Volkswagen is planning for a much faster-than-expected growth of electric vehicles in the next few years, expecting its own output to account for a significant chunk of current sales of EVs in the U.S. and overseas. The automaker has been diverting resources to accommodate what it expects to be a fairly steep acceleration in demand for EVs and intends its ID sub-brand to be an affordable point of entry for first-time EV buyers, in contrast to recent luxury EV efforts by Mercedes, Volkswagen-owned Audi and a handful of other automakers.
Just how many electric cars does VW plan to sell in the very near future?
“As early as 2020 we intend to sell 150,000 e-cars, of which 100,000 will be the ID. and ID. SUV,” said Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management, E-Mobility division. “Speeding up the shift to e-mobility will help us to meet the extremely ambitious CO2 targets that have been set in Europe, China and the USA.”
Ulbrich indicated last month that by the middle of the next decade the Zwickau plant will produce solely electric cars, but overall, the figure of 150,000 vehicles per year is still just a small percentage of Volkswagen’s entire global output: Collectively the Volkswagen group produced approximately 10.9 million vehicles last year, and has been consistently producing over 10 million units since reaching that level in 2014.
The 150,000 figure may seem impressive in isolation or compared to other large and mostly gasoline automakers, but ID will still account for a relatively small percentage of Volkswagen AG. At least in the early 2020s…
A VW executive has hinted at more variants of the Buzz, as seen in this rendering.
“The development of the vehicle technology is virtually complete, as are the designs of the various models,” Volkswagen said. “Contracts with the battery suppliers have been signed. Volkswagen is investing more than one billion euros to prepare its plant in Zwickau for the production of MEB vehicles.”
The development cycle for the ID model range has been in overdrive for quite some time, as the automaker races to create offerings for its first true generation of electric cars after smaller-scale experiments like the e-Golf. The MEB platform, developed from scratch specifically for EVs, will underpin the first wave of electric cars, permitting VW to use it for everything ranging from SUVs to compact cars to minivans.
The Volkswagen I.D. concept promises a range of nearly 375 miles by 2020 and an autonomous drive mode by 2025; the concept is part of the German automaker’s big push into electric vehicles.
“The ID will prove to be a milestone in terms of technological development,” said Christian Senger, Head of the Volkswagen E-Mobility product line. “It will be the first fully interconnected electric vehicle that is 100 percent suitable for day-to-day use, and millions of people will be able to afford it.”
Volkswagen may be planning e-mobility for the masses, but are the masses planning e-mobility for themselves?
Various Tesla models and the Nissan Leaf are still a small EV outpost in a sea of gasoline-engined pickup trucks in the U.S., and recent debuts of the Mercedes EQC and the Audi e-tron have yet to prove themselves in the market.
Tesla’s experience is certainly encouraging for Mercedes and Audi, but it hides a somewhat obvious fact: Tesla owners already own Teslas, so the audience for the EQC and the e-tron will have to come largely from entirely new (and deep-pocketed) converts to electric cars. And those new converts have yet to convert, as do less deep-pocketed converts that VW is targeting.