Volkswagen’s Decision To Not Offer A Mass-Market e-Golf, Focus On 48V Hybrid Instead, Raises Questions

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As some of those reading this may have heard by now, Volkswagen will apparently be ceasing the sale of all-electric versions of the Golf (the e-Golf) — already a model which the company throttles the production and deliveries of in order to keep numbers low — starting with the coming model year.

Rather than continuing to offer an all-electric version of the top-selling Golf model, Volkswagen will apparently instead be directing those wanting an “electric” car to buy a new 48V hybrid version of the Golf.

While a 48V hybrid version of the Volkswagen Golf does sound like it’ll be a pretty compelling model to normal buyers — and is likely to sell fairly well — it certainly won’t represent an alternative to the e-Golf, a top-selling electric car in Europe, for most of those wanting an electric car. Which will mean that Volkswagen brand buyers who want an all-electric model will be stuck with the choice of nothing but the company’s I.D. lineup.

With that in mind, one has to wonder what execs at Volkswagen are thinking. The Volkswagen Golf is pretty much the company’s most popular model. Why not just offer a well design all-electric iteration of it? Why go through the motions of designing a somewhat gimmicky lineup specifically for electric car sales instead? Are the motives for such a decision benign, or are execs trying to stall the adoption of all-electric vehicles?

Volkswagen I.D,While I can’t prove it, I’d wager that the profit margin on the soon-to-be-released 48V hybrid version of the Volkswagen Golf will be much higher than it is on either the current Volkswagen e-Golf or the Volkswagen I.D. lineup models.

It’s not clear how much of a profit the company makes on the current e-Golf, but presumably the figure isn’t that high since the plan is to put the kibosh on it completely. Also notable is that VW has been in no hurry to sell the model (with there now being very long wait times to receive purchased units), and the company is reliant upon batteries purchased from third parties.

As a further line of speculation, it may be the case that Volkswagen specifically designed a separate lineup just for all-electric vehicles in order to more easily pare things down to the point that gross margins aren’t too bad for the models in question (that is, are around where the company wants them to be).

BMW execs, you may recall, recently announced that they were pushing back their plug-in electric vehicle timeline, specifically because gross margins on the models weren’t high enough.

For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to characterize Volkswagen’s decision to cease the sale of an all-electric version of the Golf as a mistake. While the move perhaps makes sense from the perspective of the next few years, it seems very possible that the company will end up losing market share that it otherwise (with a serious e-Golf iteration) wouldn’t.

48 V belt-integrated starter generator, 48 V battery and DC-DC converter.

As an end note to this, I’ll go ahead and provide further information on the planned 48V hybrid version of the 8th-gen Volkswagen Golf (via an email sent to CleanTechnica and a new press release): “Volkswagen will combine the combustion engine with a 48-V belt-integrated starter generator and a 48-V battery. This sustainable combination represents the gateway to the future of Volkswagen hybrid models. The 48-V mild hybrid makes it possible to ‘coast’ with the combustion engine completely switched off, thereby saving up to 0.3 liters of fuel over 100 kilometers. Moreover, this mild-hybrid solution offers much improved dynamics and convenience as a result of providing an electric boost upon start-up.

“48-V technology represents a new chapter in engine design, enabling drives to be electrified in a cost-efficient manner. The 48-V system will be used in vehicles in addition to the well-known 12-V system. In the case of very small wire cross-sections and a lightweight wiring harness, the 48-V system enables a considerably higher amount of energy to be saved than the 12-V system, e.g. via recuperation when the vehicle brakes. This high level of voltage enables a number of operations, including the actuation of the 48-V belt-integrated starter generator.

“The starter-generator is a true all-rounder. On the one hand, the generator performs the role of alternator and starter. At the same time, it functions as a small, lightweight electric motor that immediately increases drive torque upon start-up by means of an electric boost. The power of the generator is transferred via a belt. The generator also starts the combustion engine — which is switched off as much as possible while the vehicle is moving — in a barely perceptible way. Another versatile element is the 48-V lithium-ion battery. The battery is supplied with energy during a number of operations, including recuperation — i.e. when the vehicle slows down. The starter generator receives the necessary voltage via the battery and the 12-V power supply receives the required voltage via the ‘DC/DC converter’.”

Overall, it’s an interesting bit of tech, but certainly not a mass-market (all-electric) Volkswagen e-Golf.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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