Hyundai is building a dedicated platform for a future EV fleet

Hyundai is building a dedicated platform for a future EV fleet

Hyundai announced today its intention to build a dedicated electric vehicle platform that will be used for a new electric car set to be released in 2020, according to CNET. The platform, part of a planned $40 billion investmentinto innovation, will move the car manufacturer away from using chassis that are shared with gasoline-powered vehicles like the ones used with Hyundai's current EVs, including the Kona Electric and Ioniq.

Creating an all-electric platform from the ground up will play a major role in enabling Hyundai to achieve its broader goal: introducing 44 EVs in the next six years. South Korean car maker intends to be one of the "world's top three EV manufacturers" by the time 2025 rolls around. The company hasn't released any specifics about its future fleet of electric vehicles, though it has previously stated that it is aiming to produce EVs with 250 miles of range by 2020 -- a goal it accomplished already with the Kona Electric.

Electric vehicles will be a major focus of Hyundai's recent massive investment in research and development, but the company will also explore autonomy. Part of the five-year plan for the carmaker includes developing a fleet of autonomous taxis that will be deployed in South Korea. The company is setting 2021 as the target for that initiative.

Source: Engadget

Hyundai Giving 2020 Sonata Four-Door Coupe Styling

Hyundai Giving 2020 Sonata Four-Door Coupe Styling

2019 will be very important for Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis. The three South Korean brands will launch no less than 13 new models in the next 10 to 12 months, and the new generation Sonata should be among the most significant launches. Hyundai has big plans for its new sedan which should become a real head-turner.

Spy photos have already revealed we will be dealing with a drastically new vehicle and the company’s head of its Korean design center, SangYup Lee, said in a recent interview the car has been designed to create buzz just like the 2011 Sonata did shortly after its reveal. Sedan sales are going down every year but Hyundai wants to excite customers and make them take another look at the Sonata. "The new Sonata is quite challenging for us obviously just because we all know that market is shrinking and taken over by SUVs," Lee told MotorTrend recently.

Source: MotorTrend

Vying For The Title Of 'Hottest Hatch': Meet The Hyundai Veloster N

Vying For The Title Of 'Hottest Hatch': Meet The Hyundai Veloster N

When a hot hatch is propelled by a 275hp turbocharged engine, employs 19-inch wheels, a launch control and torque steer, on purpose mind you, then you know the manufacturer has their own unique philosophy of fun. That’s exactly what I found when I tested the new Hyundai Veloster N in California recently.

This is the best handling car to come out of the halls of Hyundai, well, ever. Actually, it also just happens to be one of the best looking cars ever born in Korea. There’s a reason for that. To get straight to the heart of the matter, the class-leading handling and great looks all comes down to a perfect fusion of Korean technology, reliability and vision, and German design and performance tuning.

I could not pen this story without first mentioning the integral part that two legendary Germans played in the creation of Korea’s hottest ever hatch. Ex-Audi senior designer Peter Schreyer, who arrived at the Hyundai-Kia group a decade ago, is now head of design for both brands. He and his team are responsible for not only this hatch but more poignantly, they've successfully elevated the brand's designs and aesthetics to levels comparable with some of Europe's top makes. Meanwhile, taking Hyundai’s performance and handling to a whole new level was Albert Biermann, the former BMW M Division chief engineer who is now holding Hyundai’s R&D reigns, which the brand calls its “N” high-performance department. He particularly revelled with the settings on the Veloster N.

This hatch also just happens to be one of the best looking cars to ever come out of Korea.PHOTO BY YASUHIKO SATO

Incorporating a huge hungry-looking hexagonal grille, sharp upslanting headlights, big wheels, red brake calipers and a sporty rear roof wing, the hatch’s addictive sky blue and bright red accents around the front spoiler and side skirts put it very much in a league with the iconic VW Golf GTI. The funky 3-door layout (4-door is you include the hatchback) with a rear passenger door only built into the right-hand side of the car, give the Veloster N special presence on the road.

Inside, this hot hatch gets a suitably sporty cockpit made out of inexpensive materials with nice touches like the leather wrapped gear-shifter and steering wheel, competent 8-inch BlueLink infotainment and sat-nav system, audio features and Android and Apple connectivity features, as well as supportive seats for those extended-right-boot-into-corner moments.

The interior is subtle but well appointed.PHOTO BY YASUHIKO SATO

But the undisputed highlight of the Veloster N is what sits under that hood. While the base Veloster N gets 250hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged power unit, the tweaked N-spec performance version we tested is rated at 275hp peak power and 260lb-ft of torque. Even without flicking on the launch control, the Veloster N rockets off the line, jumping from zero to 60mph in under 6 seconds.

Torque is particularly strong between 3000-6000 rpm and seems to enjoy hovering around the 3500 mark allowing the turbo to stay vocal with an addictive whistle. This car is plenty quick with a beefy exhaust under heavy acceleration and a curious but colorful cocktail of pops and crackles exuding from the exhaust when you lift off.

