Although it has only been selling plug-in cars for the past year or so, German automaker Volkswagen has been making limited numbers of plug-in cars since the 1970s. Now with three plug-in models on the market (four if you count its limited-production XL1 two-seat coupe) and many more promised, VW is looking to catch up to the likes of Nissan, General Motors, Tesla and BMW in the plug-in marketplace.
One of the ways it intends to do that is by offering rapid charging capability on all of its future plug-in cars so that all of its plug-in owners — all electric and plug-in hybrid — can spend as much time as possible operating in all-electric mode.
The news comes from Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen U.S., who told GreenCarReports at the recent 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit that all of its future cars would come with Combo CCS quick charging as standard.
A direct competitor to the CHAdeMO DC quick charge standard offered on cars like the Nissan LEAF, Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi i-Miev, the Combo CCS charge system has been designed by a joint consortium of German automakers including BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Looking a little like a standard AC ‘fast’ charging connector (J-1772 in the U.S., Type 2 in Europe), the Combo CCS plug standard adds two additional high-power connectors underneath the standard ‘fast’ charging connector, allowing for high, direct-current charging of an electric car’s battery pack using an external charging station.
Like CHAdeMO, most CCS charging stations today offer up to 50 kilowatts of direct current power, charging the average electric car battery pack from empty to 80 percent full in around 30 minutes or less.
On the Cross Coupe GTE mid-size crossover SUV concept Volkswagen demonstrated last week in Detroit, the charging inlet featured a regular European-style Type 2 connector and an additional ’16 amp commando’ socket. That’s not unusual for one-off show cars, as the latter is easier to use and modify as required in a hurry. But, says GreenCarReports, on asking about the unusual connector, they were told by Horn that a production model version of the Cross Coupe GTE would have CCS quick charging as standard, recharging the 14.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery in 15 minutes or so to 80 percent capacity.
“Our future plug-ins will be on Combo [CCS], and you will see a strong commitment for Combo,” his colleague Joerg Sommer confirmed at a separate Q&A session with journalists at the same show.
Like Nissan and BMW, Volkswagen also appears keen to work on helping the development of a charging network for its customers to use too, promising CCS charging stations at some of its U.S. dealership and the possibility of even investing funds into developing CCS charging ‘hot spots’ in busy areas frequented by its customers.
At the moment, the Volkswagen e-Golf is the only plug-in car sold in North America by Volkswagen, but in Europe, Volkswagen also sells the all-electric e-Up, a small four-seat urban minicar with a real-world range of around 85 miles per charge. Both the e-Up and the e-Golf come with CCS quick charging as standard.
Ignoring the limited-run Volkswagen XL1 of which just 200 were made and whose charge connector is far from standard, the Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid is the only mass-produced Volkswagen plug-in sold without CCS included. While it is not currently sold in the U.S., its sibling, the Audi A3 sportback e-tron, is. Sadly, it also lacks CCS connectivity.
With Volkswagen’s announcement at CES however, it looks as if both the Audi A3 sportback e-tron and Golf GTE will be the last of Volkswagen’s plug-in cars not to feature the technology.
That fact alone has the potential to win Volkswagen a large number of customers in the plug-in marketplace.
Despite offering a claimed 50 miles of all-electric range, the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car doesn’t’ feature rapid charging capabilities, and only manages a mediocre claimed 41 mpg when operating in range-extending mode.
Since many commutes are well under 50 miles however, we can see some would-be Volt owners offering to opt for a plug-in hybrid model with CCS connectivity, allowing them to maximise their all-electric range whenever there’s an available CCS charging station. While Volkswagen hasn’t promised a plug-in with CCS in time to cross-shop against the Volt, we wouldn’t be surprised to see such a model in fairly short order given Volkswagen’s clever modular design platforms, which were designed from the outset to enable Volkswagen to rapidly and efficiently react to changes in the marketplace.
Need more proof? While there are no plug-in hybrids offered in the U.S. with quick charging capability at the time of writing, Mitsubishi’s Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is taking Europe and Asia by storm thanks to its all-wheel drive off-road capabilities, its 25-30 miles of real-world all-electric range and most importantly, its CHAdeMO DC quick charge socket.
The first plug-in hybrid in the world to offer rapid charging technology, the Mitsubishi Outlander has just enough range to enable most Europeans the ability to commute to work using electric-only, but its CHAdeMO DC quick charge port allows owners to top up their car’s battery pack on longer trips whenever they happen across a quick charge station, dramatically lowering their fuel bill and increasing their overall gas mileage.
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