Volkswagen to sprinkle electrification throughout product line, while clinging to Clean Diesel

The Volkswagen e-UP

Volkswagen is reiterating at the LA Auto Show their goal to become a leader in e-mobility by 2018 by offering a full range of
technologically refined, reliable, and affordable cars with alternative
powertrains.  That this comes just a few days after Audi, a member of the VW Group, said they’d be focusing on Clean Diesel is more than a little puzzling.  The VW Group plan described by VW’s Commissioner for Electric Drive Systems, Dr. Rudolf Krebs, is very similar to Ford’s “Power of Choice” strategy.

Namely, “We are going to electrify all segments. In plants equipped with our
standardized assembly kits and modules, we are able to produce cars on
the same assembly line, bumper-to-bumper, with conventional,
electrified, and CNG powertrains. This flexible strategy enables us to
react fast and cost-efficiently to actual demand and thus reduces
risks.”

For both companies the idea is the flexibility to manufacture vehicles such that the drive train choice becomes an option selected by the customer while configuring their car.  The Hybrid or Plug-in Hybrid or Battery Electric drive train would presumably be checkboxes next to the checkboxes for Gasoline or Clean Diesel engines.

Krebs says that in 2014, a total of 14 models from the Volkswagen Group brands will be
available as Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Battery Electric Vehicles, or
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles.  Additionally they’re looking at a total of 40 models with “alternative drive trains,” including CNG, as demand rises.

Krebs claims that “We start at exactly the right time. Volkswagen has
placed e-mobility at the center of the Group and has invested heavily to
build up core competencies for e-drive and battery manufacturing
in-house.”

We shall see whether getting a late start on electrified was the right move.  Other companies, like Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Renault, Tesla, or Toyota have a multi-year head start on VW in selling vehicles to real customers rather than just making intriguing concept cars.

VW’s press release also touts their “Think Blue” manufacturing strategy, as if to say it’s not just about building clean vehicles, but to clean up the entire manufacturing process.  In their “Think Blue. Factory.” environmental program the company is planning to, by 2018 (based on figures for 2010), reduce waste, energy, and water
consumption and solvent and carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent. Supposedly VW’s overall ambition is to become the world’s greenest carmaker by 2018.   They claim to be undertaking one of the most comprehensive ecological self-assessments ever and making verifiable and comprehensible progress.

Their press release closes, like the Audi press release a couple weeks ago, with touting the VW Group leadership in “Clean Diesel.”  Yup, not Electrification, but clean Diesel.  VW sels 72 percent of the light-duty diesel vehicles in 2013 in the US, and that TDI Clean Diesel is 22% of VW’s total sales.  Volkswagen now offers seven Clean Diesel models, more than any other
brand, and six of those have an EPA estimated highway fuel economy
rating of 40 mpg or better. In 2014, Volkswagen will launch the latest
high-performing TDI Clean Diesel engine generation, codenamed EA288.

But.. they will add a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) to the line-up “in the near future.”

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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