As a sports car traditionalist, I particularly liked Hyundai’s brave decision to opt for one gearbox only—a 6-speed manual. As the revs climb quickly while the 19-inch Pirelli P-Zeros fight for grip, the limited slip diff on this front-drive hatch works hard to control understeer and torque steer. But as Biermann will say, ‘some torque steer was purposefully left in the mix to give the driver a feel for the power,” and that this addition was a calculated feature of the car. Yes, the Veloster N does have some torque steer under heavy acceleration, but it’s easy to control, and as he says, it does add to the overall sportiness of this rare hatch.

Any hatch with such power would normally be fitted with high-performance, 4-pot Brembos. But in their wisdom, Hyundai decided to keep costs down and furnish the car’s needs in-house. The result is better than expected. Pedal rigidity is tight and braking performance is more than acceptable. In fact, the Veloster N’s stoppers are borrowed from the Optima, but given grippier pads, while special cooling ducts built into the N's functional aerodynamic sheetmetal, keep those rotors and pads from getting too warm and fading.

This hatch feels light on its feet but nimble and stable in the corners with perfectly weighted steering. It transfers its weight superbly mid-corner and sounds great doing it. For just under $30,000, you’d have to look hard and long for a hot hatch with better cost performance.

Source: Forbes

Finalist for Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric

In our quest to find Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy, the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is shaping up to be the “no drama” candidate.

By now, we’ve had four distinct experiences with this small, fully electric crossover—or tall hatchback, depending on how you see it. That’s included plodding along on congestion-choked Los Angeles boulevards; zigzagging along tight canyon roads just outside LA; running over potholed, battered suburban streets and highways around Detroit; and then, specifically for our Best Car To Buy roundup, at an undisclosed location in the American Southeast, taking additional test drives on curvy back roads and a variety of road surfaces.

Through all these use cases, we’ve found the Kona Electric to fit right in—even, surprisingly, with the canyon roads, where its lower center of mass added confidence despite low-rolling-resistance tires that didn’t give us a lot to work with. The 201-horsepower (150-kw) electric motor system makes the Kona Electric feel strong, even tire-scorching at times. Like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, motor torque is delivered only through the front wheels.

Around town is where the Kona Electric makes the most sense. With a near-perfect seating point for most drivers, it’s easy to get in and out, and you have a good view outward. Seats are generously padded, there’s enough headroom in back, and there’s no versatility compromised for the sake of a big battery pack. The rear seat backs fold flat (when compressed) to make a flat load floor. Parking is a cinch, thanks to the Kona’s subcompact footprint (it’s just 164.6 inches long and 70.9 inches wide).

Yet the Kona Electric has plenty of something that really matters among electric cars: driving range and reasonably quick charging rates. Its liquid-cooled 64-kwh battery, packed with LG Chem prismatic cells, seemed to overdeliver on its 258-mile EPA range estimate as far as we could tell, and in all those driving conditions we never saw an instance of driving range unexpectedly dropping. The pack charges up in just over 9.5 hours on Level 2, using its 7.2-kw onboard charger, according to Hyundai. Thanks to the loan of an eMotorWerks JuiceBox Pro 40, we were able to bring this UL-listed device to our testing location, plug it into a semi-outdoor NEMA 14-50 socket, and charge the Kona Electric up from just under 50 percent to 100 percent in less than five hours.

And if you happen to find a 100-kw or higher CCS Combo DC fast charger, it can recover up to 206 miles in just 54 minutes. We continue to be impressed with the Kona Electric’s highly customizable brake regeneration functions, which allow you to customize each of three (Normal, Eco, Sport) modes with their own default levels of brake regen, ranging from 0 (coasting) to 3 (aggressive).

Pulling the left paddle to engage relatively mild one-pedal driving felt awkward in our first drive but we’ve found it intuitive in follow-up drives, so this is something that you’d find second-nature after a while, coasting gradually to a stop without touching the brake pedal in some cases. 

The Kona Electric comes with an infotainment system that’s easy to navigate and responsive and yet doesn’t take up a vast swath of the space around the driver. Hyundai has also teased an entire suite of remote-and-connected features like charge scheduling, climate preconditioning, remote charging management, and compatibility with Google Home, Android Wear devices, and Apple Watch apps. You can set minimum and maximum charging levels with simple sliders—something that’s not possible with many rival models.

We haven’t found any gaps in our initial impressions of an exceptionally well-hushed cabin, damping out wind and road noise, and most of our editorial staff has grown to prefer the more understated look of the Kona Electric to that of the standard Kona. As we said in our first drive, some versions get a little too liberal with somewhat illegible matte-metallic switchgear facing too soon to be 2005-retro. If this all sounds abundantly positive, it is. But there are two big questions that remain unanswered. One is pricing. Hyundai hasn’t released details yet, but it says that it wants Kona Electric to start below $30,000 when factoring in the federal EV tax credit.

The second is availability. The Kona starts reaching California dealerships before the end of the year, with East Coast dealerships and other CARB-observant states getting them in early February.

