The automotive world has come unhinged this week at the news that Tesla now offers a $160,000 car which hurtles to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, can break the sound barrier, and is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. While that is exciting news, it doesn’t do much for the poor schlubs (like me) who are trying to wrest a modest living from rocky soil.
Volkswagen, however, made an announcement this week that may be far more important to the common man and woman. It says it will have a near-production prototype on display at the Paris auto show in September that will have more than 300 miles of range and feature state of the art technology. It also says it will retail for less than the price of a conventional car with a gasoline or diesel engine.
A charging time of 15 minutes is rumored. You have to wonder if that is using the 800 volt charging system said to be under development for the Porsche Mission-E electric sports car and if so, how many of the high power chargers will be available for public use.
That reported range is probably based on the overly generous European standard, but translate it to its EPA equivalent and it is still around 225 miles. The Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt are supposed to have about the same range, but neither is making any claim to selling for less than an equivalent gas powered car. If Volkswagen can pull this off, that will really be a transformative moment in the history of the automobile. An electric car for Everyman. Just think what that could mean for the industry and the future of mankind.
Speaking to German newspaper WirtschaftWoche (Industry and Economy Week) recently, Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess said the car would have the outside dimensions of the Golf but offer the interior space of the larger Passat. It will be the first car built on the company’s latest MEB chassis, specifically designed for all electric cars like the BUDD-e concept that appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show last January. Diess says it should be market ready in late 2018 or early 2019.
The car “will make a huge statement,” a senior engineer with knowledge of VW’s research and development plans told Autocar. “It’s planned to use cutting-edge technology but at a price that makes it attainable for the average motorist.”
Diess reportedly has given company engineers free rein to create “the Volkswagen for the digital age” and challenged them to set new benchmarks for electric performance. In addition, he wants them to develop cutting edge connectivity and infotainment systems and style the car so it stands out from other cars on the road.
All this activity at Volkswagen has come as the result of the emissions cheating disaster that came to light a year ago. In an odd way, that debacle could be the spark Volkswagen needed to uncouple itself from its fossil fuel past and focus on its zero emission future. Many other car makers are paying lip service to the electric car revolution, but you can tell their heart really isn’t in it.
“We are using the current crisis to fundamentally realign the group,” VW Group CEO Matthias Müller says. “I feel we now have the chance to build a new and better Volkswagen.” The diesel engine was supposed to propel Volkswagen to the top of the world’s automotive manufacturers. How ironic would it be if the electric motor ends up doing for Volkswagen what the diesel engine never could?
Source and graphic credit: Autocar