26 January 2020 Concept Car
[Article Image by Alexander Migl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alexander-93]
Everyone’s talking about the VW ID.3 at the moment. It’s hard not to open a UK car magazine without stumbling upon at least one or two articles about it. Volkswagen itself appears positively excited by its own creation: Supposedly, VW is even purportedly neglecting its flagship Golf model to focus entirely on the ID.3. As China is catching on to the ecar trend, the German automaker is dreaming about a rapid expansion on the biggest Asian market.
So what is it about the ID.3 that gets car fans so worked up and passionate?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the craze about Volkswagen’s first genuinely original EV. Is the hype warranted? Or are we better off remaining sceptical?
One thing’s for sure: As soon as the VW ID.3 gets its official release, there will be plenty of them on the streets from day one. Volkswagen has announced that it will produce a first run of 30,000 ID.3s, but clearly, more people want one right now. After the Frankfurt Motor Show, pre orders went through the roof and currently stand at 33,000.
Which means that, according to the latest sales figures, the first batch of the model has already sold out!
This doesn’t mean you can no longer get a VW ID.3 if you’re interested. Just like 3,000 others, you can still pay a deposit of €1,000 and put your name on the list. Should one of the earlier customers back off from the sale, you then gradually move up one spot.
The way things are looking, however, it is unlikely that all too many on the list will withdraw their initial commitment. Everything seems to indicate the ID.3 will be a massive success. The only thing that could now spoil the fun is pre release reviews turning out to be disastrous. But we wouldn’t count on that. After all, as Seeking Alpha reports, Volkswagen will go through an extensive internal test phase to ensure there are no unwanted surprises:
“The first few hundred units – perhaps a couple thousand — will be used for final evaluation by VW employees and studied in detail to ensure that every last fraction of a millimetre is tuned perfectly before risking a paying customer behind the steering wheel.”
What is interesting about this development is that Volkswagen was probably the last company you’d expect to turn into an EV champion. In fact, it is one of the last of the big car makers to make its entry onto the scene. Others, including Citroën, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW have lead the way in this regard, smaller players like Tesla were able to establish a large presence and a sizable chunk of the market.
Up until now, VW only really had two models to prove its interest in greener cars: The eUp and the eGolf. Both are great cars. And yet, both were simply transfers of a petrol based concept to the EV market. Although this made them attractive as ideal transition vehicles, it did not exactly speak of a big vision for an exciting new future. Volkswagen seemed to lag behind the times, weighed down by its scandals. It did not appear to have a clear concept for where it was going.
Volkswagen has always been like a big dinosaur: Slow to get going, but with a devastating impact once it starts to move. The VW ID.3 is not just a remarkable car in many respects. It also the first visible expression of Volkswagen’s overarching production platform: The MEB, a modular approach to building electric vehicles which VW hopes it can not just use for its own cars, but sell to other manufacturers as well. With one big leap, it seems, Volkswagen is set to take the market by storm.
When visitors arrived at its booth at the IAA, there was not a single regular petrol car to be found. This indicates that Volkswagen is very serious about its plans to turn into a leader on the EV market, rather than a mere observer.
Perhaps claiming that the VW ID.3 is remarkable is a bit premature. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t promise anything that other cars can’t already do or don’t already have.
To the contrary, what makes the ID.3 so special is precisely that it is simply offering a state of the art EV combined with Volkswagen’s century-long experience in building great cars at an affordable price. Despite its pleasingly futuristic design, this is not a science fiction car. It is a car that you’ll be able to drive and love just like you loved your Golf, Polo or Passat.
That said, there are quite a few benefits to the ID.3 that should get every serious car lover salivating. Here’s a closer look at them:
Although commentators can’t quite agree on the exact range, it looks like the VW ID.3 should definitely be able to go 300 kilometres on one charge. This translates to around 185 miles and instantly makes the car one of the most enduring vehicles on the market.
In fact, this is more than 50% more than the current range of the BMW i3. It is about the same as the Tesla 3 which was already a revolutionary car in terms of its range. And it should be notably more than most of its immediate competitors.
Of course, without any proper road tests, all of this is purely theoretical as yet. Still, you can expect the VW ID.3 to cover quite some distance when it’s finally out.
The VW ID.3 also boasts to be the first entirely CO2 neutral car. If this claim holds up in practise, this could mark a paradigm shift.
Electric vehicles have often come under fire. The main criticism levelled against them has been that they are not actually more ecologically friendly. Their green image, critics assert, is an illusion, caused by the fact that there are no smelly exhaust fumes coming out of them. If you factor in the hidden pollution of EVs, the outcome would be far less enticing, they claim.
An in-depth look by newspaper The Guardian did paint a less rosy picture. But it also found that electric cars were definitely more efficient. The main con was the ecological impact of producing the battery. This, however, can be expected to get a lot better as technology matures.
