The concept, which is undergoing construction at the company’s engineering headquarters with the working title Nuv-e (New Urban Vehicle Electric), is set to preview VW’s new modular electric architecture (MEB) platform in detail. It will use scalable electric motors, axles and suspension to allow for models ranging from the supermini to luxury segments, according to a senior VW source with knowledge of the company’s electric vehicle plans.
The advanced new structure was first hinted at by the Budd-e concept revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It is being developed in parallel with a larger electric car platform, work on which is already well under way at Audi as the basis for the production version of its e-tron quattro concept.
Sources suggest the hatchback will be the second stand-alone electric model to be on global sale in 2020. According to current planning, it will be preceded by a production version of the Budd-e MPV, due out in 2019.
Following the unveiling of the new EV concept in Paris, VW plans to make public other new zero-emission models. These include the further-advanced version of the Budd-e, which is billed by insiders as a modern-day Microbus, along with an all-electric successor to its flagship Phaeton (known internally as the X-BEV), a high-riding crossover (currently called CUV-e) and a sports car in the form of either a coupé or a roadster.
VW’s fresh emphasis on electric vehicles comes as part of a comprehensive revision of its future model plans following the diesel emissions test rigging affair that has so far cost the company more than £20 billion. Among the markets being targeted heavily by VW in its bid to reach a million EV sales a year by 2025 is China.
“The leading electric vehicle market from today’s perspective will be China,” said Diess. “We have a good chance, as we are already the market leader there.”
In a further bid to position itself as a leader in electric car technology, VW recently launched a public relations campaign pointing out that it had already sold more than 100,000 EVs worldwide.
Diess, who rose to industry prominence as the architect behind a reorganisation of production processes at BMW, is confident that future electric cars can be priced competitively against more conventional combustionengined models.
“In today’s cars, the driveline — the engine and gearbox with associated components — contributes to 50% of the cost of production,” he said. “This changes with electric vehicles, where the motor and gearbox are much less relevant. Instead, the battery is the primary cost driver.”
Diess also hinted at plans by the company to source the battery cells for its future electric car line-up from a plant within Europe.
“If we had to buy batteries from an Asian source, it would be problematic,” he said.
“From an economic point of view, we’re thinking about how we can bundle the know-how of suppliers, research institutes and other partners together in order to have the technology open to the European automotive industry.”