Volkswagen to make electric/hybrid versions of everything by 2025
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Volkswagen has announced the world’s largest vehicle electrification program, with 80 new electric and hybrid vehicles promised across the Group’s brands by 2025 and over 20 billion euros in capital investment across the Group and a 50 billion euros battery contract going out to tender.
It's understood that Volkswagen Group includes hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles as part of this strategy, rather than just battery electric vehicles, which means that the internal combustion engine (powered by petrol or diesel) remains crucial to the Group's product line-up.
However, VW says that up to one in four new Group vehicles (up to three million a year) could be pure battery electric by 2025.
“This is not some vague declaration of intent,’ said Matthias Müller, VW’s chairman of the board of management. “It is a strong self-commitment, which from today becomes the yard stick by which we measure our performance.”
On the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show, and with German car makers seeking clarification of the status of Government bans on petrol and diesel power and what that means, VW’s is one of the strongest statements of intent, especially given the German car maker’s previous commitment to diesel engines (and its cheating in emissions tests).
“We have got the message and we will deliver,” said Muller. “The transformation in our industry is unstoppable and we will lead that transformation.”
The commitment means there will be at least one electrified version of each of the Group’s 300 models and the Group will require over 150 giga watts of storage capacity annually by 2025 to make this happen, which is the equivalent of at least four giga battery cell factories. It’s the largest tender in the history of the motor industry.
The 20 billion euros investment will go into the development of two entirely new electric chassis platforms, upgrading existing plants and training the workforce.
Wolfsburg’s research head Ulrich Eichhorn, explained the difference between electric and electrified vehicles according to VW.
“Hybrid and mild hybrid cars are electrified,” he says, “but plug-in hybrid and battery-electric are electric because they can run solely on electricity they’ve drawn down from the grid.”
He also told us about the twin platform strategy outlined by Matthias Müller on the eve of the show. The existing ID chassis platform will be the first and smaller example, with a second, larger platform for bigger cars such as the Audi A6.
Batteries will be modular for the entire project, initially having 12 groups of cells in each and then being laid along and across the car depending on its size. Initially these cells will be lithium ion, but Eichhorn is keen on reducing the cobalt content and using the less expensive and exploitative nickel. After that VW is working on solid-state battery units using similar chemistry with up to 50 per cent more power and energy.
“That’s about 350 to 400 watt hours per kilogram,” he says, “which is what Matthias was talking about a 1,000km range in a Golf-sized car.”
Clearly this would have huge ramifications for any recharging infrastructure since there’d be rarely a need to charge up mid journey and Eichhorn admits that it could throw current infrastructure providers into a tailspin.
And what about fuel cells, which provide electrical power from hydrogen fuels? Eichhorn says they might have a role as a range extender, but admits that even that limited job might be denied them if the 1,000km battery car becomes a reality.
The other big push at VW is autonomous driving and VW is planning a small fleet of autonomous-driving Golf cars with all the sensors to be unleashed at the Wolfsburg factory this October. This ‘campus testing’ is becoming a most favoured way of trailing self driving as on-road testing can be too legally hidebound for it to yield any significant results. Even so, it’s not easy.
“It’s pretty hard,” says Eichhorn. “We have to cope with trucks, freight trains, cars and lots of other vehicles which would never be allowed on the public road…”
- Andrew English, Telegraph UK