Volkswagen admits that hybrids are illogical

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Volkswagen is having some difficulties to make its strategy understandable. First diesel was great, then plug-in hybrids were going to replace diesel, now BEVs are what makes sense. All these strategic changes happen after the diesel scandal, in just one year time frame.


According to Volkswagen AG board member Jurgen Stackmann made some logical comments to the Australian media about hybrid illogical technology in Paris Motor Show.


“Plug-in hybrids will be a continued way forward… but in the long run, as PHEVs are a call for two engine types carried with you, it’s not a logical end place to go for.”


Why waste resources in a technology that is already becoming obsolete? Doesn’t make sense for the automaker nor the consumer…


“What we see moving forward is a full electric range of 460 kilometers basically gives you everything at once… and it will be a non-question mark mobility answer.”


Alright, Opel Ampera-e is giving us just that in a few months so why doesn’t Volkswagen?


“I don’t think infrastructure in metropolitan zones, like Melbourne or Sydney, will be a problem, I think the problem is connectivity along the long lines.”

“[But] we’ve done a simulation for Europe, it’s quite amazing, probably 450 fast charging points can cover Europe… Even countries like Australia, being continents, can be covered with limited amount.”

“It sounds very limited, but you don’t need a fast charger every 15-20 km, what you do need is setups in major centers at every 150 km distances. Fast charging becomes a key requirement – anything between 20-30 minutes – going forward.”


All the technology advancements (range and charge) that Volkswagen says that electric cars need to succeed already exist. Why are they are waiting for 2020?

The problem is the battery cells they chose…

Volkswagen has been releasing plug-in hybrids like crazy for the last couple years. Here is the list:

  • Volkswagen Golf GTE
  • Volkswagen Passat GTE
  • Volkswagen XL1
  • Audi A3 e-tron
  • Audi Q7 e-Tron
  • Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
  • Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid


While the BEV list is much smaller:

  • Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Volkswagen e-up


The truth is that Volkswagen electric cars can’t be successful with either their current 25 Ah battery cells made by Sanyo/Panasonic nor with the future 37 Ah Samsung SDI cells. These cells were designed for plug-in hybrids, they have high power density but the energy density is low. High energy density cells are what BEVs need to get higher range, but Volkswagen decided to use the same battery cells for every plug-in car, whether it’s BEV or PHEV.


Moral of the story, years ago Volkswagen chose to prioritize PHEVs and neglect BEVs. Their battery cell choice reflects it. Only now that Volkswagen had an epiphany, they understand that they need better battery cells for their BEVs.

This is why Volkswagen is now saying that the electric revolution will come in 2020 with new battery cells and new BEVs. Probably powered by LG Chem cells.


Let’s compare the 37 Ah Samsung SDI cells that will be used in the upcoming Volkswagen e-Golf (35,8 kWh battery) with the LG Chem cells that will be used in Zoe’s 41 kWh battery:

Samsung SDI: 410 Wh/L

LG Chem: 484 Wh/L (this is a estimation by comparing to the old Zoe’s 275 Wh/L LG Chem cells)


If the Volkswagen e-Golf had the same LG Chem cells that are used in the new Zoe ZE 40, the battery capacity would increase from 35,84 to 42,26 kWh. A Volkswagen e-Golf with a 42,26 kWh battery and CCS fast charging capability would be a great alternative to the Renault Zoe, that unfortunately doesn’t have a CCS socket.


All this results in Volkswagen selling PHEVs – a bridge technology that won’t last long – because it isn’t prepared for BEVs. But how successful can a automaker sell cars with a technology that they admit it’s illogical?


It’s obvious that a BEV is a much better choice than a hybrid. Less complexity means that it’s easier, faster and cheaper to build if mass produced. Only one powertrain also means that it’s less prone to failure and requires less maintenance.


At least some people at Volkswagen admit they screw up, twice, with the diesel and then the hybrids, the same can’t be said about Toyota that are still in the la la land wasting resources in hybrids and fool fuel cells.

Sometimes I think that CEOs would make better decisions if they were risking their own money, not the company’s.


Do you think that Volkswagen’s strategy of selling and investing in PHEVs makes sense? Doesn’t seem a waste of resources now that the company admits that in 2020 their BEVs will make PHEVs obsolete?


Update: this article was revised because I wrongly assumed that the new 37 Ah battery cells would be made by Volkswagen’s current supplier (Panasonic/Sanyo), but instead, these new cells are made by Samsung SDI.



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Pedro Lima

My interest in electric transportation is mostly political. I’m tired of coups and wars for oil. My expectation is that the adoption of electric transportation will be a factor for peace and democracy all over the world.

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5 years ago

VWs selling of plugin hybrids does make sense…
VW is a business and they sell to consumers who are illogical and still buy deisels and many are not ready or willing to buy a pure EV plus pligins help,them from an emissions persoective which is partly why BMW and others are doing them in bulk too…
Ford admited plugin hybrids were a stop gap technology years ago…

I know VWs plans are partly far away but right jere right now they do more with and for EVs than all but a small handful of legacy automakers which is reflected in EV sales and battery usage from automakers…
Plus VW will have a EV van next year so in 2017 they will have 3 BEVs and 2 plugin hybrid EVs…
Who else offers more ev choices… that is a small list…

Now the real do nothing companies are Toyota, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Mazda…

5 years ago

VW is all over the place, but ironically seems to be the incumbent best prepared for the future thanks to their belated but huge commitment to BEVs.

PHEVs are basically a scam attempt along the well-trodden paths used by lobbyists in so many other industries. Like fuel cells the real goal was to prevent or delay the switch to BEVs. Helped along by badly structured and unenforced EU regulations that allowed them to make up pure fantasy numbers for consumption and all relevant emissions they seemed to semi-succeed. But dieselgate has led to the rotten type approval system being exposed and it now looks very likely that an effective, or at least not completely useless, system to obtain type approval will be put in place. Read T&E’s report on Dieselgate if you haven’t already.

Now that it looks like cars will have to actually become better, not just the numbers on a piece of paper, it’s obvious that PHEVs are no good for the job. To make them perform well in the real world they would need a real electric drivetrain and real batteries. That makes them way to expensive and so BEVs are the only good option left.

These events and the continued existence/threat of Tesla is what is now driving VW to BEVs – even as it continues its lobbying efforts. Clearly they are much less confident now that the regulator will help them out. After all, voters could eventually become angry when they learn about what the people whose job it is to protect our air and environment in general have been doing. The Euro 6 diesels on the road remarkably emit slightly more NOx than the Euro 5 ones! The paper limit is only half. And every major city in Europe is in violation of EU law supposed to ensure air quality, with NOx levels nearly permanently above the level considered safe by the WHO.

It is a fine world we find ourselves in, I’ve got to say. Even my own native Norway, not generally worst in class when it comes to the environment, is trying hard to open up new areas for exploration by the oil industry – despite our Paris commitment meaning we cannot even take the currently known reserves out of the ground. Then they donate a few billions to a rain forest fund somewhere and say we’ve offset our polluting.

5 years ago
Reply to  Terawatt

A car that’s electric for your daily driving is hardly a scam. All PHEVs other than the Volt are weak and overpriced and that’s reflected in their underwhelming sales, but they’re improving. It’s unclear how much more they’ll improve before BEVs render them obsolete. I’m surprised the lesson from supercars that plug-in gives you performance, handling, and AWD hasn’t make it to German luxury cars

5 years ago

They probably did not expect that battery cells prices would decrease to 145 dollar per kWh in 2016.