Image courtesy of Volkswagen

Volkswagen Unveils All New Drive Unit For ID. Cars, CEO Promises Profitability For ID.2

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Exciting times in the EV business. Over the past 100 years, manufacturers came up with new technology for internal combustion cars on a regular basis — overhead valves, the self starter, power steering, power brakes, electronic fuel injection, variable cam timing, automatic transmissions, and the like. Now the same wave of innovation is happening in the electric car space, as today’s manufacturers race to bring new battery and motor technologies to market. Volkswagen this week proudly announced a totally redesigned electric drive system for its MEB-based ID. branded electric cars.

The company says its new APP 550 electric powertrain will improve the performance of its rear-wheel drive electric cars while adding range, thanks to its newfound efficiency. Volkswagen says it is planning to deliver the first vehicles with the new 210 kW (280 hp) electric drive system by the end of this year.

The design basis for the new drive system remains the MEB platform that forms the basis for all the company’s ID. branded vehicles. Karsten Bennewitz, head of powertrain and energy systems, said in a company press release, “Because the available space has not changed, we were compelled to develop a new drive that achieves significant improvements in performance and efficiency in spite of being subject to the same constraints. That was a great challenge for the team of Technical Development and Group Components. The result shows that we were able to reduce the use of raw materials, while at the same time achieving a considerable increase in vehicle efficiency.”

In addition to more power, the APP 550 powertrain also has more torque — up to 550 Nm (405 lb-ft) depending on the vehicle’s gear ratio. The significantly higher torque provides superior power both from a standstill and at higher speeds, thanks to an enhanced stator with a higher effective number of windings and a larger wire cross section. The rotor is equipped with more powerful permanent magnets that give it a higher load capacity. The drive was also reinforced to withstand the greater torque.

The newly developed inverter is able to supply the higher electrical current needed for greater power and efficiency. It acts as the controlling “brain” in the powertrain whose functional software ensures efficient system processes. This applies to the clock frequencies and the modulation methods for generation of the alternating current for the electric drive motor, which allows the drive motor to operate more efficiently under various load scenarios.

More power and higher current mean more heat. In order to increase the efficiency of the electric drive, Volkswagen optimized a number of components in the powertrain, including the thermal management system. The APP 550 has an energy saving cooling system that operates without an electrically driven oil pump. The gear wheels of the gearbox and specially formed components for oil supply and distribution allow heated oil from the drive system to be cooled by the vehicle’s coolant circuit. The outside of the stator is equipped with a water-cooled heat sink.

The drive system with gearbox, rotor, and stator will be produced at the Volkswagen Group Components plant in Kassel, Germany. Alexander Krick, head of e-drive technical development, said, “We have been developing electric drive motors and their gearboxes for 15 years now and have also been producing them here at our location for over 10 years.”

Product and process innovations in the electric drive motor and gearbox result in a significant increase in efficiency and performance, Krick added. “Drawing on our many years of experience, we optimized the overall system through, among other things, the use of special electrical sheets and customized machining processes, and were thus able to significantly increase efficiency.”

Small Volkswagen EVs Will Be Profitable

Volkswagen ID.2ALL
Image courtesy of Volkswagen

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Volkswagen brand’s CEO Thomas Schäfer claimed that the ID.2all — a car that will be slightly smaller than the ID.3 — should be profitable at the car’s €25,000 ($27,500) base price. He added that he expects the ID.2all to have a profit margin of at least 6%. “We cannot have margins below 6 percent,” he said.

To achieve its goal, Volkswagen Group will sell four small EVs — two from the Volkswagen brand, one from Cupra, and one from Skoda. Volkswagen’s second model based on the ID.2 will be a crossover, followed by a Skoda SUV and the Cupra Urban Rebel subcompact. The ID.2 will be the least expensive of those four models. The company says there is also a battery electric Golf in the works.

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Volkswagen will build all four EVs in Spain, with the ID.2 and the Cupra Urban Rebel coming from the factory in Martorell. The Volkswagen crossover and Skoda SUV will be assembled in Pamplona starting in the second half of 2025. The company is planning to convert both factories to manufacture electric cars in time to meet the expected beginning of production. Volkswagen will source the batteries from its new battery plant in Sagunto, which is near Valencia, after that facility comes online in 2026.

Asked about the volumes, Schaefer boasted that Volkswagen doesn’t make cars below 100,000 units per year. The planned production for each factory is around 150,000 units, but that can be increased to 300,000 per year if there is sufficient demand for the vehicles. The batteries for the cars can also be sourced from the Volkswagen battery factory in Salzgitter and from Northvolt.

Volkswagen’s battery cell subsidiary, PowerCo, will produce the Unified cells that will power all four models. The Unified cells are prismatic, which Schäfer thinks they will become the industry’s standard. In this instance, Volkswagen is going against the trend in the industry established by Tesla, which has committed to cylindrical cells for its future cars, particularly those in the 4680 format. BMW has recently also said it will use cylindrical battery cells in its future electric cars, and General Motors has altered its battery plans to use them in its Ultium battery packs as well. But Schäfer believes the Unified cells give his company a significant cost advantage. Nevertheless, he says “getting a car below 25,000 euros that has no compromises with safety and range is literally impossible at the moment.”

In addition to the four small EV models coming from Volkswagen, Cupra, and Skoda, the Volkswagen brand is also working on an electric car that will sell for less than €20,000. The smaller model will arrive around 2026-2027 and will not use the MEB Entry platform that is the basis of the ID.2 and its corporate cousins. Schäfer says the company will develop a less expensive in-house architecture and rely on extreme scale and a downsized battery to reach that price point. He also said the new entry level model will be jointly developed by Volkswagen and Skoda.

The Takeaway

These are exciting times in the world of electric cars. New technologies are being unveiled on a regular basis, and the needs of drivers who need basic transportation instead of grand touring machines are being addressed.

The biggest difference between the conventional cars we all know and love and the cars we will drive in the future is energy efficiency. For the past century, the world has been driving cars that waste 75% or more of the energy contained in the gasoline that powers them. We as a species simply cannot afford to be so profligate if we hope to have a planet that can sustain human life.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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