Some years ago, Volkswagen Group discovered that the only legitimate way forward in the auto world was electrification. (Who knows what triggered that realization?) From that point on, from everything I’ve seen in the past few years, part of the company has been working hard to develop high-quality, competitive electric vehicles. The new ID.3 is proof of that.
It seems the company has also been working to secure the necessary supplies (i.e., batteries) for mass production, but we’ll have to wait to see definitive proof of that. For now, what we have is a new electric car with highly appealing specs, pricing, and design.
The important news of today is that the Volkswagen ID.3 has been officially unveiled, camouflage removed and all. Actually, I should say, the important news of today is that the hot new Volkswagen ID.3 is a genuinely competitive, compelling electric offering.
We often compare new electric cars to Teslas because 1) Tesla has long set the standard in this industry, and 2) the new offerings are generally in the price range of certain Tesla vehicles. Unfortunately, we are often disappointed with market entrants. Tesla has some known competitive advantages in the electric auto world and those advantages have kept its vehicle specs and value for the money well ahead of the competition. Though, Tesla does not serve the needs and desires of all buyers, and well designed electric vehicles from other automakers can be highly competitive in additional vehicle classes if the automakers try to make them so. The Volkswagen ID.3 is definitely one of those vehicles.
The first important number is that the base version of the ID.3 will start below €30,000* ($33,150). That’s in the mainstream, mass-market segment. Calculate the tremendous operational savings you can get from an electric vehicle and you have a highly competitive electric hatchback that could sell in large volumes. (For comparison, note that the base price of the Tesla Model 3 is currently €43,390 in Germany and €48,980 in the Netherlands.)
The ID.3 interior is fairly high tech and looks like it has a semi-premium quality to it. So, even if other vehicles this size may come at a lower price point, it should be quickly apparent to consumers that this vehicle is in a different class from a gasoline or diesel compact car from VW.
Volkswagen is also smart to highlight that the interior of the ID.3 has a lot more space than you’d expect — “it offers more room than any other vehicle in its category and sets new standards.” Again, this comes down to good electric design from the ground up. Tesla has clearly maximized space in its vehicles via its “skateboard” battery and powertrain design. I have long said the BMW i3 did a good job of this as well, making an objectively tiny car feel like an open, fairly spacious crossover. Volkswagen’s MEB platform, which the ID.3 is based on and Volkswagen will use for many models, looks like a well designed platform that has, in this case, allowed Volkswagen to set a new standard for interior space in a car in this class. Drivers and passengers will appreciate it.
Another matter Volkswagen highlights near the top of its press release is that this car is “the first model to be carbon-neutral on delivery to customers.” In other words, it’s green — very green. I’m sure Volkswagen critics who are still rightfully pissed about previous emissions cheating and even recent news regarding a new software cheat won’t see that as evidence the company should be supported. However, in a silo, the ID.3 is a tremendous step forward, and if you want to support clean electricity production and sustainable supply chains as well as clean transport, this product gives you a way to do so. Also, let’s be frank, the humongous PR disaster of dieselgate didn’t hurt Volkswagen sales too much. Most consumers don’t care. So, what’s most important is that Volkswagen green up. The best way to make sure that happens is for consumers to buy its electric, sustainably produced automobiles. If you know someone who is a Volkswagen loyalist, this is a vehicle that could get them into the fun, convenient, relaxing electric lifestyle.
Okay, on to the specs.
We’ll spend some more time translating the European (WLTP) range into real-world figures and comparing to other electric cars in coming days, but the simple specs as presented are as follows:
- Base Volkswagen ID.3 — 330 kilometer (205 mile) range from 45 kWh battery (usable kWh, not gross kWh).
- Medium-Range Volkswagen ID.3 — 420 kilometer (261 mile) range from 58 kWh battery.
- Long-Range Volkswagen ID.3 — 550 kilometer (342 mile) range from 77 kWh battery.
Update: It seems the ranges used here are for more optimal low-speed transportation areas, not highway or even average/combined ratings. That changes the calculus quite a bit, putting the ID.3 right in the middle of the EV market today, not at the front.
Pricing is not yet clear for the higher-trim, longer-range options.
A charging rate up to 100 kW is possible on all trims, which is plenty adequate for daily use in basically all normal lifestyles and also for occasional road trips. (You should basically just have to charge at times you should be taking a break to stretch and relax your eyes and mind anyway, as long as the charging infrastructure along your route is adequate.)
Back to that MEB platform, as with a Tesla, the flat battery base allows for various benefits when it comes to drive quality and safety. As Volkswagen puts it, “The batteries themselves are integrated into the underbody. This positioning has a positive effect on driving dynamics, as it moves the centre of gravity in the ID.3 significantly lower. The ID.3 is also characterised by optimum weight distribution between front axle and rear axle.” We’ll have to wait to see how the ID.3 performs in crash tests and how well the company arranges crumble zones and includes active safety features.
What about actually buying an ID.3? The first round of vehicles is a special edition to both entice and reward early adopters. Here are some more details from Volkswagen:
“Volkswagen started pre-booking for ID.3 1st – the limited launch edition – in May of this year. This permits interested buyers in Europe to place a non-binding reservation in respect of a production slot for the ID.3 1st for €1,000. From autumn, those who have pre-booked can advance their orders by entering the order phase with their respective dealership, and configuring their preferred version of the ID.3 1st.
“The first edition – the ID.3 1st – has a 58 kWh battery which is driven by an electric motor at the rear axle. It generates 150 kW and delivers a maximum torque of 310 newton metres, facilitating a maximum speed of 160 km/h for this 5-door vehicle. The ID.3 1st is priced at under €40,000.
“The ID.3 1st will be offered in three fixed configurations that are geared towards typical customer preferences. In addition, the paintwork colour and the vehicle interior’s colour can be selected.”
Alongside the unveiling of the ID.3, Volkswagen rolled out a new logo and brand design. Clearly, the company is looking to mark this as the start of a new era.
A few days ago, Volkswagen announced that production of the ID.3 would start in its factory in Zwickau in November. 400 pre-series units of the car have already been produced, but mass production will start in a couple of months.
“The production start of the ID.3 in November will usher in an entirely new era for Volkswagen – comparable with the first Beetle or the first Golf. Our conversion work is proceeding entirely to schedule. The first 400 pre-series ID.3 vehicles are already on test routes throughout Europe. With the ID.3, Zwickau will become a genuine pioneer of e-mobility,” says Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Volkswagen brand Board of Management responsible for E-Mobility.
The ID.3, especially if Volkswagen is prepared for mass production, could be a superb supplement to Tesla’s offerings on the lower end of the market and for consumers who want a car from a German automaker, or any traditional automaker. There’s a lot of room in the marketplace. We’ve still got gasoline vehicles accounting for ~98% of automobile sales in the Western world, which needs to change fast. The ID.3 is a perfect next vehicle for someone with an aging VW Golf or Toyota Yaris.