Hyundai says you’ll be able to walk into any dealership and order one, but that leads to one of the key questions: Is the Kona Electric just another compliance car? Or will it truly sell as many as it can? That remains to be seen.



Electric Vehicle trend will only get bigger from here

Electric Vehicle trend will only get bigger from here

Global warming and health hazards from higher NO2 emissions have definitely become some of the greatest challenges of our time and  governments all over the world are becoming united in moving away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources. 

The global industry is recognizing these trends and we are already seeing big shifts towards battery-charged products – not only when it comes to personal devices such as mobile phones and laptops - but also in electric vehicles and grid batteries used to store electric power for houses and buildings.   


The Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) used in vehicles are one of the main contributors to the CO2 emissions. According to the data from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounted for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Almost all of that (95%) is coming from petroleum-based fuels, largely gasoline and diesel. Diesel engines are generally believed to be more polluting than regular petrol cars, particularly because of higher emissions of NO2 (Nitrogen-Oxide). A 2017 study 'estimates that roughly 10,000 premature deaths annually can be attributed to NOx emissions from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles'. Emission cheating scandals like ‘Dieselgate’, which blew up at Volkswagen in 2015, further contributed to discrediting the diesel powered vehicles. 

It is therefore not surprising that many European countries are starting to pass legislations that will significantly reduce the number of (or even fully ban) diesel vehicles in the upcoming future. They are also heavily promoting the move towards hybrid or all-electric vehicles. Several major European cities such as Paris, Athens or Madrid have declared to ban diesel powered vehicles from their city centers by 2025. Maybe the most significant event related to diesel engines, was the ruling by the Germany's Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig stating that cities may be permitted to put driving bans in place for diesel vehicles. This is seen by many observers as the ‘nail in the coffin’ for diesel powered cars especially in Western Europe. In Germany, where some 70 cities exceeded EU limits for NO2 emissions last year, this ruling has paved the way for cities such as Stuttgart, Dusseldorf or Hamburg to enhance their efforts in banning diesel cars from their roads.

China is maybe the most aggressive of all countries when it comes to moving away from ICEs due to the heavy pollution problems in their densely populated cities. The plan is that 12% of all cars sold by 2020 should be electric. Other major countries are following the lead; France and UK plan to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. The Indian government is aiming for 30% of its vehicle fleet to be all-electric vehicles by 2030. 


A new study by AlixPartners says that diesels’ share of the European market has already fallen from 52% to 45% between 2016 and 2017. They expect diesel-powered vehicles to fall to just 5% of the EU car market.

The car manufacturers are moving with the electric vehicle wave. At the Geneva Car Show in March 2018, Toyota announced that it will stop the sale of diesel cars in Europe and will not develop new diesel technology for passenger cars as the company shifts its focus on hybrid vehicles. Nissan also announced that it will phase out diesel versions of passenger cars in Europe and move more towards hybrid and electric vehicles. US-Italian auto giant, Fiat-Chrysler, announced in February that it will ditch diesel from all its passenger cars by 2022.   


The trend is clearly moving towards electric vehicles. It is even fair to say that we have passed the point of no return, despite the fact that EVs are still not yet mainstream due to insufficient charging infrastructure. 

Nevertheless, the numbers are clearly indicating a bright future for EVs. According to the sales of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) have quadrupled since 2014 to reach over 1.2 million at the end of 2017. However, the share of all PEV sales still represents only 1.34% of total global cars sold in 2017. If these trends continue, the share of PEV sales are projected to reach 2%, which would amount to over 1.9 million cars sold in 2018 – an annual 48% increase. This is still a very small number relative to total car sales, and the growth potential is therefore obvious. The International Energy Agency expects the number of electric vehicles on the road to increase from 2 million in 2016 to 70 million by 2025!


In order to facilitate this EV growth, the industry will need to procure a sufficient amount of EV batteries to power the electric cars of the future. Tesla is already building its majestic Gigafactory with planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh). Tesla has announced the construction three more Gigafactories with the possibility of more being planned in the years ahead. 

In 2015, China surpassed the US as a world’s biggest market for electric cars. It is no wonder that China, as a world manufacturing super-house, is already ahead of most global EV battery producers. Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), China’s largest automotive battery maker, is already producing a capacity of 17.5 GWh. As reported by Bloomberg, CATL recently announced a plan for a new IPO backed by Goldman Sachs aiming to raise $2 billion to build their own ‘Gigafactory’ with a planned capacity of 24 GWh. The combined capacity would thus exceed even that of Tesla’s Gigafactory! It is therefore a fair assessment that together with BYD (the world's largest maker of electric vehicles) and strong support (in form of various subsidies) from the Government, China is set to cement itself as a future leader in EV battery production. It is also worth noting that there are more than 50 electric vehicle brands in China alone.

