Car companies rely on standardized chassis platforms to lower the costs of manufacturing and boost profits. The cars built on them may look quite different on the outside — the VW Atlas is a much larger car than the Tiguan, for example — but share a common foundation underneath. Volkswagen refers to its platforms as “toolkits.” They define such things as where the ventilation ducts and infotainment systems will be in all the cars that use the same toolkit.
For its new ID electric car division, Volkswagen has created the MEB toolkit — a chassis designed specifically for electric cars rather than a reinterpretation of an existing chassis designed for gasoline or diesel engines. Thomas Ulbricht, head of e-mobility at Volkswagen, says, “The MEB modular electric drive matrix is probably the most important project in Volkswagen’s history. The platform that Volkswagen is developing is more consistent and innovative than many of the other platforms. By 2022 alone, we anticipate that four Volkswagen Group brands will be ramping up 27 MEB models worldwide, ranging from compact cars to the I.D. BUZZ van.”
One big advantage of electric cars is that, with the battery mounted low to the ground underneath the floor, there is more room inside for people and stuff. For instance, the ID Crozz electric SUV will be about the size of a Tiguan on the outside but have almost as much room as the 7 passenger Atlas in the inside.
With the MEB “we have developed a platform designed specifically for electric cars,” said Christian Senger, Head of the Volkswagen E-Mobility product line. “The I.D. models will not be combustion engine versions that have been converted, they will be designed to be 100 percent, thoroughbred electric vehicles. And they will be engineered to be online upgradeable and update compatible. We’re making optimal use of the possibilities this technology brings.” It will also be compatible with fast charging at up to 125 kW of power.
Hearing the cars built on the MEB chassis will support online updates is welcome news, but leads to the question of where is the frunk? Tesla fans know that its cars have room for a front storage compartment, popularly known as a frunk. True, the frunk is not as generous in size as the rear cargo compartment. In fact, on dual motor Teslas, it’s actually quite small. But it’s there and the information about the MEB toolkit released by Volkswagen so far indicates there will be no frunk in its ID-badged vehicles.
Readers of a certain age may remember the Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef” commercials from 1984. Today, we could ask Volkswagen the same question about the missing frunk. The MEB platform seems to have an awful lot of stuff crammed into the front of the vehicle — stuff that Tesla somehow manages to tuck away out of sight in its cars.
A frunk is more than just a handy place to stow a few shopping bags filled with groceries. It also plays a role in absorbing the impact of frontal collisions. Some of the staff here at CleanTechnica’s palatial world headquarters have wondered aloud whether the MEB toolkit will provide the same level of crash protection that led NHTSA to rate the Model 3 one of the safest cars ever tested.
Once again, we are reminded of just how high Tesla has raised the bar for electric automobiles and how difficult it is for other companies to offer competitive products.