By the close of this year, the VW Group will have the e-Up, its first volume electric car, and e-Golf, along with three plug-ins: the XL1, Porsche 918 Spyder and Panamera S e-Hybrid.
Next year, the vehicles will also include plug-in hybrid versions of the Audi A6, Q7 and A8, Volkswagen Golf and Passat, and potentially further cars that share common architecture with those models.
By 2014, a total of 14 models from the VW Group will be available as either electric, plug-in or hybrid vehicles. What’s more, up to 40 models from the group’s product line-up can potentially be fitted with alternative drivetrains, as demand rises for different forms of propulsion.
Setting aside the head-turning XL1, VW’s approach is to use body shapes from its ‘regular’ range for its alternatively powered vehicles, rather than build standalone hybrids and EV models, as Nissan has done with the Leaf and Renault with the Zoe.
This is useful because the MQB vehicle architecture that underpins most new VW Group small cars was configured from the outset to accept many different powertrains.
At the LA show, the VW Group’s Commissioner for Electric Drive Systems, Rudolf Krebs, explained how the company’s adoption of modular car platforms has given it the flexibility to tackle an uncertain future.
“With our platform strategy it is quite easy to bring a lot of electrified vehicles to the market for the different brands in a very short time from now,” he said.
“We can, bumper-to-bumper in the same factory on the same line, produce cars powered by petrol, diesel, CNG, electric or a plug-in hybrid.
“Electro-mobility is comparatively young at the moment. Nobody knows where the market will go. We are all looking into the crystal ball in terms of figures and sales numbers, so this is quite important that we have the flexibility to produce all these different powertrains in one factory, and it does not make a lot of effort to make changes to our production.
“We are thinking a lot of the requirements that our customers have now and will have in the future. The answer will not be simple; there is no blockbuster solution such as ‘tomorrow everybody will drive electric cars’.
So although VW, Audi and the rest of the group might seem to be lagging behind trailblazing rivals at present, they have the potential to make huge strides in the electric and hybrid markets over the next couple of years. Providing the demand is there, of course, but it sounds as if VW has the angles covered even if it is not.