German firm is working on ‘MEB-Lite’ platform that will be used for supermini and compact crossover with smaller batteries and lower price
Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstatter says the firm is fully committed to producing a small electric ‘people’s car’ as part of its fast-growing ID range, with a target starting price of AUD$32,000.
The German firm is currently rolling out a number of electric-only models on the VW Group’s MEB platform, starting with the ID 3 hatch earlier this year. The recently revealed ID 4 crossover will go on sale early next year.
Volkswagen continues to invest heavily in developing its electric technology, and Brandstatter said developing a new MEB-Lite version of the platform, designed for cars featuring smaller batteries with a capacity of up to 45kWh, remains a priority.
Volkswagen intends to use the platform for a supermini and compact hatchback, likely carrying the ID 1 and ID 2 tags and which will are intended to sit alongside the combustion-engined Polo and T-Cross respectively. The firm is aiming to sell the cars for between AUD$32,000 and AUD$40,000. While it has yet to set a date for their introduction, they are unlikely to appear before 2023.
The two new models will effectively replace the Volkswagen e-Up! As the entry level of the VW electric range, with the smaller batteries reflecting their focus on lower-mileage urban usage. Brandstatter said that Volkswagen will also work with its various Chinese joint venture partners to offer “highly affordable” electric cars in that market, and the MEB-Lite platform will also spawn a range of entry-level models from sister brand Skoda.
Entry-level models key part of wider EV plans
An entry-level affordable ID model has long been a major goal for Volkswagen, and is considered key to helping boost uptake of electic vehicles to hit its long-term sales goals and emission targets. Speaking recently Brandstätter said: “We’re working on these concepts. Of course, we have to take into account that lower segments will in the future be demanding EVs, and we’re preparing concepts.”
In September, sibling brand Skoda confirmed that its Citigo-e iV electric city car had been discontinued to make way for larger models and new EVs, with its Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii siblings expected to meet the same fate.
There’s no word yet on a replacement for the popular but unprofitable city cars, but Brandstätter said: “We’re working on concepts for smaller segments. We will discuss it soon. Cars in smaller segments are important and very interesting for us.”
Seat will next year begin production of its new Minimó electric quadricycle. It’s not yet confirmed whether that will be sold under a different name by other Volkswagen Group brands, but Volkswagen is considering urban-focused mobility solutions.
“At the moment, we’re focusing on electric vehicles,” said Brandstätter. “Of course we have studied these last-mile proposals, and we have some concepts ready, but at the moment, there’s no decision taken going to the market.”
Volkswagen is keen to emphasise the flexibility of its MEB platform, which underpins the ID 3 and ID 4 and will go on to provide the basis of the ID 5 coupe-SUV, ID 6 saloon, ID Buzz van and an as-yet-unnamed model from new development partner Ford.
A small electric sports car remains on the cards. Brandstätter refused to give details but said: “MEB is a very versatile platform. Year by year, we will inform you which kind of cars are possible.”
Volkswagen’s ID R electric performance car range is set to be topped by a Tesla Roadster-rivalling coupé/roadster arriving in 2025.
Volkswagen’s commitment to building 26 million EVs by 2029 remains unchanged in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with planned investment in e-mobility across the Volkswagen Group now totalling €33 billion (AUD$54.4 billion).
The launch of the ID 4 represents the start of a shift to electrification for Volkswagen’s burgeoning SUV line-up. Boss of e-mobility for the brand Thomas Ulbrich said: “In 2015, we decided to push the SUV market and start our SUV offensive. The ID 4 is the next milestone in this transformation to e-mobility as Volkswagen’s first electric SUV.
“The ID 4 stands for carbon-neutral mobility and will mobilise millions, because it’s a real global car. It will quickly become a top model, not in a niche, because the market segment is becoming more and more important.”
The ID 4 will be built in five plants worldwide and sold across three continents, but will receive subtle market-specific tweaks to its styling, interior and technological functions to meet different market tastes.
Ulbrich added: “There are definitely regional preferences, so there will be some country-specific adjustments to the ID 4 depending on the region. But Volkswagen is really experienced doing that, as the Tiguan shows.
“In essence, the customer wants and gets the same great technology: sufficient range, fast charging and, in a nutshell, a dynamic electric car.”