And so, Volkswagen has promised that the VW ID.3 will be the world’s first CO2 neutral car. This doesn’t mean that driving it won’t produce any carbon emissions. That is as yet impossible and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Instead, the company will be using 100% renewable energy to manufacture the ID.3 and its batteries. Not quite the same thing, but a major step forward nonetheless.
To improve on the footprint of the actual driving, Volkswagen has even set up its own electricity subsidiary. Called ELLI (Electric Life), it “supplies 100 percent CO2-free Volkswagen Naturstrom® to private households and small businesses with and without electric vehicles (…) from wind, solar and hydropower facilities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.”
It may not as yet sound like a revolution. And it probably isn’t. But if the ID.3 really does come to you CO2 neutral, then this would provide even more support to the already growing number of arguments in favour of EVs.
Probably the biggest reason in favour of the ID.3, however, is the mere fact that it’s a Volkswagen. Sure, it’s refreshing to see a young, bratty and exciting competitor like Tesla entering the market and turning some of the established rules upside down. At the same time, it can not be denied that petrol cars still ooze a sense of security and trust that no EV can as yet match.
Now Volkswagen has finally fully committed to EVs, this could soon be a thing of the past. The giant from Rüsselsheim has a global reputation for excellence and its most popular models continually rank high in esteemed reliability reviews. To understand what the step means for the ecar industry as a whole, here’s a comment on an online article comparing the ID.3 with the Renault City K-ZE, produced exclusively for the Chinese market (for the time being):
“There is a substantial difference in vehicle size, battery pack capacity, range and price point. They are both EV models. Yes, the price of the VW ID.3 is much higher. But it’s also a much better car. This comparison doesn’t really make much sense.”
The message is clear: If it says Volkswagen, you can expect something special. And so, it hardly comes as a surprise that expectations are high.
Another important reason is that if you buy an ID.3, you automatically gain access to the make’s extensive network of dealerships.
Imagine you’ve just bought a new Tesla 3. No doubt, this is a great car, possibly the best ecar out there at the moment. And yet, something can always go wrong. Let’s say you’re making full use of the excellent range of the Tesla to drive all across the UK. In the middle of your trip, you encounter some serious issues and need to get the car repaired.
Most dealerships have only very little experience with EVs, let alone with non-traditional makes like Tesla. And so, you could find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere.
With a Volkswagen, this is not going to happen. If your ID.3 encounters the same issue, there will be hundreds of dealers across the country all trained to repair it. It may even be within warranty, which means you won’t even have to pay for the repair. Even exchanging a defect battery can be taken care of easily and swiftly.
This, again, adds a whole new layer of security and trust to the game – something very little other brands can offer.
Production of the VW ID.3 will begin in November. First models should therefore be delivered to customers in Summer of next year. Once the first charge of 30,000 cars has been delivered, Volkswagen’s huge Zwickau plant will be transformed into an all-EV-factory. This will mean that future orders should be fulfilled a lot faster.
So who will the VW ID.3 be up against? Part of the response to that question is already in the name. The ‘3’ denotes a direct kinship with the BMW i3 and the Tesla 3, both impressive and quite successful EVs in their own right. Nonetheless, these are obviously very different vehicles. The ID.3 will be considerably cheaper than either of these cars and it obviously is aimed at families a lot more.
Parkers therefore concludes that competition mainly comes from the “Nissan Leaf, plus there’s the Korean pairing of the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, both of which offer more than 270 miles of range in an SUV package”.
All manufacturers, however, have every reason to be scared. It’s not for nothing that a recent article was titled Volkswagen Has An Opportunity To Bankrupt Top Competitors.
The VW ID.3 is only the first of a whole range of electric vehicles which Volkswagen plans to unleash over the next few years. All of them will be built on the same platform, the so-called MEB. The MEB is a modular construction kit consisting of a basic framework for electric vehicles. Which means that a variety of different car body types can be added on top of it. This will allow Volkswagen to save costs compared to a brand like Tesla which essentially builds every new model from scratch.
In an interesting twist, Volkswagen has made the technology available to other manufacturers. So, potentially, its competitors could buy MEBs and construct competing cars with it. It sounds like a great idea. After all, VW stands to benefit even if a driver decides to buy the competing product. But will it work?
Recently, Ford announced that it will buy a staggering 600,000 MEBs to help it speed up development of its own line of ecars in Europe.
This may not be a representative decision. Ford, after all, is focusing all of its attention on its core markets. And in the US, it has all but turned into the Anti-EV-brand, with a heavy emphasis on gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. In Europe, however, its customers want something different. The MEB will help it reach its goals here a lot faster than if it had to come up with everything itself.
Others have criticised the MEB for being a typical, out-dated concept from the world of petrol and for being ‘really not smart’. In the end, though, Volkswagen looks set to prove them wrong, once again. As so often, many commentators are way ahead of themselves. Like so many other industries, the car industry is conservative at heart. And no company has managed to play to that conservatism so successfully for so long as Volkswagen.
26 January 2020 Concept Car