The big established auto makers also don’t want to be left behind in the EV race. German car giant Volkswagen just recently doubled its initial order of EV batteries to EUR 40 billion (USD 48 Billion); the order alone is worth more than Tesla’s market value! VW also plans to produce 25 new electric models and more than 20 plug-in hybrids by 2020 which is in line with their annual sales target of 3 million electric vehicles in 2025. 


Although the production of EVs at this moment is still costly compared to standard ICE cars, the industry is expecting the costs of EV batteries to decline significantly in the near future.

In 2010, the cost of a lithium-ion packed battery was around 1,000 USD/KWh. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the average price of a lithium-ion battery pack could now be under $200/KWh. Battery prices will need to drop below 100 USD/KWh for electric vehicles to be competitive with ICE cars; which BNEF projects will happen by 2025. This will be achievable with high performance NMC 811 and NCA cathode batteries containing 80% nickel.  Considering the fact that EVs require only half the production floor and capital expenditures compared to equivalent ICE cars, it seems that it is a now more a question of when, rather than if, this goal will be reached.

The cost of EV batteries is dependent on the cost of the raw materials needed to produce them. These materials include lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminum and copper. They are used in different amounts depending on the battery chemistries used.

Auto and battery manufacturers are already scrambling to secure these raw materials with battery metal suppliers to ensure uninterrupted production of lithium-ion batteries. For example, Toyota Group’s trading arm took a stake in Australian lithium miner Orocobre in January 2018 to secure supplies of battery ingredients needed for electric vehicle battery production. South Korean battery maker SK Innovation signed an off-take agreement with Australian Mines Ltd in February 2018 for nickel and cobalt from the latter’s flagship Sconi project. In March 2018, Chinese recycling giant GEM signed a three-year cobalt supply agreement with Swiss miner Glencore.



Genesis G70, Ram 1500 and Hyundai Kona win North American car, truck, utility awards

Genesis G70, Ram 1500 and Hyundai Kona win North American car, truck, utility awards

DETROIT — The Genesis G70 won the 2019 North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show, while the Ram 1500 took truck honors and the Hyundai Kona was named top utility vehicle of the year.

This year's winners were selected by a jury of about 60 American and Canadian automotive journalists — including Automotive News reporter Richard Truett and Senior Editor Sharon Silke Carty— from a group of three finalists in each category. A vehicle must have been redesigned or significantly changed to be eligible for the award.

The Genesis G70 beat the Honda Insight and Volvo S60. This is the third win in the car category for Hyundai Motor Group, which won with the Hyundai Genesis in 2009 and the Elantra in 2012. In 2017, its G90 was a finalist but lost to the Chevrolet Bolt.

The Ram 1500 surpassed the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the GMC Sierra 1500. Only three vehicles were eligible for the truck segment, so by default, all three became finalists. Even though the Silverado, Sierra and Ram were all redesigned this year, the media lavishly praised the Ram for its interior. The Ram has not earned the finalist status since 2013, when the model took home the truck category win.

Reid Bigland, FCA's head of U.S. sales, credited workers at the automaker's two Detroit area plants in Warren and Sterling Heights for the win. 

"The fit and finish on this vehicle is phenomenal. It's a team effort to bring a vehicle like this to the market," said Bigland.  "It's just a real honor to be nominated for the truck of the year.  We've been there before but to win it is much sweeter."

The Hyundai Kona took utility vehicle of the year, beating out the Acura RDX and Jaguar I-Pace. This is the fourth year of the utility category — previously crossovers, SUVs and minivans competed in the truck category. It's also the first time two electric vehicles — the Jaguar I-Pace and Hyundai Kona — competed in the mix.

Yong-woo (William) Lee, CEO of Hyundai Motor North America, said every employee, from designers to the marketing team, played a part in Kona's utility honor.

"This is the first time Hyundai has won the vehicle of the year award and it is something that means a lot to us," he said.  "We appreciate the time and effort that's put into this competition.  This was an unexpected win for us."


Vehicles are judged on several categories including innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, value and driver satisfaction. Winners were selected in a third elimination stage.

The three finalists in each category were chosen from a list of 14 cars, 12 utilities and three trucks in November. Models on that short list were narrowed down from a list of 47 in fall, which consisted of 23 cars, 21 SUVs and three trucks.

The Audi A6, Buick Regal Tour X, Hyundai Veloster, Kia Forte, Mazda6, Mercedes-Benz A class, Nissan Altima, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Corolla Hatchback and Volkswagen Jetta were the other cars on the short list.

Other eligible utilities were the BMW X5, Cadillac XT4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Infiniti QX50, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Kicks, Subaru Ascent, Toyota RAV4 and Volvo XC40.

Juror observations

The diversity in this year's lineup made it challenging for jurors to vote for which vehicles should go to the next round, said NACTOY President and juror Lauren Fix.

She told Automotive News on Friday that jurors knew the Genesis G70 would make it to the finalists round after they test drove it at the semifinalists event in October, but they had no idea what vehicles would take the other two spots. She also said she knew the Jaguar I-Pace and Acura RDX would make it the moment she got into the vehicle.

