The first Volkswagen ID hatchbacks will roll off factory lines in pre-production prototype from next month, leaving engineers with a 17-month window to complete the car's development.
Speaking at VW's annual media conference, company boss Herbert Diess said prototypes of the electric vehicle will be used in an "intensive start-up phase" that will begin in September.
The first final-spec cars are due to make production in November 2019. Customer sales will kick off in Britain at the start of 2020 at what Diess said would be an attractive price "comparable to a diesel model".
The new EV will ignite VW's electric car offensive as a contemporary rear-wheel-drive, five-door hatchback.
With an electric motor providing the car with 168bhp, the ID is claimed to boast a range of 249-373 miles, easily eclipsing the 186-mile range of the facelifted version of the e-Golf.
By packaging its electric motor at the rear, VW has freed up space within the front section of the ID, endowing it with an impressively tight turning circle of just 9.9 metres and the promise of excellent manoeuvrability in urban driving environments.
One of the stars of the 2016 Paris motor show, the ID is the first of five new electric models planned by VW, including also an MPV similar to the earlier Budd-e concept wheeled out at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, ID Crozz SUV, ID Buzz Microbus concept and a saloon.
Built to showcase the design lineage, electric drive technology and modular platform architecture that are set to underpin VW’s EV offensive, the ID concept also provides an insight to the fully autonomous driving functions the company is developing for introduction on selected models from 2025 onwards. Among its more intriguing features is a multi-function steering wheel that stows away within the dashboard when the driver switches to autonomous driving mode via the VW emblem set within its boss.
Styled at VW’s main design studio in Wolfsburg, Germany, the ID sports a highly contemporary appearance that is claimed to set the tone for all of the company’s new electric cars. Commenting on the design process, head of VW brand design Klaus Bischoff said: “We had the unique chance to lead Volkswagen into a new age. Electric drive provides greater freedom for designers. We minimise the cooling holes; the axes move further apart and generate stunning proportions.”
With an illuminated badge making it easily identifiable as a VW, the new car departs quite radically from existing models. Key elements include a largely unadorned front end, ultra-short front overhang, a steeply rising bonnet line, a heavily raked windscreen, large wheel houses housing 20in wheels, prominent sill elements, cantilever-style rear doors, an extended roofline, a prominent rear spoiler element and a glass tailgate.
By eschewing a traditional grille, using flush fitting glass for the side windows and extending the roofline beyond the top of the tailgate, VW’s designers have clearly attempted boost the aerodynamic efficiency of the ID.
At 4100mm in length, 1800mm in width and 1530mm in height, the ID is 155mm longer, 9mm wider and 77mm higher than the existing seventh-generation Golf. It also rides on a wheelbase that is 130mm longer than that of Europe’s perennial best seller at 2750mm.
With interactive LED headlights that have been conceived to mimic the action of a human eye by giving the impression of being able to open and close, as well as LED units concealed within various parts of the exterior, the lighting properties and overall visual character of the ID alters depending on the drive mode.
When parked, the headlight graphic is designed to provide an impression of a closed eye – as if to signal it is asleep. At start-up, the headlights blink and the graphic is altered to convey the action of an eye opening. At the same time, the VW logos front and rear are illuminated in white, while the lower section of the front bumper, side sills and rear diffuser are lit up in blue.
When drive is selected, the LED daytime driving lights are automatically switched on and the VW logos remain lit in white. In autonomous drive mode, a laser scanner deploys from the roof and the front bumper, side sills and rear diffuser are once again illuminated in blue. During recharging, the LED units pulsate in a simulation of the flow of energy being provided to the battery.
Inside, VW has exploited the packaging advantages inherent in pure electric drivetrains to provide its latest concept car with an impressively roomy four-seat interior offering accommodation similar to today’s larger Passat, as well as a comprehensive connectivity package that VW suggests will be part and parcel of all upcoming electric models.
"Before we took a pen in the hand for the ID project, we intensively discussed the importance of future mobility. One thing is certain: the car for the day after tomorrow will be a place of mobile communication. The open space offered by the ID is such a place,” says Bischoff.
While the ID provides seating for four on individual seats, the production version will offer a more conventional layout with space for up to five. VW has yet to reveal nominal boot capacity but says the concept offers up to 980 litres of luggage space when the rear seats are folded down.
Despite its highly contemporary appearance, VW suggests the production version will rely on existing unibody construction techniques using a combination of hot-formed high-strength steel, aluminium and magnesium. This will allow the company to build the new car in existing factories without the need for significant investment in production infrastructure.
Underpinning the ID is VW’s newly developed MEB (Modularen Elektrifizierungsbaukasten – Modular Electric Architecture) platform originally showcased on the Budd-e concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016.
Providing the ID with zero-emissions capability is a 125kW brushless electric motor mounted within the rear axle housing. The in-house-developed unit drives the concept’s rear wheels via a fixed-ratio gearbox. Although VW has yet to hint at a kerb weight for the first of its dedicated electric cars, computer simulations suggest the production version is set to possess a 0-62mph time of less than eight seconds and a top speed limited to 100mph.
Energy used to drive the electric motor is drawn from a lithium-ion battery mounted low down in the floor of the MEB platform wholly within the wheelbase for the best possible weight distribution. VW has not yet confirmed the capacity of the lithium-ion unit, but Autocar sources say it will be produced in-house for the production model. However, VW describes the battery used by the ID as being scalable and hints at differing capacities in each of its upcoming electric models in much the same way that it offers differing power outputs in today’s combustion engine models.
Little is being said about the charging system for the ID, although going on VW’s claims that its battery can be recharged to 80% within 30 minutes, it appears the car maker may be considering a 800V system similar to that employed by its sibling company Porsche on the Mission E concept revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in 2015.
Despite mounting the electric motor at the rear, VW says there is sufficient space to provide the ID with a multi-link rear-suspension similar to that used by the Golf. It is also key to endowing the new car with a weight distribution put at 48:52 front-to-rear.
Reiterating an earlier mission statement on its EV offensive, VW used the stage at Paris to confirm it is targeting one million EV sales annually by 2025.