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 caradvice.com.au 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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