Volkswagen is pushing hard to transition its product lineup to electric cars. According to a report by Stern, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told ZDF news correspondent Maybritt Ilner last week, “We are coming on very strong now. We have invested €30 billion in electromobility, we have already rededicated a plant in Zwickau, and we are building an electric vehicle plant in Shanghai.”
“Truly highly attractive vehicles” will begin arriving from Volkswagen as early as 2019, Diess said, vehicles that “will be an alternative for many customers in terms of price, performance, range, and chargeability. And then comes a big boom!” Speaking of big booms, Diess then dropped this bomb. “We will come in 2020 with vehicles that can do anything like Tesla and are cheaper by half.” (Translation by Google.)
If Diess means to suggest an ID sedan will sell for about $35,000 while a Model S begins at twice that price, he is correct. Most people would not equate the two vehicles, however. And with the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 getting closer to a reality all the time, it seems highly unlikely VW will offer anything like it for $17,500. If it did, that “Boom!” scenario would certainly happen.
Thomas Ulbrich, VW’s board member in charge of e-mobility, tells Autoweek the goal is for the new ID branded cars from Volkswagen to be priced just north of an equivalent diesel offering. In Europe, diesels usually sell for a bit more than a car with a gasoline engine. “This is the most ambitious mobility plan in history,” Ulbrich says. “We’re uniquely positioned by history, volume, reach, resources and technical capability to take E-Mobility mainstream.”
Autoweek has a few new details about the ID cars based on its conversation with Ulbrich. The cars will all have three computers on board. All that computing power will be available to manage self-driving features that emerge in the future. The cars will be capable of over-the-air updates — no visit to dealers required. They will be rear-wheel drive, giving them near perfect 50–50 front-to-rear weight distribution. The standard motor will be a permanent magnet unit with about 160 horsepower. All-wheel-drive variants will add a synchronous motor to the front with another 50 to 60 horsepower.
The MEB chassis can be lengthened or shortened to fit the needs of various models. Even the width of the cars can be varied by substituting different suspension components. The battery pack will use pouch or prismatic cells supplied by either LG Chem or Samsung SDI. Volkswagen will assemble the cells into battery packs, which can vary in size from 50 t0 80 kWh. The largest battery can fit within the MEB chassis even in its shortest wheelbase configuration. Scalability will allow Volkswagen to add or subtract range and allow customers a choice of price points.
There will be two cooling circuits — a high-temperature one for the motors and a low-temperature one for the battery pack. Heat for the interior will be provided by electricity. No word on whether the cars will use advanced heat pump technology or low-tech resistance heating for that task.
Most traditional car companies are dragging their feet when it comes to building competitive electric cars. Volkswagen seems to be taking the challenge more seriously than most. Will its electric cars truly be equivalent to the cars Tesla is building? That seems a stretch, but at least it is trying. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.