Report: Volkswagen To Unveil 300-Mile Electric Concept Car at Paris Motor Show Next Month Ahead of Major EV Push

Believe it or not, next month will mark the one year anniversary of the breaking of the Dieselgate scandal, a crisis that not only irrevocably damaged Volkswagen’s short-term reputation as an automaker but rocked the auto industry to its core as more and more automakers came under scrutiny over the way in which automakers game — and sometimes outright cheat — their way through compulsory emissions testing.

Since then, everyone at Volkswagen — from its engineers through to press team and executives — have been working hard to try and make amends for the blatant illegal activity that resulted in multiple diesel-engined vehicles from the Volkswagen group being programmed to cheat in official emissions tests. Some of that work has seen Volkswagen shift its attention away from diesel engines toward more efficient, cleaner engines. Other parts of that work has seen it double down on electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, promising a whole new range of all-electric long-range models over the next few years.

VW is bringing a new electric concept car to Paris next month.

VW is bringing a new electric concept car to Paris next month.

So it’s perhaps apt that at next month’s Paris Motor Show, almost one year to the day that the dieselgate scandal broke, Volkswagen will unveil a new compact concept car that it says previews its first long-range, mass-produced plug-in cars.

At least, that’s according to German-language business website Wirtschaftswoche, which learned the news during an interview with Volskwagen brand chief Dr. Herbert Diess earlier this week. During the interview, which focused on Volkswagen’s push towards zero emission vehicles, Diess said that the concept car Volkswagen will unveil this September in Paris will be ‘slightly smaller’ than the current Volkswagen Golf on the outside, yet feature an interior volume the same sort of size as the Volkswagen Passat.

Unlike the BUDD-e concept car, this new vehicle is said to be making it to production soon.

Unlike the BUDD-e concept car, this new vehicle is said to be making it to production soon.

If you’re curious as to how that’s possible, it’s down to the way in which Volkswagen’s new electric vehicle modular toolkit integrates its electric motors, power electronics and battery pack low down into the vehicle chassis, freeing up space normally used by an internal combustion engine for other things. Just like the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X, Volkswagen’s new electric vehicle design leaves the battery pack under the car’s floor, making it possible to have a far larger interior volume for a given physical size of car than is possible with a gasoline or diesel vehicle.

While Diess didn’t get into specifics about the new concept, he hinted that both the concept and the five new electric models which would follow it would have all-electric ranges of between 400 kilometers (248 miles) and 600 kilometers (372 miles) per charge, depending on model size and specifications. Those ranges, tested against the overly optimistic NEDC test cycle, translate to a real-world range we’re estimating as being somewhere between 150 miles and 300 miles per charge.

Interestingly too, Diess said that the launch of Volkswagen’s new electric vehicles over the next few years would necessitate the construction of new production facilities dedicated exclusively to battery electric cars. Moreover, instead of focusing those production facilities in locations where Volkswagen already has a strong vehicle production history, Diess said it made sense to focus production nearest to where demand will be highest. As a consequence he explained, Volkswagen could very well look to build production facilities on the west coast of the U.S., China, and key European countries.

It's likely the concept car will be built on VW's new electric toolkit.

It’s likely the concept car will be built on VW’s new electric toolkit.

Given Volkswagen’s now tighter purse strings following the dieselgate scandal, Diess also said the automaker would be looking to reduce its dependence on Asian manufacturers of high-capacity lithium-ion cells. While he didn’t mention specifics, Diess hinted that VW would need to look to more local suppliers for the large volume of lithium-ion cells it would need to become a world-leader in electric vehicles by 2025. Not mentioned but we feel implied seems to be the idea that VW would follow in Tesla and Nissan’s tire tracks, building its own lithium-ion production facilities to ensure production costs were kept to an absolute minimum.

Do you think Volkswagen is serious about changing its lineup to electric vehicles? Will it really change its tune after years of treating electric vehicles as the poor cousin of diesel? And what do you think we’ll see in Paris this fall?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • I recently purchased a 30 kWh Leaf, and the thing that really put me off and didn’t make me consider a VW for one second is that they do their best to make their EV’s look and feel like ICE’s. Complete with the 20th century mechanical dials instead of a digital dashboard.

    • Martin Lacey

      I think raiding the parts bin from other VW cars is meant to keep the cost down, except for the drivetrain of course. Too many bean counters – especially now they are paying for dieselgate!!!!!!!

    • nordlyst

      Funny – I bought a used LEAF but much prefer the more conventional design of the e-Golf. The reason I went with the Nissan was simply that used cars that have had time to depreciate a bit – so they can continue to fall like a stone from a lower base! – were available only if I chose the LEAF (or one of the i-Miev variants).

      I wouldn’t be very happy if I were in your shoes, unfortunately. One month from today the Mondial de l’automobile opens its doors to the public. Just before that, during the press days, Nissan will announce the facelifted 2017 LEAF. At basically the same price it will not merely be better-looking and get a more up to date interior, but it will also come with a 40 kWh *useable capacity* battery good for 400 km on NEDC – as compared to the 250 km you get. I’m afraid you will have to face steep depreciation, and have a much inferior car, compared to if you had waited a couple of months. It will be on sale before the end of the year.

      This is going to be an issue for all cars soon. It’s an inevitable consequence of rapid technological progress. And the industry people themselves say the industry and products will change more in the next five years than they did in the previous hundred.

    • Jeff Laurence

      Most owners of Leafs list the “unusual” looks as one of the things they don’t like. My Soul looks pretty conventional, relatively speaking, and feels much less closed in because of it’s larger windows. I’m excited by VW’s entry and hope they’ll offer some innovation as well as following the trend to more capacity. The scarcity of Quick Charge stations for their system is now their biggest hurdle in my mind.

