What Have We Just Learned About The 2020 Volkswagen ID.3 All-Electric Hatchback?

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Earlier today, Volkswagen held a press conference and livestream in preparation for the launch of the new all-electric ID.3 hatchback. Although we didn’t learn very much new information, VW came across as very serious, and one or two interesting points stood out to me. Reservations are open now (at least, in some European markets). These are for the initial 30,000 customers of the “ID.3 1st” launch editions.

If you didn’t see the live stream, check it out here, it’s well worth a watch. The event was hosted by VW board member Jurgen Stackmann, who did a decent job of packing in plenty of information, with enthusiasm and apparent sincerity. He didn’t come across as overly scripted, and a few times highlighted this car’s unveiling as one of the most important of his lifetime, and the most exciting.

Unfortunately, compared to what we knew before, we learned very little new information about the “ID.3” (yes, that’s now confirmed as the formal name of the new electric hatchback). The new information highlights, at least from my perspective, were as follows:

  • The base 330 km WLTP model (under €30,000) will be available from summer 2020
  • The top of the line “ID.3 1st Max” launch edition will get a virtual reality Heads-Up Display
  • VW is committed to the Paris Agreement and Carbon Neutral mobility by 2050
  • VW thinks the 58 kWh version will be the most popular based on consumer surveys — this model has 420 km WLTP range (300–420 km “practical range”)
  • The launch edition will start “under €40,000,” delivering in Q1 2020 (limited to 30,000 units)
  • The ID.3 will quickly become available in 29 European markets
  • VW expects the ID.3 annual run rate to achieve 100,000 units in late 2020 or 2021
  • VW expects the ID. family to be profitable after the initial couple of years

Stackmann was clear that much more information will be available in time for the final ordering stage, which will coincide with the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2019. Up till then, deposits will be fully refundable. Here’s the full (and updated) table of what we know up to now:

Note that we don’t know the pricing of the 3 variants of the launch edition “ID.3 1st” except that they will start under €40,000. The most basic version of the launch editions will have voice recognition and navigation included. The “Plus” version will have two-tone colours inside and out, and have greater focus on visuals and appearance, with “additional IQ lights” (don’t ask what these are — they didn’t say).

The top-of-the-line “ID.3 1st max” sounds most interesting, with a large panoramic roof and virtual reality heads-up display included. This one will likely be well over the €40,000 threshold.

The most positive announcement for me was that the basic 45 kWh variant (with 330 km / 206 miles of WLTP range) is confirmed to start under €30,000, and will arrive sooner than we expected. It is scheduled to be available from “summer 2020.” It will also be able to add “260 km” (i.e., 80% of its capacity) in 30 minutes on optimal CCS DC chargers (able to deliver 125 kW or higher), which is a very decent performance at this price point.

VW claimed the vehicles will be “future proof” with potential for over-the-air updates for some of the software systems (though, some updates will still require dealers visits). However, Mr. Stackmann didn’t go into much detail about what “future proof” really means to them.

Mr. Stackmann admitted that the vehicles will not be level 4 autonomy ready, but rather level 3. The hardware is in place, ready for when the software reaches that capability over the coming years. Don’t hold your breath for this, but it’s good to see VW at least planning ahead for level 3 autonomy. This is of course some ways below Tesla, whose vehicles are all full autonomy ready (level 4 and, potentially, level 5) for when the software improves. VW thinks full autonomy will take longer and cost more money than is sometimes believed (they mean “believed by Tesla,” of course).

Finally, it was good to see Mr. Stackmann cleanly strike down a bluntly asked skeptical question from a Wall Street Journal reporter. The latter — likely a fan of fossil pollution — asked whether VW’s high-volume EV plans were unrealistic, unnecessary, and unlikely to match consumer demand, sarcastically asking if VW was just making EVs “for VW employees.” Stackmann countered that VW is a huge player, large enough to create market trends by its own actions, and that it doesn’t have to rely on analysts’ opinions about the state of the EV market.

“We are not playing,” he said. “If we move, the market will move” (or words to that effect).

What do you think of VW’s upcoming ID.3 vehicles? Will they be a hit in Europe and China? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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