Ever since the dieselgate scandal rocked the automotive world, Volkswagen has been working hard to change its errant ways and become a more trustworthy, more transparent company.
Part of the way in which it plans to do that is to invest heavily in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, ditching its emphasis on diesel engine technology for zero-emission vehicles like the 200+ mile Volkswagen BUDD-e concept microbus we saw at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. That vehicle, a production version of which has already been green-lit for production by 2020, is one of a total of twenty different claimed plug-in models Volkswagen says it will bring to market across its various brands by the end of the decade alongside other confirmed plug-in models like the Audi Q6 e-tron and Porsche Mission E sports sedan.
Now we can add another car to the list courtesy of the next-generation Volkswagen e-Golf, which the firm hopes to bring to production as a 2019 model-year car towards the end of 2018. Based on the MEB toolkit that underpinned the Volkswagen BUDD-e concept minivan, Volkswagen says the next-generation plug-in will pack a new battery pack giving it at least 186-miles of real-world range.
The details were obtained by Autobloggreen in an interview with Volkswagen Group small car development leader Dr. Jocham Böhle on Friday in which Böhle confirmed that development is already under way for a longer-range model that will compete with the new wave of longer-range electric cars coming to market. But while that’s no surprise — Volkswagen has been talking of a longer-range e-Golf for some time — the way in which Volkswagen plans to develop said vehicle is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
To date, including the thousand or so limited-production electric Golf prototypes Volkswagen has been building on and off since the late 1970s, Volkswagen’s approach to electrifying the Golf platform has been to squeeze the battery pack, motor and control circuitry into a standard Volkswagen Golf chassis. For the current generation Volkswagen e-Golf — the first time Volkswagen has officially made an electric variant of the Golf available to the general public — Volkswagen specifically designed the MQB platform on which the seventh-generation Golf is based to accommodate a variety of different drivetrains. This not only makes it possible for Volkswagen to easily adjust its production output depending on popularity of drivetrains and engine choices, but also keeps production line complexity to a minimum, as the majority of the production line remains the same for all variants.
So far, that process has worked well for Volkswagen, and will continue to do so for the gasoline, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants of the eighth-generation 2019 Volkswagen Golf, which Böhl confirmed would be based on a mildly-tweaked version of the MQB platform
But in order to get that 186-miles of range needed for the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf, Böhl said that a completely new platform would be built specifically for the model, leveraging the MEB toolkit to ensure a low-down battery pack, powerful motors and long-range.
Outwardly, both vehicles will likely look the same, meaning the next-generation e-Golf will no more stand out on a busy street than the current model car does.
“The current e-Golf is 190 kilometers [118 miles] of range on paper and about 120 kilometers [75 miles] in the real world,” Jocham Böhle told Autobloggreen. “The Golf VIII e-Golf will have 300 kilometers [186 miles] of real-world range – genuinely 300 kilometers – and the current plug-in hybrid has 50 kilometers [31 miles] of electric range and we don’t need more than that … The electrified Golfs will all have 48-volt power. They might not be there right at the start of Golf VIII, but they will be close behind … That system will go through all the MQB cars, with 48 volts. All hybrids and battery electric MQBs will go to 48 volts.”
This change, backed by Volkswagen’s board, marks a hard turn away from the diesel engines which got Volkswagen in so much trouble last year. And while Volkswagen may have appeared reluctant in the past to work on electric vehicles, Dr. Herbert Diess, the recently-appointed head of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, is taking a very hands-on approach.
“Dr. Diess has change things on the Golf VIII already,” Böhle admitted. “He had very clear objectives. He said it must have strong digitalization and electrification of the drivelines….The most important targets for Golf 8 are design and connectivity.”
If Volkswagen can make good on its promises, the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf does indeed sound like an impressive car. But there are two slight problems we’re sure will cause Volkswagen some significant headaches moving forward.
First is timing. While Volkswagen is due to bring out a mildly-refreshed 2017 e-Golf this year, complete with longer-range battery pack to put it in line with the 2016 Nissan LEAF’s 107-miles of EPA-approved range, the next-generation e-Golf is still at least two years from entering production, giving rival automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet plenty of time to get their next-generation, longer-range cars into the marketplace ahead of Volkswagen.
Second is range. While 186-miles of range would certainly give Volkswagen an edge today, the impending launch of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV — which GM says will offer 200 miles of EPA-approved range — means that the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf will be outperformed long before it even hits the market.
With electrification Volkswagen’s only true hope of turning itself around, that’s a very dangerous game to be playing indeed.
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