Technology special: Volkswagen is electrifying!


The automobile industry is changing – steadily, step by step, starting out on the road to e-mobility. This change is not a radical break with the past – rather it will take place gradually over the next few decades. Several trends and factors supporting this process are evident: first and foremost, climate change and the target agreed by governments worldwide to reduce CO2 emissions by some 90% by the year 2050. A further factor is the fact that supplies of primary fossil materials are finite and are estimated to last in sufficient quantities for only another 40 to  60 years. In addition, greater urbanization is creating noise and air pollution in megacities, so that governments have had to introduce emission controls.

The Volkswagen Group has been working on e-mobility since the 1970s. But for a long time, neither the technology nor the market was ready for large-scale series development. But it’s a different story today – interest in e-mobility has grown substantially, thanks to a combination of steadily improving battery technology and falling prices for battery cells, national support programs and higher expectations of sustainable vehicle concepts in the marketplace. Against this backdrop, the Volkswagen Group anticipates that by 2020 electrified vehicles will make up around 3% of total vehicle production. The market share in cities will be much greater.

The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand launched series production of the Touareg Hybrid in June 2010, the first all-terrain hybrid in the European SUV segment. It was followed by hybrid versions of the Jetta, Audi Q5, Audi A6, Audi A8, Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Panamera. MAN is using hybrid technology in its Lion’s City Hybrid bus. Moreover, the Company presented the first prototype of the Golf with a purely electric drive – again in June 2010. In 2011 and 2012, the Volkswagen Group brands carried out extensive fleet trials with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe, China and the USA to make sure that every aspect relating to user requirements, suitability for everyday driving and technology had been tested in advance of series production. We started our campaign to move boldly into the era of e-mobility in 2013 with the launch of the e-up!, the first pure-play electric vehicle on the market. The e-Golf will also be available in spring 2014.

In its drive electrification activities, the Volkswagen Group is focusing particularly on the plug-in hybrid concept. This combines the benefits of two technologies and hence offers a majority of customers exactly what they are looking for: an attractive electric-drive unit for day-to-day urban use, unlimited range thanks to its combustion engine, no restrictions on speed – or its ability to climb hills or pull trailer loads – and substantial potential for reducing CO2 emissions.

In 2013, we launched our first plug-in hybrid-drive vehicles onto the market – the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the flagship of Volkswagen’s electric drive technology, the limited run XL1. The Golf and the Audi A3 will be the first plug-in hybrid models launched in 2014 to be based on the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB).


The integration of electric traction into the modular toolkit strategy, especially the MQB, is absolutely crucial for the Group and at the same time constitutes a major competitive advantage. The MQB enables us to manufacture a whole range of electric and hybrid vehicles, including country-specific requirements, cost-efficiently in series production for all our markets. For example, all drive types can be incorporated into a Golf – from conventional drives through to drives running on renewable energy, down to electric drives and, in the future, fuel cell drives as well – all produced bumper to bumper on the same assembly line. As many parts as possible will be taken over from the toolkit. The MQB also enables us to implement the same concept in other vehicle classes based on the MQB, e.g. the Passat. Lightweight construction is also becoming more important here.

Alongside design, the drive is the most important factor shaping the customer-vehicle relationship. It was important for us right from the beginning to make sure that alternative drives also had their own dedicated development and in-house manufacturing teams. That is why we have worked intensively on developing electric motors and battery systems and built up the necessary manufacturing skills at our plants in Kassel (electric drives) and Braunschweig (battery systems). Over two-thirds of the Automotive Division’s €84.2 billion investment program between 2014 and 2018 is earmarked for developing more efficient vehicles, drives and technologies, as well as environmentally friendly production processes. The Group has already hired additional skilled workers and experts to strengthen its expertise in the area of electric traction. In 2014, the new e-mobility campus will open within the research and development site at the Wolfsburg headquarters. This campus is where the Group will concentrate its expertise in the field of electric traction. A total of some 1,100 people will undertake research and work on this technology there.


There are several hurdles still to be overcome on the road towards more widespread take-up of e-mobility. Despite considerable advances in the past few years, the battery is still by far the biggest cost factor in today’s electric vehicles. However, new challenges and opportunities arise not only out of vehicle development itself, but also from integrating vehicles into their environment. The e-mobility system as a whole incorporates the idea that the vehicles of the future will be integrated into intelligent networks and will be able to communicate with other vehicles, buildings, or passers-by. For example, information about the level of battery charge or the charging time required can be accessed via a smartphone, or a vehicle can be located, reserved and paid for as part of a carsharing model. Other questions arise regarding the charging strategy. One initial success has been standardizing charging plugs to the CCS (Combined Charging System) standard: these plugs can be used to charge electric cars either via a socket in a fast-charging station or via a wall box (a special socket for e.g. garages) installed at home. Volkswagen is supporting the use and further development of renewable energy sources such as wind or water power, in order to offer completely emission-free mobility from a single source across the whole life-cycle of the vehicle, and not just the electric vehicle itself. Many of these issues also demand substantial commitment from politicians, local authorities and energy utilities. The Volkswagen Group plans to offer its customers new services and business models through intelligent networking across the automotive, energy supply and telecommunications sectors that will make switching over to the new technologies easier for them.


Volkswagen’s electric vehicles are dynamic, highly emotional automobiles that are fun to drive – they express the driver’s modern attitude to life and appreciation of advanced technology. Our aim is to offer safe, affordable electric vehicles suitable for everyday use, to almost all customer groups.