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.
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.
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.
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.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.