The Jaguar I-Pace and Hyundai Kona make it the first time that the NACTOY has seen two electric vehicles in the mix. This year's top nine also includes the Honda Insight, a hybrid.

Fix said she was surprised the Kia Optima wasn't a finalist because drivers can get "everything they want in a vehicle for $24,000."

She added: "But then what vehicle would I take off the list that wasn't as good? That's the question."

The NACTOY president said the nine finalists demonstrated top quality, good technology and nothing short than best in safety.

Since contenders in the truck category were finalists by default, Fix said the winner is one that demonstrates the best towing capacity, performance and safety features. In other words, it's about hauling people, hauling objects, and its utility and capability, she said.

The Honda Accord, Lincoln Navigator and Volvo XC60 won the 2018 North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year awards.

The fascinating engineering behind VW's electric car platform of the future

Volkswagen, the company that brought us Dieselgate, wants us forget its last eco-disaster by promising to bring affordable electric cars to the masses starting in 2020. Those cars will ride on an all-new electric platform called MEB. The automaker calls it “one of the most important projects in the history of Volkswagen,” and says MEB will underpin more than 1 million EVs per year starting in 2025.

Last fall, I had a chance to look at the new architecture and speak with some engineers. Here’s what I learned. 

(Full Disclosure: VW wanted to show me its new MEB platform, so the company flew me to Dresden, fed me potato soup and schnitzel, and put a nice roof over my head.)

Volkswagen brought journalists to its glass factory in Dresden for the world premier of the automaker’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix, or MEB, platform, which the company promises will be the “economic and technological backbone” behind its goal to bring EVs from niche into the mainstream. The result of clever platform sharing, VW told journalists, will be electric cars with pricing similar to that of a “comparable diesel car.” A more recent story by Reuters stated that VW could sell an entry level MEB vehicle for as little as $23,000.

VW plans to build 150,000 electric cars in 2020, (100,000 of which will be the I.D. compact car and I.D. SUV, which are both expected to premiere in 2020), offer 27 all-new EV models across four brands by 2022, and offer an electric version of every single one of its 300+ models by 2030. In total, the company expects to build at least 10 million EVs based on this new MEB platform, and Reuters reported last month that this could go up to 15 million.

But we’ve been hearing a lot of companies announcing lofty electrification plans like these, so what makes VW different? Well, they’ve at least got hardware to back up the talk. Here’s a look at what might be the platform that actually brings electric cars to the masses.

The MEB Platform

VW started designing the MEB platform—the company’s very first high volume EV architecture—about three years ago. Like Tesla vehicles, it comes in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations, and is built around a flat, rectangular battery pack that’s bolted beneath the vehicle’s floor.

This all makes it closer to a Tesla than to a Fiat 500e or a number of other EVs from mainstream manufacturers that use normal car platforms modified to be electric. Those cars tend to have batteries crammed under seats and other drive components sandwiched where an internal combustion engine would be. That and they’re usually front-wheel drive only.

The VW ID layout—with its short hood and long wheelbase, lack of driveshaft or exhaust tunnel, and small overhangs—promises a low center of gravity, high cabin and trunk volume, and also a higher seating position compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle in the same class.

Speaking of that higher seating position, Volkswagen says the ID’s giant 18- to 21-inch wheels were sized, in part, to help provide the thick battery pack with the additional ground clearance it needs. By contrast, today’s Golf can be had with 15-inchers. That low-mounted battery, which will initially come in roughly 50 kWh and 80 kWh sizes (more to come in the future, VW says), is expected to offer between 205 and 342 miles of range on Europe’s new WLTP cycle, or around 175 to 300 miles on the EPA cycle.

One Architecture for Many Vehicles

Early this decade, Volkswagen introduced the Modular Transverse Matrix, or MQB, an extremely flexible car platform that allowed the company to share as many components and assembly processes across as many vehicles as possible. It can span cars like the small VW Golf up to the giant seven-passenger VW Atlas as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. In total, MQB currently represents 80 percent of VW Group’s sales volume, with about 55 million having been produced thus far.

MEB is essentially this same platform strategy but applied to electric cars. It is supposedly capable of underpinning everything from the aforementioned I.D. compact car (which VW also refers to as the “Neo”) and I.D. Crozz SUV, to a sedan based on the I.D. Vizzion concept, to a modern interpretation of the VW Microbus based on the I.D. Buzz concept. Production versions of the latter two are scheduled for launch in 2022.

Tino Fuhrmann, the head of the MEB project, actually says MEB offers “less variance than the MQB platform,” making it an economical way to build different kinds of electric cars with as little complexity as possible.

