Thursday 27 July 2017

VW joins charge to electric

Concept range shows German giant sees zero-emission and autonomous cars as its future

Zero-emissions future: One of the Volkswagen ID concept cars, which VW hopes will lead the charge away from diesel
Zero-emissions future: One of the Volkswagen ID concept cars, which VW hopes will lead the charge away from diesel

Martin Brennan

The rush to improve electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles is becoming a stampede as diesel gets a bad name worldwide. Major cities such as Paris, Madrid and Athens say they will stop the use of diesel vehicles by 2025 and London and 35 other UK cities are talking of imposing a toxin tax for oil burners.

Leading the charge to electric vehicles is one of the great diesel car manufacturers, VW. New plans will see the company, still smarting over the 'dieselgate' scandal, rushing headlong into the electric zero-emissions race. The company has come up with a range of concept vehicles which will be intelligent and ultra clean, called the ID collection.

The ID saloon has been shown in concept form, and there is an SUV, an MPV and a hatchback coming off the drawing boards. They will all be EVs, with longlife batteries to be on sale by 2020, and the company is planning fully autonomous cars by 2025. Apparently the plan is to push for one million EVs - one-sixth of the VW output - and of course Audi, Skoda and Seat models will be included in the ID programme.

Eventually VW plans to have up to 30 ID models to choose from with the first production car due to go on sale in three years' time.

The VW mobility team say the IDs will have the latest lightweight design. The concept vehicle has a line of energy-dense batteries running along the floor to power a motor at the rear which drives the rear wheels. The e-motor puts out 168bhp, can reach 100kmh in under eight seconds and has a top speed of 160kmh with zero emissions. The lithium-ion battery pack will sit on a special MEB platform built for electric vehicles and it can be configured to accommodate small and large vehicles.

The saloon put on display has a short body - just over four metres, a bit bigger than a Polo - but has a wheelbase almost as big as a Passat with the wheels pushed to the very edges of the bodywork to accommodate the battery pack, which is expected to have a range of over 400km (250 miles) which is 80km more than the latest e-Golf.

The plans suggest that an extra battery pack can be fitted which will push the range to over 595km (270 miles). There is speculation that a target price for the UK could be somewhere in the mid-£20,000s sterling, but with Brexit and tax changes here and elsewhere in Europe during the next three years, the eventual price is anyone's guess.

The wind-cheating saloon concept design shows rear-hinged rear doors, but VW says that the doors will be conventional. A feature is the minimalist interior with very few knobs and switches.

Many experts predict that an autonomous version may be at least 10 years away, because cautious government departments and road planners will have to draft new laws on which roads which will be selected to allow partial or full autonomous driving. VW says it is solving the problems of autonomous driving with roof-mounted sensors to give real-time location information.

The car won't be able to drive you home from the pub, but there is technology that will slow down the vehicle when pedestrians are picked up in the headlights. A heads-up display will also give augmented reality that picks up corners and the direction of the road.

The concept model has a hexagonal steering wheel which sinks into the dash in autonomous mode and becomes the frame for an information and technology readout screen.

VW is now committed to EV development because of the challenges to diesel and wants to take a lead over rivals such as BMW and Mercedes Benz, and even the tech companies like Google, who are anxious to get a piece of the action on autonomous cars.

The company claims that its engineers are more than three-quarters of the way to the finish line for a safe form of autonomous transport.

Sunday Independent

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