Today Volkswagen made the announcement we wanted them to make that will eminently resolve the whole Dieselgate problem. In all the reams of material I’ve written about Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, Dieselgate, the risk to VW’s electric vehicle plans have been screaming in the back of my mind. Will VW be forced out of those plans? Immediately before the Dieselgate news broke, I wrote about VW’s exciting electric plans, complete with 200+ mile range electric cars by 2018. And there was a repeated promise by VW of taking a leadership position in electric vehicles by 2018.
Okay, I hear you asking me, what was VW’s announcement?
- Switching Diesel vehicles to solely use SCR and AdBlue technologies for urea injection.
- Double down on electric vehicle development
In other words, VW is doing for Diesel engines what they should have done all along, and their electric vehicle programs will be strengthened.
Clean Diesel for real this time, we hope
Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) along with urea-injection, which Volkswagen calls AdBlue, is the technique all the other Diesel car-makers do to reduce emissions. The urea vaporizes and neutralizes the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust stream. These systems are more expensive, according to earlier reporting about $1500, and require the car owner to occasionally refill the urea tank.
Before we go any further, I want to point at what a Wall Street Journal article has to say about this. Namely:
In 2007, Volkswagen scrapped a similar technology called BlueTec that was licensed from rival Daimler AG in favor of a less expensive system.
The AdBlue and SCR procedure is considered the best way to reduce toxic tailpipe emissions, but it is more expensive than the method Volkswagen chose in the past for its TDI diesel engines.
In other words, the WSJ is pretending that Volkswagen had some mystical other technology for emissions reduction. The whole Dieselgate problem exists because there was no other technology. Volkswagen lied. It was all a charade.
The VW press release had this to say:
Reorientation of the diesel strategy
It was decided to switch over to installing only diesel drives with SCR and AdBlue technology in Europe and North America as soon as possible. Diesel vehicles will only be equipped with exhaust emissions systems that use the best environmental technology.
Clearly, if VW had followed this sentiment from the beginning — only equipping their Diesel vehicles with the best environmental technology — they would not be facing this mess. Please, Volkswagen, you’re being disingenuous. You’re saying the right things, and I pray you follow through and do the right thing.
Let’s not get distracted by that, because we need to understand Volkswagen’s plans for electric vehicles.
Doubling down on electric’s
Here’s what VW’s press release says:
MEB electric toolkit
An MEB electric toolkit for future use in compact segment vehicles is to be developed based on the experience gained with existing vehicle architectures. This will be a multi-brand toolkit suitable for both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and will thus leverage synergies from other electric vehicle projects in the Group. The standardized system will be designed for all body structures and vehicle types, thus allowing particularly emotional vehicle concepts, and will enable an all-electric range of 250 to 500 kilometers.
Phaeton redefined – the future is electric
The Volkswagen Phaeton has embodied the brand’s technological competence and brand ambition from the first generation onward. The future generation of the Phaeton will once again be the flagship for the brand’s profile over the next decade. In light of this, the Board of Management redefined the current project. The specification features a pure electric drive with long-distance capability, connectivity and next-generation assistance systems as well as an emotional design.
What this means is that Volkswagen will develop a common platform for sharing electric vehicle components across its brands. Doing so will make it easier for Volkswagen to adopt electric vehicle technology across all its brands.
The Phaeton is a high end luxury car from Volkswagen, that has struggled to meet sales projections. The current Phaeton will stop production, and the electric Phaeton will go on sale in the 2019-2020 time frame.
Additionally, the press release said this as well:
Systematic further development of the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB)
There will be a major development thrust for the proven MQB standardized technical toolkit, where Volkswagen Passenger Cars holds responsibility for development within the Group network. The focus is on plug-in hybrids with an even greater range, high-volume electric vehicles with a radius of up to 300 kilometers, a 48-volt power supply system (mild hybrid) as well as ever more efficient diesel, petrol and CNG concepts.
The word count of the press release is about 2/3rds discussion of electrified vehicle technology, from mild hybrid up to full-on electric, and driving ranges up to 500 kilometers. Yippee, I hope.
UPDATE: The BBC had a nice article, on Oct. 16, adding some additional information to the above. VW will, rather than shrink and fall behind as the other automakers might prefer, plans to double down on technology development. “Our competitors are waiting for us to fall behind technologically, because we are spending all our time focusing on ourselves. But we aren’t going to do them that favour,” Mr Mueller said.
It’s not clear how the VW Group will thread their way through this crisis, because the projected cost is 10’s of billions of Euro’s, and they plan only a billion euros ($1.1bn) in spending cuts annually.
Speaking to 400 top VW managers in Leipzig about how to deal with the enormous costs of the scandal, Mr Mueller made a number of startling announcements:
- no brands would be sold off
- innovation would be boosted
- and overall VW would become more ambitious globally rather than less
Additionally, they plan to develop a new corporate culture that “allows more creativity and questioning rather than autocratic top-down decision-making.”
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