The platform will be primarily built of conventional materials like steel, though there were a few aluminum components on the chassis shown in Dresden, including the steering knuckles and the battery housing. Different vehicle segments are expected to get different aluminum content, with the I.D. Vizzion sedan, for example, getting more than the cheaper, compact Neo. This aligns with Tesla’s strategy of using mostly steel on the cheaper Model 3 rather than an aluminum-intensive body design like those of the Model S and Model X. By contrast, the probably over-ambitious BMW i3had a body structure made entirely of carbon fiber, but that, according to Car and Driver, may be a thing of the past thanks to battery advancements, quoting head of BMW’s i Division Robert Irlinger as saying:

“At the time of the BMW i3, the capacity of batteries was still quite low, and so we tried to get every kilogram out of the car to reduce the amount of energy we needed [to power it]...But, with the improving energy capacity of batteries, you don’t need to look for the last 500 grams. Therefore, we look for the right balance of properties. Carbon fiber is still an extremely important material when it comes to passenger safety, for example, but you only use it in certain areas.”

So the MEB’s steel design makes sense for an entry-level EV. Fuhrmann described how the platform could be elongated and widened for different applications. Firstly, the wheelbase can simply be stretched:

Second, the track width can be increased by making changes to the suspension, including to the lower control arms:

And finally, Fuhrmann said additional length could be added between the pedals and the front axle for premium vehicles like the I.D. Vizzion concept, likely along the crease in the cowl shown below:

The Powertrain

Volkswagen hasn’t revealed exactly how much horsepower its MEB vehicles will have, but the company mentions in its press literature that the rear-wheel drive I.D. concept car shown at the Paris Motor Show in 2016 had an output of 125 kW, or about 168 horsepower, and after speaking with VW, Autoweek wrote that the front motor on all-wheel drive MEB models could have median outputs of between 55 and 65 horsepower. The I.D. Vizzion and I.D. Buzz cargo concepts were both powered by a 201 horsepower motor in the rear, and the former also had a 100 horsepower unit up front according to VW. So 150 to 200 horses in the back and 50 to 100 horses up front seem like a reasonable guesses.

To put that in some more context, the Chevrolet Bolt, by comparison, offers a single motor up front producing 200 horsepower, while the Nissan Leaf puts out 147. The Tesla Model 3 Long Range’s rear motor produces 258 horsepower, and the all-wheel drive Dual Motor Performance models make up to 450 ponies combined, according to Motor Trend. (It’s worth noting that the combined figure on the all-wheel drive model is not just the sum of the two motor outputs). I also don’t know exactly which type of motor will be used up front or what, other than output, will make it different than the one in the rear, but I do know that the rear unit will be a Permanent Synchronous Motor or “PSM.” This motor and whatever’s used up front, VW says, will be the only two motors offered across the entire MEB line of at least 10 million vehicles in the automaker’s “first run.”

Yes, according to Fuhrmann, there will only be “two available motors for the entire platform.”

Despite this, motor output and acceleration, Fuhrman said, can be varied based on model via software changes and different ratios in the gearboxes, of which there will be two available across the entire MEB line for each the front and rear motor.

Those gearboxes will be housed in single units with the motors, as well as with the power electronics that convert DC current from the battery to AC current for the motors.

The image above shows that motor/gearbox/power electronics unit, as well as the flat battery pack bolted to the floor from below, the high voltage lines from the battery to the motor, and the multilink rear suspension. (There’s a MacPherson strut setup in the front.)

The motor unit and battery pack are both liquid cooled, with the former in a low temperature loop that includes a chiller (a refrigerant-to-coolant heat exchanger that allows for additional cooling beyond what a passive water-to-air radiator at the front of a typical automobile could offer) and the latter in a high-temp loop.

You can see the coolant hoses going to the motor in the photo above the previous one, and here’s a look at where the coolant lines enter and exit the front side of the battery pack:

Auxiliary Components

Under the hood, there’s still a 12-volt battery to power the vehicle’s onboard electronics and a large black HVAC module that’s normally found behind the dash in a typical non-electric vehicle’s interior. Down below towards the bottom of the car, there’s a high voltage refrigerant compressor, and to its right is a resistance heater for warming up the coolant that flows into the battery.

I didn’t have a chance to take a close look at the model’s cooling module (the stack of heat exchangers at the front of the car), but VW did say that there’s only a single radiator at the nose. This makes me think that the design is much like the Tesla Model 3's, which has one air-to-water radiator up front, along with an air-to-refrigerant condenser for the battery chiller (you can see the Tesla’s full schematic here).

And indeed, in the press image below and the photo above, I do see two heat exchangers, which back up that hypothesis, though I will say that, when I spoke with a VW engineer at a round table at the LA Auto Show in November, he seemed strangely hesitant to discuss the particulars about the cooling module.

And in an email with VW’s PR rep, I was told that the company wasn’t ready to discuss it further, making me wonder if VW’s got some kind of clever battery and motor cooling design brewing.

