There has been a lot of chatter online recently about how the EV revolution is coming to a premature conclusion. In September, Volkswagen cut production of its electric cars after the German government phased out EV subsidies for business cars, which led to a decrease in demand. But Reinhard Fischer, senior vice president and head of strategy at Volkswagen Group of America, said at the Reuters Events Automotive USA 2023 conference in Detroit this week, “We are not scaling back” plans for EVs in the US market.
In fact, Fischer disclosed that Volkswagen plans to build an electric car either in the US or in Mexico that will have a starting price under $35,000. Options for where such a car would be manufactured include Volkswagen factories in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Puebla, Mexico.
The company is also constructing a new factory in South Carolina where it plans to manufacture electric vehicles for its new Scout brand. That facility might also be the site where the new less expensive electric car from Volkswagen gets built. We’re just spitballing here, but maybe the less expensive model will be sold as a Scout? What better way to launch a new brand than with a low priced model to get customers in the door?
Volkswagen intends to obtain the batteries for its electric cars sold in the US from sources that qualify for rebates under the Inflation Reduction Act. It has recently struck a deal with authorities in Canada to build its largest battery factory in Ontario after federal and provincial authorities agreed to match the production credits baked into the IRA. Batteries built in Canada will be eligible for the US federal tax credit if they meet certain materials and components sourcing rules.
Assuming the new car meets all the requirements for the IRA rebate, it would have a net cost to buyers of just $27,500 or less. That could convince a lot of people to open their wallets and join the EV revolution.
Volkswagen Dry Coating Battery Technology
In June, Volkswagen said it had perfected a new dry coating process for batteries that will reduce energy consumption in the production of battery cells by 30%. That in turn could lower the cost of electric cars by several hundred euros per vehicle. Sebastian Wolf, a board member of the Volkswagen battery subsidiary PowerCo, said the electrode dry coating method has proven viable in internal tests.
According to Wolf, Volkswagen has been researching the new dry coating process with partners since 2020, and expects to use it in the production of millions of battery cells by the beginning of 2027. To date, the company has invested approximately €40 million into researching the dry coating technology.
Production Pause For ID.4 And ID.5 In Zwickau
Also this week, Volkswagen halted production of its ID.4 and ID.5 electric cars in Zwickau because it does not have enough electric motors on hand to build the cars. The shutdown is expected to last into early December, according to Der Spiegel (paywall).
In April, Volkswagen announced it had developed an entirely new electric motor and powertrain for its MEB based electric cars. The company said its new APP 550 powertrain will improve the performance of its rear-wheel-drive electric cars while adding range, thanks to its newfound efficiency.
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 — 210 kW (280 hp) — 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.
A 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.”
Supply Chain Issues Hamper Production
There is only one problem. Supply chain issues have prevented the Kassel factory from producing enough APP 550 powertrains. What units are available are being sent to the factory in Emden, where production of the ID.7 has just begun. As a result, production line 2 in Zwickau, which produces the ID.4 and ID.5, has been shut down until enough of the APP 550 powertrains are on hand to allow production to resume.
Line one in Zwickau, which makes the ID.3 and Cupra Born, has not been affected by the shortage of the new “performance motor” from Volkswagen. Those models will continue to use the older electric drive unit with 150 kW of power and 310 Nm of torque. Even though Kassel also manufactures the current motor, there appear to be no supply chain issues with that powertrain.
Volkswagen Now Accepting Orders For ID.7 In UK
Customers in the UK can now order the range-topping ID.7 with the upgraded APP 550 powertrain, the company said in a press release on November 9, 2023. The ID.7 Pro Launch Edition starts at £55,570 “RRP on-the-road,” the company says. There are a number of special offers for those who order early, including either a free Ohme wall charger or £750 worth of free charging over the next three years through WeCharge. Volkswagen is also offering a £3,000 purchase incentive and 4.9% financing.
“We are really excited to introduce the ID.7 to our customers,” said Rod McLeod, Director of Volkswagen UK. “We know lots of people — including many business drivers — have been eagerly awaiting its arrival. The ID.7 is a hugely attractive package, offering state of the art technologies that impress through their exclusivity, premium comfort, and a really high degree of everyday usabilty.”
That may be true, although those who have been following the news about the Cariad software division of Volkswagen may be skeptical of some of the claims. In any event, buyers will know their cars are equipped with the latest and greatest powertrain technology the company has available. That has to be worth something.
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