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Volkswagen Group To Electrify Vehicles In All Segments +VIDEO

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Volkswagen eGolf

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

LOS ANGELES - January 7, 2014: The Volkswagen Group offered an in depth view on its ‘bumper-to-bumper’ strategy during a sustainability workshop. This should help the company in reaching its goals for 2018, when it wants to be the leading e- manufacturer, as well as to offer up to 40 electrified models in all segments.

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Henny Hemmes test driving the Volkswagen XL1

With a total investment of 84.2 billion euro (approx $114 billion) until the end of 2018, the Volkswagen Group is concentrating on developing fuel efficient vehicles and environmentally friendly production. This all is the starting point in Volkswagen’s aim to be the most sustainable car manufacturer and to offer up to 40 models with alternative drive lines by 2018.

Under the ‘bumper-to-bumper’ strategy, the package of plans was presented during the LA Auto Show in a workshop to a dozen international automotive journalists. The session was led by Dr. Rudolf Krebs, VW Group’s commissioner for electric drive systems, who said that the company started at the right moment: “By optimizing the plants, we will be able to build cars – from bumper to bumper – with conventional, electrified and electric drivelines, including CNG engines. This flexibility will allow us to react fast and be cost conscious to the demand, while avoiding financial risks.”

VW is in the process of electrifying its model line, and with the development of a range of new modular platforms, that can be shared by its divisions for a wide range of models. New are the MLB-platform for midsize cars, the MSB for sporty models and the MQB platform that is used for the Golf 7. It has been developed for the use of conventional engines, thus the TSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, for FlexCuel ethanol, TCI CNG and for e-drive and plug-in hybrid.

Dr. Krebs: “We are focusing on e-Mobility and have already heavily invested in setting up production of electric motors and batteries in-house, respectively in Kassel and Braunschweig – both in Germany. For electric drive we have hired 400 experts and for development, production and service, we have trained 70 thousands employees. In 2014 our brands will offer in total 14 environmental friendly models.”

Watch the VW Think Blue presentation with e-Golf, Vision GTI and Cross Blue Coupe

The strategy will enable VW to meet the ever stricter regulations, such as the new Euro 6 emission standard, that will come into force on September 1, 2014 for the approval of vehicles, and from January 1, 2015, for the registration and sale of new cars.

Dr. Krebs also said that Volkswagen is planning to offer more CNG models. “Engines are easy to adapt. But the demand is not very big, as people do not realize that CNG cars are allowed to park in closed structures, which is not the case for cars with an LPG tank.” He continues: “Ideal would be a CNG plug-in hybrid, which would have a 25 percent lower CO2 emission with the same engine. Our MQB platform has been developed for the use of all types of driveline. We do not know what the future will bring, but with our flexibility we are well prepared and we can anticipate on developments in sustainable mobility.”

He is also crystal clear about the development of fuel cells: “we have test cars, but you should not expect such a model on the market before 2020. The technology is very expensive, not reliable enough and there is no infrastructure. Using hydrogen only makes sense if you use green electricity. The complete process of converting this into hydrogen, compressing it and storing it in the car costs energy. Then hydrogen is converted into electricity again and you end up with 30 to 40 per cent of the energy that you started with.”

According to Krebs, a fuel cell car would also be ideal as a plug-in. “The electric motor is for short drives, while for longer distance, the fuel cell would function as a range extender. This can be a solution, but first the technology should be further developed and the infrastructure should be in order. For decisions it is much too early.”

In 2013, the Volkswagen Group unveiled two electric models, the e-Up and e-Golf, and three PHEVs: the Porsche 918 Spyder, Porsche Panamera SE-Hybrid and the VW XL1. As from 2014, the Group is planning to introduce hybrid models of the Audi A8, Audi Q7 and the VW Passat, followed by the Audi A6, A3 and VW Golf PHEV models and derivates for the other brands. There will also be one vehicle inlet for all charging methods (CCS, or combined charging system), including both AC charging and DC charging.

   • SEE ALSO: Special Drive: Volkswagen XL1 Concept

To improve the footprint of the complete production process including providing energy for the cars, VW started the Think Blue project for plants. It is an important tool in order to reach another goal: being the leading e-manufacturer in the world by 2018. Peter Bosch, head of strategy, processes and organizational structure, said that thanks to the project, considerable progress has been made. “We are continuously improving the production process and have implemented more than three thousand measures, resulting in a reduction of the use of energy and water, a reduction of CO2 emissions and waste.” The goal to reach a 25 percent reduction based on the figures for 2010, but so far the improvements have already resulted into a reduction of 10 percent.

Lars Menge, VW of America’s general manager of product strategy, pointed out that the TDI Clean Diesel models are an important cornerstone in the US market. VW offers seven Clean Diesel models. Menge: “In 2014 we will launch the latest high performing TDI Clean Diesel generation, code named AE288, starting with the Golf. The Golf is important as it is easy to drive with whatever driveline. Also the Beetle, Passat and Jetta will become available with this motor.”

Mr. Menge announced that Volkswagen will also introduce plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the American markets in the near future.