7 Big Electric Vehicle Announcements from Volkswagen Today
Volkswagen had a live “Power Day” event today. I’m not going to rate the acting and script reading (you can thank me later), but I do want to highlight some of the big announcements.
1. Volkswagen expects to cut its battery costs by 30–50% (timeframe unclear)
It seems this is a general target to cut battery costs by 30% to 50% as soon as possible, without a specific timeframe in mind (or at least announced). Even without an announced timeframe, though, it appears this is an aim for the coming years, probably to 2030 or sooner. “Volkswagen is thus aiming to gradually reduce battery costs in the entry-level segment by up to 50 percent and in the volume segment by up to 30 percent,” the company writes. So, that means lower priced cars will have a harder time cutting costs, but will still benefit from a significant 30% cut in battery costs if Volkswagen achieves its dreams.
This will all be thanks to what the company is calling a new “unified cell.” This is not yet a solid-state battery cell, though — it is basically a family of batteries that leads to solid-state batteries. Volkswagen writes, “The new prismatic unified cell also offers the best conditions for the transition to the solid state cell – the next quantum leap in battery technology, which Volkswagen anticipates for the middle of the decade.”
The new unified cell “is set to be launched as of 2023 and will be installed across brands in up to 80 percent of all electric vehicles in the Group in 2030.” Furthermore, Thomas Schmall, Volkswagen Group Board Member for Technology, states that, “We will use our economies of scale to the benefit of our customers when it comes to the battery too. On average, we will drive down the cost of battery systems to significantly below €100 per kilowatt hour. This will finally make e-mobility affordable and the dominant drive technology.”
2. New 40 GWh Battery Gigafactory
As I noted an hour or so ago, Volkswagen Group is buying out Northvolt’s stake in their joint venture Northvolt Zwei battery factory in Salzgitter, Germany. This battery gigafactory “will produce the unified cell for the high-volume segment from 2025 and develop innovations in process, design and chemistry. Production capacity of up to 40 GWh per year is also planned for Salzgitter.” It is already being operated by Volkswagen rather than Northvolt.
3. 240 GWh of Battery Production Capacity in Europe by 2030
Volkswagen plans to have a whopping 240 GWh of battery production capacity in place by 2030. This is from 6 planned or existing battery cell gigafactories.
4. Northvolt Ett Battery Gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden, Grows to 40 GWh
The Northvolt battery factory in Skellefteå, Sweden, is being expanded to a planned annual production capacity of 40 GWh. As reported earlier today, Volkswagen has increased its orders from this factory to $14 billion over the coming decade. The facility will start producing the aforementioned unified cells there in 2023, which Volkswagen also calls its “premium cells.”
To be clear, this 40 GWh Northvolt factory is part of the 240 GWh target for 2030.
5. 5× Increase in European Fast-Charging Network — to 18,800 Fast-Charging Ports
There are two sides of the convenience coin when it comes to EVs — range and charging. Aside from boosting driving range of EVs, Volkswagen is rapidly expanding its fast-charging network. It intends to get to 18,800 fast-charging ports by 2025, a 5-fold increase over today’s levels. Key partners will be IONITY, Enel, Iberdrola, BP, and ARAL.
“This will be done through a series of strategic partnerships in addition to the joint venture IONITY. Volkswagen wants to establish about 8,000 fast-charging points throughout Europe together with BP. The fast-chargers with a charging capacity of 150 kW will be installed at a total of 4,000 BP and ARAL service stations, with the majority of these in Germany and Great Britain. In cooperation with Iberdrola, Volkswagen will cover main traffic routes in Spain. In Italy, Volkswagen wants to collaborate with Enel to establish the fast-charging network both along motorways and in urban areas. Volkswagen will invest about €400 million in the European programme as a whole by 2025, with further investments being borne by external partners,” the company writes.
At that point, it’s hard to imagine many people will have a right to complain about fast-charging accessibility on the Old Continent. (Cost is a different matter, but let’s remember that fast-charging should be used sparingly for road trips and is not the ideal solution — for multiple reasons — for routine charging.)
6. 20,500 More Fast-Charging Ports in China, USA, & Canada
Volkswagen is focused on electrification globally, not just on its home continent. Admittedly, some countries get more attention than others. Volkswagen plans a whopping 17,000 fast-charging points in China by 2025, while also planning to increase Electrify America’s coverage to 3,500 fast-charging ports by the end of this year (in the USA and Canada).
7. Bi-Directional Charging & Plug&Charge
With all new vehicles, Volkswagen Group will be using Plug&Charge technology — which means drivers can avoid RFID cards, credit cards, apps, and everything else at applicable charging stations. They just plug in the vehicle, the station identifies it, and the car starts charging automagically. (Tesla owners will recognize that this is how it works at a Supercharger.)
Getting more of the spotlight, Volkswagen announced that it would be introducing bi-directional charging via wall boxes starting next year. “Volkswagen intends to integrate the electric car in private, commercial and public energy systems in the future. This will allow green electricity from the solar energy system to be stored in the vehicle and fed back into the home network if needed. Not only will customers be more independent of the public power grid, they will also save money and reduce CO2 emissions. Models based on Volkswagen’s own MEB platform will support this technology from 2022. Volkswagen will also offer a complete package with all modules and digital services – from the bidirectional wall box to energy management. The technology is soon to be used also on a larger scale – for example in residential buildings, businesses or in the general power grid.”
During the presentation, Volkswagen mentioned a pilot project at one building that will include 270 Volkswagen wall boxes. I’m waiting for the video recording to be published to get back to the details of this topic.