Ordinarily, announcements from car companies about a concept they plan to reveal at the next major auto show can be conveniently ignored. They are usually just hyperventilating press-speak designed to garner attention on social media. The new features typically are nothing more than mildly interesting upgrades to existing models — low friction door hinges or brake discs that are 1 milimeter larger. Contrary to the norm, Volkswagen promises to unveil something truly special at this year’s Paris auto show.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the company says the concept that will debut in Paris will be as important to the world of automobiles as the original Beetle. That’s quite a claim and worth a closer look. Christian Senger, the head of battery electric cars at Volkswagen told the press this week that the concept we see in Paris will be the first of many production cars to use the MEB chassis.
That platform is designed specifically for electric cars and places the battery low and in the middle of the car, much the way Tesla builds its cars. Unlike other companies, which are concentrating on one-size-fits-all configurations that can accept whatever the public wants, from internal combustion engines to hybrids and plug-in hybrids, the MEB is all in on electric power and electric power only.
Senger says to expect a large HD display, haptic feedback, and gesture controls as part of the package. “The car of tomorrow must feel like a mobile device on wheels,” he says. More important than all that gee whiz stuff is range. Senger says the new car will be scalable, with range offerings between 400 kilometers and 600 kilometers. Those numbers translate to between 240 and 360 miles, probably depending on the size battery the customer prefers.
As always, keep in mind that European mileage claims are higher than EPA estimates. That means we can expect the new car to be able to drive between 200 and 300 miles on one battery charge when it arrives in the US. That just happens to be the current spread between the least expcnsive Tesla Model S 60 and the brand new Model S P100D. The kicker is that that Volkswagen does not expect the car to go into production until 2019. It will be marketed as a 2020 model when it does go on sale.
VW board member Jürgen Stackmann says, “We want to use Paris, basically, as the lighthouse to show you where we are heading as a brand, There are so many tremendous things happening at VW at the moment. We are taking big, bold decisions fast to really get the brand moving and we are excited to show you the first glimpse of that at the Paris Motor Show.”
The company is anxious to leave Dieselgate behind and rebuild its business based on electric cars. There is an outside chance that, looking back a decade from now, the diesel scandal may turn out to have been the best thing that could have happened to Volkswagen. Painful as it was, it forced the company to re-examine its priorities and move more quickly into the future than it would have done otherwise. Perhaps there will be a silber lining inside the diesel powered sturmwolke after all.
Source: AutoBlog Image credit: Volkswagen