
    Jetta Hybrid
    Touareg Hybrid
    Audi Q5 Hybrid
    Audi A6 Hybrid (China Only)
    Audi A8 Hybrid (back for ’17)
    Audi A3 PHEV
    Audi Q7 PHEV (for ’17)
    Porsche Panamera PHEV
    Porsche Cayenne Hybrid
    Porsche 918 (sold out)

    Skoda possibly in 2019
    Seat isn’t saying anything…

    So it’s not actually much of a big deal. What WOULD be a big deal is them reducing the number of diesel offerings. Doesn’t seem to be happening yet, aside from territories where they’re not allowed to sell them at the moment.

    • Ah, I was thinking just about the VW mark… If the Group is what we’re talking about (and maybe that was indicated and I forgot), that’s just depressing.

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