Photo by VW

Speaking of the cooling system, MEB-platform cars will have an optional heat pump, which is sort of like an air conditioning system in reverse, using heat from the powertrain and the outside environment to warm the cabin rather than relying solely on a battery powered electric heater. VW expects to yield an improvement of over 10 percent in overall range in the winter. The MEB’s system is likely similar in concept to what’s offered in the Nissan Leaf (whose schematic is shown above) and the current Volkswagen e-Golf, whose heat pump VW explained in a 2013 press release, saying:

...offered as an add-on module for the electric heating (high-voltage heater) and the electric air conditioning compressor, the heat pump utilises both the heat from the ambient air and the heat given off by the drive system components. In this way the high-voltage heater’s consumption of electric power is significantly reduced. Through use of the heat pump the e-Golf’s range increases in winter by up to 20 per cent.

If I had to guess, that heat pump will be packaged under hood somewhere, as it seems like VW has focused on maximizing interior space over allowing for a “frunk” for cargo items. That’s right, don’t expect a frunk on MEB vehicles, which is odd to not see on a car made off of a dedicated EV platform, one that wasn’t designed to have an engine up there. Sad, I know, because frunks are awesome.

On the topic of under-hood packaging, the bare MEB platform shown in Dresden was rear-wheel drive, and there didn’t appear to be much room up front for a motor. Fuhrmann told journalists that the HVAC box and the DC-DC converter—which I think sits below the HVAC box shown below and above—would have to move to accommodate a front motor, though its not clear where they’d be relocated.

These are just a few bits of hardware I noticed while sliding underneath the MEB and gazing under its hood. I hope to take a closer look soon.

Why Rear-Wheel Drive?

So you might be wondering: Why rear-wheel drive instead of front-drive? After all, VW’s had a pretty scant history of front-engine, rear-drive cars—it went pretty quickly from rear-engined, air-cooled cars to front-drive water-cooled ones in the 1970s and onward, adding AWD as needed.

When asked that question, Fuhrmann said the placement of the majority of the vehicle’s weight—between the wheels (because of the battery) instead of above the front wheels as seen on most front-drive cars of today—meant the rear wheels made the most sense from a traction standpoint. On top of that, he said, rear drive offered better vehicle agility.

“The rear-wheel drive is absolutely the right one for the electric drive,” he told journalists. He seemed convinced.

This is good news, because while car enthusiasts might decry the electric car revolution for the further death of manual transmissions and also the death of roaring engine sounds, at least some future economy cars will send power to the right set of wheels.

It’s fair to note that while front-wheel drive has been the standard for front-engine cars for decades, rear-wheel drive in economy cars was never unusual on cars that didn’t have a heavy internal combustion engine up front. Europe in particularly used to be churning out RWD economy cars from the 1930s through the early-to-mid 1970s, before everyone went universally front-engine on applications like this one.

The Interior

In the photo above, Fuhrmann is showing journalists the 30 liters of volume between the cowl and the instrument panel beam on the I.D.. Created by moving the HVAC forward into the front of the car, the space provides more area for what VW says will be a massive augmented reality head-up display, which the brand has been touting as a major feature in all of its I.D. concept vehicles. This space, Fuhrmann told journalists, could only be possible by reinventing a completely new platform.

Inside, occupants do sit fairly high up thanks to that tall battery pack, and there is a slight “tunnel” in the center, though it’s small and exists for the coolant lines that go from the cooling module up front to the battery in the middle and the motor in the rear. In addition, it’s meant to clear high voltage cables that go from the rear of the battery pack to components underhood like the high voltage compressor, high voltage heater, and DC-DC converter.

The Battery

Volkswagen calls its lithium-ion battery pack a “chocolate bar” design comprised of a number rectangle-shaped cell modules, which are housed in an aluminum case that has a heat exchanger integrated into its bottom.

As shown in the image above and below, the rear of the housing includes a Battery Management Controller, and while I’m not sure exactly what it does on the MEB platform, on the e-Golf, this part was in charge of functions including “regular diagnosis and monitoring to helping regulate temperatures in the battery junction controller,” VW writes in an old press release. Between the two rows of modules sit cell controllers, which are used for monitoring cell current, voltage, temperatures (VW told journalists that temperature is technically monitored on the module level) and also for cell balancing to ensure longevity and optimal performance.

Slide by VW

Volkswagen plans to use two different kinds of cells in the modules within the MEB battery packs: prismatic and pouch cells (you can see them both below), since round cells wouldn’t package as densely.

LG will supply the pouch cells and Samsung will provide the prismatic cells. VW told me that any vehicle could have one or both of these cell types in its modules. Using these two battery types was done on purpose, VW says, to afford a “high degree of flexibility in the cooperation with cell suppliers.”

Also using pouch cells are the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV, with the first having Nissan’s own cells, and the latter two—like VW—getting theirs from LG.

According to Korea Times, Jaguar Land Rover has been talking with Samsung about using 21700 cylindrical cells, which Tesla has been manufacturing with Panasonic for the Model 3, touting the cell’s low cost and high energy density.

You’ll notice in the picture above a zigzag-shaped gray substance. That’s what’s found below each module, and it’s called thermoconductive gap filler, helping ensure that heat from the battery cells gets transferred to the heat exchanger integrated into the case below.

