Volkswagen is hard at work creating a scaled down version of its MEB electric car platform that will be known as the MEB Entry. That’s the chassis its smaller electric cars for urban driving duty will be based on. The goal is to have models available that will start at less than €20,000 before incentives. To hit that price point, the entry level versions will likely have 30 kWh battery packs and a range of about 120 miles — not enough for most Americans, but the sweet spot for drivers in many countries who live in densely populated cities and need little more than basic transportation.
VW took the wraps of the Cupra UrbanRebel — a highly stylized street racer concept — last week, and it was expected to follow that up this week at the Munich Motor Show (IAA) by revealing a concept version of the long rumored ID.2, a compact passenger car based on the MEB Entry platform. Instead, it brought the ID. LIFE concept to Munich, a somewhat whimsical design study based on the regular MEB chassis.
The big news here is that the concept has its electric motor in front rather than in the rear as it is in the ID. 3 and single-motor versions of the ID.4. Volkswagen says it offers “an initial insight into future ID models in the small car segment.” While that may be true, it tells us nothing about the ID.2 and the even smaller ID.1 that are supposed to be under development by Team Wolfsburg. In fact, the ID. LIFE bears more than a passing resemblance to a somewhat larger Honda E.
Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, says, “The ID. LIFE is our vision of next-generation fully electric urban mobility. The concept car provides a preview of an ID. model in the small car segment that we will be launching in 2025, priced at around 20,000 euros. This means we are making electric mobility accessible to even more people. In creating the ID. LIFE, we have consistently focused on the needs of younger customers. We believe that, even more so than today, the car of the future will be about lifestyle and personal expression. The customer of tomorrow won’t simply want to get from A to B; they will be much more interested in the experiences that a car can offer. The ID. LIFE is our answer to this.”
The ID. LIFE features a 172 kW (231 hp) electric motor, a 57 kWh battery, a projected range of 400 kilometers (WLTP), and a 0–100 km/h time of 6.9 seconds. Those specs clearly indicate the concept is built on the traditional MEB platform. The MEB Entry is expected to have a maximum battery size of 45 kWh. So when Brandstätter says the concept is a glimpse at what cars for the under €20,000 segment will be, he is clearly engaging in a bit of obfuscation. The result is a rather muddled message from Volkswagen. Given the importance of auto show concept cars, that can only be deliberate on the company’s part.
To add to the confusion, Thomas Ulbrich, the member of the Volkswagen brand board of management for development, says, “The ID. LIFE proves once again how uniquely flexible the MEB is. The platform is suitable for vehicles of all types, from small cars to vans. It’s the most scalable electrical architecture in the industry. We’re just beginning to tap into the potential of MEB. Performance, charging capacity and range will continue to improve with each new model and software update.”
Volkswagen is talking out of both sides of its mouth here. On one hand, it is telling us less expensive electric cars are coming — although, not until 2025. On the other hand, it is showing us a concept built on the existing MEB chassis that could not possibly sell for under €20,000 unless it gets the battery cells for free. Many expected the Munich show to offer a glimpse of the ID. 2 but the ID. LIFE is certainly not it.
It is still an interesting concept, however. The company says, “The vision of a fully electric small car for the urban environment is centered around people and communal experiences. The concept car combines sustainability and digitalization with extremely flexible usage: the ID. LIFE can become a mini cinema or a gaming center, for instance, or simply be used for relaxing in the open air.” It features “an individualized and removable roof made of air chamber textile that lends an open-air feeling in the ID. LIFE, while also reducing the vehicle weight.”
The ID. LIFE is more about hype than substance. When Volkswagen actually has something to say about the upcoming ID. 2, we will be sure to let you know. For now, as far as the news from the Volkswagen stand at IAA is concerned, color us disappointed.
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