  • Martin Lacey

    I have just purchased a two year old 24kWH Leaf and take delivery next week. I’m sooo excited to be going green at last. Any UK owners who want to give me tips and advice would be really helpful 🙂

    This release from VW puts meat on the bones of what had thus far appeared to be bigger and bolder announcements as dieselgate prosecutions accelerated. Let’s hope they bring some competitive EV’s to the party!

    • nordlyst

      Welcome to the club! I bought a used LEAF in March last year and have never looked back – and seldom needed more. On one occasion I’ve rented a small van for 3 hours at IKEA to haul some furniture home, and once I borrowed a gasmobile to drive a 700 km for a work assignment. Apart from that, the 2012 LEAF has been able to cover my needs, and despite high depreciation I believe it has cost me much less than if I had driven a gasmobile instead. (I’m in Norway, have cheap electricity, am exempted from road tolls, park for free, and get 75% off road tax!)

      • Martin Lacey

        My old ICE was at the point of death and uneconomical to repair so I donated it to the local college as a training vehicle for budding mechanics.

        My used 2014 Leaf will more than pay for itself in savings and business use benefits in two years; will be worth about 50% what I paid for it when I trade it in for my reserved Model 3 and is a much better ride than my old car!

  • Jeff Laurence

    It looks like VW engineered the diesel as far as they could. Their new focus on electric vehicles makes sense. I love the KIA Soul ev I drive but less than a 150 mile range is now a deal breaker so unless KIA extends their range, I’ll look very seriously at a VW. Building that car in the US would repair their reputation significantly.

    • Martin Lacey

      “It looks like VW engineered the diesel as far as they could”?

      Sorry, but they didn’t… other manufacturers are able to comply with current legislation without the use of cheat devices. VWA group got caught in a major deception to cover up the fact that their best wasn’t good enough. I certainly hope this is not the same kind of “vorsprung Durch technik” they will apply to their EV’s!

      • Jeff Laurence

        Me too. I know there are legal diesels manufacturers. My point was that the outstanding milage they had achieved just may not be possible with the emission standards that are mandated by law here. Volkswagen R&D seems to be one of the best. I originally thought what they had achieved in terms of milage was remarkable.

  • Chris O

    looks like VW will be forced to pay for most of the charging infrastructure in the US so they might as well try and get some use of it themselves…

    VW appears to change its story about that upcoming long range EV rather a lot though, varying from talk about a 186 miles next gen eGolf and a 200 miles microbus only 6 months ago to this new mystery car. Guess what happened in between was Model 3 making VW realize that getting the concept right is absolutely critical.

    • Wineaux

      No, VW is going to spend half of that money expanding the already robust charging infrastructure in a single state, California. The other 49 states have to share the other half. For EV to really take off in this country, the term “infrastructure” has to start applying to more than just a single state.

      • Chris O

        VW was fined $2 billion to be spend on infrastructure for green cars. A quarter of that money would pay for coast to coast 50 mile interspaced quickchargers along every US highway.

        So it’s not like there is hard choices to be made and I doubt it’s up to VW to decide how exactly the money is spend anyway, so I would like to see a source for your statement.

  • nordlyst

    VW may be the EV press release and concept car world champions, but they would be stupid to publicly commit to more than 30 new BEV models by 2025 if they don’t actually intend to do it. In an ironic twist it may turn out that dieselgate was a blessing for the company, forcing it to make changes that position it very well for the future. If VW actually gets an advantage in EV technology their lobbying strategy will also change, and that would win over many of those who now hate the company for its misdeeds.

    In the short term however they look uncompetitive. We were many who were positively surprised by the 50% battery capacity boost that both VW and BMW is delivering for their 2017 models. At the time it seemed as if BMW might possibly be in trouble because of the Bolt/Ampera-e, but VW looked pretty good at the lower price point of the e-Golf. Since then however it has become widely known that Nissan and Renault both bring 2017 models that blow the VW out of the water. In fact, they look like they can give the Bolt a run for its money unless GM aims higher than 200 miles combined. Thanks to better aero, the facelifted 2017 LEAF and the 2017 ZOE will both get highway ranges much closer to the Bolt than the battery pack sizes suggest (the Bolt really is quite bad with respect to aerodynamics, with a Cd of 0.32). It is important to realize that the *combined* range is almost irrelevant when we’re talking about cars that can drive this far. For normal people, all of these cars will have ample range for their everyday driving, and the full capacity will matter only on long trips – which almost invariably means going at near constant and high speed; highway driving range then is what matters in practice.

    Another interesting thing to look out for is battery upgrades for so-called “first-gen” cars – i.e. the ~130 km cars with ~24 kWh that began with the LEAF in 2010. I keep seeing editorials that try to convince me this won’t happen, but their reasoning is weak. It is technically perfectly feasible to put 60 kWh in the physical space of my current 24 kWh pack (I have a 2012 LEAF), with only a small gain in weight. And the production cost for such a pack is quickly falling. Kreisel electric is building a battery pack factory in Austria that opens in March 2017 and rumours are they’ll begin offering upgrades in summer 2017. The company has upgraded an e-Golf as a demo car – to 55 kWh using the original space and keeping the weight the same. While I cannot say for sure if the rumors have anything to do with reality, it seems plausible – and in any case the day is certain to come when it is *technically* feasible to triple the range of my car (which is now down ~16% on original capacity) for less than €5k. So I think the chances are pretty good of seeing upgrades on the market at least by 2020.