The first ID-branded electric car from Volkswagen is due to roll off the assembly line in Zwickau, Germany, later this year. In an effort to burnish its corporate image and extinguish the stain of its diesel cheating scandal, the company says production of cars and battery packs at that factory will be carbon neutral, using renewable energy whenever and wherever possible. It says doing so will eliminate more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from its manufacturing operations.
“Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times,” Thomas Ulbrich, who oversees electric vehicles for Volkswagen, said in a statement this week. “Truly sustainable mobility is feasible if we all want it and we all work on it.” The company says if there is not enough renewable energy to meet its goal, it will invest in renewable energy projects.
In addition to its membership in Ionity, which is building a network of fast chargers along European highways, the company in January created a new subsidiary called Elli that allows drivers to recharge their Volkswagen electric vehicles at home or work using renewable energy, according to Green Car Congress.
“As one of the world’s largest automakers, Volkswagen is going to force the pace of the urgently needed transport and energy transition to emission neutral e-mobility. The new company will play its part with energy offerings from renewable sources and smart charging solutions. This way, we are entering a strategically relevant, extremely exciting business area that offers considerable opportunities for strengthening ties with existing customers as well as accessing entirely new customer groups,” Ulbrich said in January when Elli was first announced.
Thorsten Nicklaß is the first head of Elli. He says, “Our mission is to take e-mobility out of its niche and to place it firmly in the mainstream. The name Elli stands for ‘electric life,’ because we intend to enable a lifestyle that fully integrates the electric car in people’s everyday lives. This approach could be compared with the use of a mobile phone, which is taken for granted nowadays.”
Upping The Ante
We here at CleanTechnica often complain that the German auto industry is issuing lots of press releases filled with happy talk but not accomplishing much in the way of forward progress on electric cars. Volkswagen, at least, seems to have gotten the bit between its teeth and is pulling hard in the right direction. The designs for its proposed ID models are fresh and appealing. It is building a new factory for electric cars in Tennessee and targeting other EV factories in Europe and China.
At a media event in Dresden on February 15, Christian Senger, head of the electric car effort for Volkswagen Group, said his company now expects to produce 15 million electric cars during the first wave of its electric car rollout, according to a report by Bloomberg. That’s a 50% increase over the original production targets it announced when the MEB chassis was first introduced.
Volkswagen also plans to introduce an entry-level electric car that sells for less than $23,000. No doubt it won’t be as flashy as a Tesla Model 3 Performance model, but it could be the opening salvo in the war to bring affordable electric cars to middle- and low-income customers. For the moment, we are inclined to give Volkswagen the benefit of the doubt that it is serious about leading the electric car revolution. That’s something that didn’t seem remotely possible when Dieselgate broke in September of 2015.