In Battle to Produce World’s First Truly-Affordable Long-Range Electric Car, VW Throws its Hat into the Ring

With the exception of the high-end, high-priced Tesla Model S electric sedan, the majority of mass-market electric cars on sale today still offer a real-world range of between 60 and 110 miles, depending on how and where they’re driven, their battery capacity and state of repair.

While that’s more than enough range on paper for the majority of trips undertaken every day by more than 95 percent of drivers, most advocates and automakers alike all quietly agree that in order to accelerate the mass-adoption of electric vehicles beyond their already-positive levels, cars need to be developed which are both affordable and offer double or even triple that of today’s vehicles.

Volkswagen could be about to announce a longer-range  e-Golf

Volkswagen could be about to announce a longer-range e-Golf

Consequentially, Nissan, General Motors and Tesla Motors are all racing to bring next-generation electric models to market in the next few years which offer a price point of around $35,000 as well as real-world, achievable ranges that add at least one hundred miles or more on top of the ranges offered by similarly-priced vehicles. Indeed, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, 2018 Tesla Model ≡ and next-Generation Nissan LEAF are all rumoured to be targeting at least 200 miles of range per charge.

Now German Automaker Volkswagen has thrown its hat into the ring too, hinting that it has next-generation battery technology waiting in the wings that could not only offer ranges in excess of 186 miles per charge, but is cheaper, smaller and more powerful than the battery packs it currently uses in its production Volkswagen e-Golf electric hatchback.

An electric Volkswagen that can travel 300 kilometres on electricity is in sight. It will be a quantum leap for the electric carMartin Winterkorn, VW, CEO

That’s according to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who made the comments this weekend talking to German newspaper Bild (via AutoExpress).

“Volkswagen is research a super-battery in Silicon Valley in California, that is cheaper, smaller and more powerful,” he said. “An electric Volkswagen that can travel 300 kilometres on electricity is in sight. It will be a quantum leap for the electric car.”

While Winterkorn did not go into any details of the battery pack during his interview with Bild, it is likely that the battery in question is one being developed by Californian firm QuantumScape Corp. Founded in 2010 by several Stanford University alumni, QuantumScape has been developing solid-state battery technology for the past five years which it says has higher energy density than current electric vehicle lithium-ion battery packs.

Unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which have solid electrodes but a liquid or gel electrolyte, solid-state batteries have both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. They are burn resistant, do not spill, have a high energy density, and are less affected by changes in temperature than current generation liquid electrolyte batteries. They also tend to have higher ionic conductivity than non solid-state batteries, allowing a low internal resistance, allowing for high power densities, making them ideal for use in electric cars.

Volkswagen looks to be chasing long-range cars from Nissan, GM and Tesla

Volkswagen looks to be chasing long-range cars from Nissan, GM and Tesla

In December last year, Volkswagen acquired a 5 percent holding in QuantumScape, and has been working with he firm since then, with Winterkorn saying in March he was impressed with the progress that the firm has made since then.

At the time, Winterkorn said that he expected VW to make an engineering decision on the future of the technology in its vehicles within four months. By our reckoning and taking into account his comments to Bild —  that means Volkswagen could be ready to announce the new battery pack officially within the next few weeks.

Given the intensity of rivalry between the various automakers all racing to produce a longer-range electric car however, we think Volkswagen may choose to wait until the Frankfurt Auto Show this September before making an official announcement, potentially even choosing to showcase the technology in a concept or technology demonstration vehicle at the event.

Either way, one thing is clear: we’re on the brink of a massive boost to electric vehicle range which could make it possible to drive an electric car for up to 200 miles without needing to recharge.

For most drivers, that will be more than enough to eliminate any lingering range anxiety. The next challenge? Convincing car buyers that refuelling after those 200-miles will be convenient, simple, and hastle-free. Based on the challenges currently facing plug-in drivers thanks to unreliable charging networks in many countries, that could be tougher than it would first seem.

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