Volkswagen officially launched its “Electric For All” campaign this week with the official introduction of its MEB platform. The platform system is the heart and soul of modern automobile manufacturing. The platform is where the powertrain, suspension, brakes, and other vital components all come together.
Regardless of what bodywork the manufacture chooses to wrap around it — sedan, hatchback, SUV, or minivan — the platform is the same for all of them, which leads to substantially lower manufacturing costs. On electric cars, the platform is often referred to as a skateboard. It consists of a battery mounted low in the chassis between the wheels. Companies can make it longer or shorter as market demands require, but the basic architecture remains the same.
At a press presentation in Dresden this week, VW gave members of the press an opportunity to see the MEB skateboard without the bodywork that will surround it in a completed automobile. The company says it expects this platform to be the basis for 27 electric models from all its divisions by 2025. In total, it says 10 million vehicles will use the MEB architecture in the years to come. Production of the first ID branded electric cars will begin at the factory in Zwickau about a year from now.
The MEB is an important development for Volkswagen, as it seeks to make electric cars for millions of mainstream drivers. VW board member Thomas Ulbrich told the press, “We will make electric vehicles popular and get as many people as possible excited about electric cars. The MEB is one of the most important projects in the history of Volkswagen — a technological milestone, similar to the transition from the Beetle to the Golf.”
“We are making optimal use of the possibilities the electric car has to offer and creating massive economies of scale at the same time. Some 10 million vehicles across the Group will be based on this platform in the first wave alone. The MEB is the economic and technological backbone of the electric car for all,” Ulbrich added.
Building electric cars is one thing. Providing a way to recharge their batteries quite another thing entirely. The MEB platform incorporates fast charging technology developed by Volkswagen that will allow for an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. “The use of a new generation of high-performance batteries begins with the ID models. Thanks to their modular design and the multi-cell format, these batteries can be installed in smaller or larger ID. models,” said Christian Senger, head of e-mobility for Volkswagen. “The ID will be a milestone in technological development. It will be the first fully connected electric car with full everyday utility that millions of people will be able to afford.”
Just when all 10 million electric Volkswagens will be built is left unspecified. The company does say it expects 100,000 ID branded cars to be on the road by the end of 2020, with another 50,000 plug-in hybrid electrics made by Volkswagen joining them. The company says its 10 million vehicle goal is just the “first wave” of its electric vehicle plans without providing specifics about its plans for a potential second wave. But we all have to walk before we run. Volkswagen at least is focusing on doing what it does best — selling lots of cars to lots of people. The more of those cars that are electric, the better for all concerned.