Eight tidbits from our chat with Christian Senger
Volkswagen is betting big on electrification, and the automaker gave us our first look at what its electrified future will look like with the I.D. concept at the recent Paris Motor Show. There, we caught up with VW’s new head of e-mobility Christian Senger to learn more about the I.D. and the brand’s future EV lineup.
“We want to be the leader in e-mobility…we want to be the first one to produce more than a million electric cars, and for this we need to have really convincing solutions. The I.D. is in our minds the right answer as an auto manufacturer because it solves some core issues of the electric cars today.
“Battery cost [is] making significant improvements. The charging grid will improve [along with] its necessary [energy] density. Range is solved—there’s no range anxiety anymore. Vehicle cost point is down. We will be able to serve this new customer demand, going away from driven by regulations into customers are demanding electric cars.”
How flexible is the MEB platform?
“This is really a modular concept. It allows for cars the size of the I.D., maybe a little smaller, but also definitely the size of the Passat…or the Tiguan, maybe even bigger cars are possible. Electric cars are simpler. We can solve the A to D segment portfolio [with MEB].
“We want to use economies of scale, so the MEB is intended to be a platform for the whole operation and there will be definitely cars from other brands. Previously we have a clear differentiation between the MQB and MLB which was the direction of the engine. In electric cars, this logic is not feasible anymore. Nobody will install a longitudinal electric motor.”
With that said, Senger says the question now is what is the best combination of architectures to cover the entire Volkswagen portfolio.
“At Volkswagen brand, our core mission is to make e-mobility affordable, to make range affordable. We also need to go on a global scale so we want to use our existing production facilities, and therefore we are going mainly to traditional material mixes—no carbon fiber. It’s just intelligent lightweight construction. But compared with the Golf today it’s a very comparable car when it comes to weight.”
“We are working with suppliers. We will have the main volume in China, so we need to have facilities in China…Only [Chinese] battery suppliers are allowed to produce or supply batteries for Chinese cars.”
Senger was somewhat coy when discussing possible battery chemistries, but did say, “Definitely lithium-ion. Chinese companies are working with different materials as well.”
“We don’t think this is the way to go, for many reasons. The battery is the heaviest part of the car. There’s a huge structural impact so when it comes to crash the battery needs to be fully integrated and taking it out and in, that’s not as simple as it sounds.”
The rest of the industry seems to agree that swapping batteries isn’t as practical as fast charging. Tesla opened a single battery swap station in California to test the concept’s popularity, but because customers seem to favor the brand’s free Superchargers, it’s likely to abandon the battery swap option.
Because of the platform’s ideal weight distribution, Senger says there’s no need for all-wheel drive. However, it will be offered as an optional feature.
“MEB will be prepared for four-wheel drive, but rear-wheel drive is standard.”
MEB-based sporty model
“There’s no reason not to do [a sport model].”
When someone suggested a small, sporty two-seater, Senger said with a smile, “We will see eventually what variants we are doing.”