VW decides not to offer plug-in hybrids in North America

Article by Christian A., on November 17, 2017

All is set for Volkswagen’s plans to enter the electric vehicle game, as prompted by the so-called Dieselgate scandal. In fact, the German carmaker has already made a commitment to offer at least five battery electric vehicles (BEV) in the next five years. However, Volkswagen is not intending to offer plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEV) in North America, and possibly also in Europe.

This was divulged by Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess in an interview with Car and Driver. The new plans were a contrast to the ones formulated under the former boss of Volkswagen Group of America Michael Horn. The initial plans entailed replacing the group’s diesel vehicles with clean PHEVs. But those plans have been scrapped. As per the interview, Diess remarked that the German carmaker could still make the VW Tiguan as the best-selling SUV even without offering it as a plug-in hybrid in North America and Europe. He noted that the EV incentive scheme in North America doesn’t include PHEVs, which means offering these clean vehicles won't make sense for the carmaker.

For now, Diess’ efforts focus on offering BEVs, 15 of which have already been decided for the group. Five of these 15 pure EVs are earmarked for the VW brand. All of these future BEVs will be underpinned by the new Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) platform, a battery electric architecture. According to Diess, the new MEB platform would result to economies of scale, allowing VW to unleash the potential of its electric vehicles. He believes that by switching into BEVs, VW would be able to save costs, including those related to development. This will allow the brand’s first BEV -- the new Volkswagen I.D. – to be in the same profit range as the VW Polo.

Interestingly, the MEB platform is engineered to accommodate a future application of solid-state batteries. Diess noted that the first generation of solid state batteries won't still be suitable for near-term BEV application, adding that such technology would only be applicable to its electrified offering in 2024. He quipped that currently, there are pros and cons in using solid state batteries. He disclosed that while solid state batteries are safer during crashes, its energy density means that it’s still not enough to be applicable in BEVs. VW’s hopes in using solid state batteries are confirmed by its investment in a startup company called QuantumScape, a spinoff from Stanford University.

Meanwhile, Diess disclosed the German carmaker’s decision to implement over-the-air (OTA) updates in the future. He called this decision as a big revolution, as it makes cars updatable and upgradable. He added that OTA updates would be implemented on vehicles’ operational system every year or so. Nonetheless, the carmaker’s dealer network seems to not be happy with this decision, Diess said.

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