Thursday 24 May 2018

Volkswagen chief apologises for ‘dieselgate’ and showcases two zero-emissions cars

The Volkswagen e-Golf Touch and Budd-E revealed at CES 2016 are all-electric, fully connected cars controlled by voice, gesture and touchscreens

Volkswagen Group launched two new electric cars today at CES 2016 – an e-Golf Touch and a Budd-E, a futuristic electric Microbus concept - to show its commitment to zero emissions, after a massive scandal over cheating on diesel pollution tests last year.

Speaking to a packed auditorium in a Las Vegas hotel, the head of the VW passenger brand Herbert Diess opened his keynote with a direct apology to the American people. “For more than 60 years Volkswagen has been at home in the US. The issue with diesel engines is nothing to be proud of, we disappointed…the American people, for which I am truly sorry.”

Mr Diess said there were 8.5m affected cars in Europe, most of which would be fixed in 2016, and that the company was currently working with US regulators like the EPA to approve fixes for US cars. “We are committed to making things right and ensuring something like this could never happen again,” Mr Diess said in his frank apology.

As part of his plan for a “new Volkswagen”, Mr Diess brought out two all-electric cars – the e-Golf Touch and the Microbus-inspired Budd-E.

Described as a “smartphone on wheels”, the e-Golf Touch has no buttons, but is operated by voice control (“Hey Volkswagen”) and gestures. The digital dashboard is a 9.2-inch touchscreen, with high quality 1280:640 resolution display and is integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The homescreen is similar to a smartphone’s – a suite of apps can make calls, navigate and play music. An Apple Watch app can record your speed and text a warning to friend or relative if you’re going too fast. According to Volkswagen, the e-Golf Touch will go on sale in 2016.

Meanwhile the Budd-E is still a concept - fully electric and unapologetically futuristic.

The first vehicle to be built on VW’s modular electric platform for plug-in electric cars, the Budd-E’s flat 101-kWh battery pack allows a princely 373-mile driving range, beating current leader Tesla Model S’ 270 mile range.

The car can be charged to 80pc in 30 minutes.

“This is a truly long-distance electric car,” Mr Diess said. Inside, the concept car is a vision of the German automaker’s future vehicles – like the e-Golf, it does away with buttons, and replaces all controls with touchscreen or voice and gesture controls. Wing mirrors are replaced by camera feeds, and the steering wheel has haptic feedback sensors.

Similar to Ford’s announcement of its integration with Amazon’s smart home assistant Echo on Tuesday, the Budd-E can also integrate with your home appliances like thermostats, locks and lighting.

Volkswagen is currently being sued by the US government for upto $22bn for cheating on emissions tests, resulting in cars potentially emitting nitrogen oxide up to 40 times the legal limit.

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