Speaking of that heat exchanger, both the inlet and outlet ports are in the front side of the case, as shown before in the underbody photo, and more clearly below:

By contrast, Tesla actually winds coolant tubes between individual cells, rather than below modules. Here’s a look at the Model 3's battery cooling setup:

Also shown in the cutout in the corner of the VW’s battery pack above is what appears to be a protective (possibly steel?) plate, which I assume is the “solid collision protection” that VW mentions in its press release sits below the aluminum battery case, and likely acts to avoid battery cell puncture. The Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt do things a little differently, with a manufacturing expert at auto benchmarking firm Munro & Associates telling me that the two vehicles have battery cases whose outsides are made largely of stamped steel, with no obvious separate shield. On the other side of the MEB’s battery pack is a thin cover that can be unbolted for maintenance.

In the diagram a few pictures up and in the picture above the last one, you’ll notice aluminum “cross struts” between the modules. Those are there for crash protection, increasing the stiffness of the battery pack, which is important, since it is a structural part that adds to the vehicle’s overall rigidity.

Image by VW

VW contrasts this flat battery pack setup with that of the e-Golf, an internal combustion vehicle that was modified to fit batteries, and not a purpose-built EV. Its odd shaped battery, VW told us, isn’t cost or weight effective, requiring long connectors and strange mounts. The MEB battery, on the other hand, is apparently easier to scale up, easier to cool, easier to install, and—of course—it lowers the center of gravity and can yield more interior space.

MEB’s battery voltage will depend on the number of cells and cell types, VW says, but at the beginning of production, nominal voltage will range between 300 and 400 volts. Battery pack capacity will be either 48, 62, or roughly 82 kWh, with the 48 kWh and 62 kWh sharing the same pack (the 48 kWh simply has two fewer cell modules), and the 82 kWh pack having a different, larger housing. The smallest battery promises 175 miles on the EPA cycle, the biggest will get a projected 300 mile range, and the 52 kWh pack will be somewhere in between.

By comparison, the Tesla Model 3's long range and short range battery packs offer an EPA-estimated 310 and 264 miles of range, respectively (Electrek says those respective packs have capacities of 74kWh and 62 kWh), the Chevrolet Bolt’s 60 kWh battery pack is good for 238 miles, and the Nissan Leaf offers a 40kWh pack with 151 miles of range. A 60kWh Leaf with a projected 225 mile range is expected to debut soon coming soon. So the VW’s 175 mi to 300 mi estimate for the 48 kWh to 82 kWh packs seem competitive—perhaps a bit short for the 82 kWh pack, but again, we’ll have to see when the EPA figures come out how close those estimates are to reality.

Image by VW

VW says even the smallest of the MEB cars will be able to house the largest battery pack, and all cars have packaging space reserved for inductive charging.

On the topic of charging, VW mentioned a maximum charging rate of 125kW, which can apparently charge a battery pack to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Green Car Reports and other car news outlets state that, initially, that 125kW charging capability will be limited to the largest 82 kWh battery pack, with the smaller two limited to 100 kW.

Slide by VW

VW’s cells will start as NMC—Nickel Manganese Cobalt —622s (cathode chemistry that is fairly standard in the auto industry today, but not used by Tesla), as reported by German newspaper Handelsblatt. But, as shown in VW’s image above, by 2020, the company thinks the higher energy density, lower-cost NMC 811 cells will be ready—cells that are being touted by someas the future of electric car batteries, and key enablers to bringing EVs mainstream. How long it will take for VW to transition to these cells is unclear. Also, as shown in the plot, solid state batteries are still on the horizon. VW did mention its partnership with California-based tech company Quantumscape, and said a solid-state battery trial project is scheduled between 2023 and 2025.

How VW Plans to Bring MEBs to the Masses

Economies of Scale

In his speech, Thomas Ulbricht said there are three “pillars” that VW is basing its electric vehicle strategy on: the MEB platform itself, economies of scale, and infrastructure. We’ve already looked at the platform, and for economies of scale, Ulbricht has big plans.

VW says it will build the electric cars in 16 “e-locations” around the world by late 2022, including some in Europe and one plant in the U.S. VW isn’t sure exactly where, but calls Chattanooga a “natural fit.” Most of the plants, though, will be in China, where about 50 percent of 2025's 1 million annual EVs will be sold, with Europe representing about 30 to 40 percent, and the U.S. representing around 10 to 20 percent. Of the roughly $39 billion VW says it will invest in future tech by 2022, around $1.4 billion will go to the Zwickau plant in Germany, where the first ever MEB model—the Volkswagen I.D. four-door compact car—will go into production in late 2019 as the facility begins its transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to fully electric and fully MEB by the end of 2020. Annual volume of MEB-based electric cars out of Zwickau is expected be a staggering 330,000 vehicles per year. (For some context: In 2015, BMW’s South Carolina plant—which builds nearly all the SUVs that BMW sells globally—made about 400,000 cars. In other words, VW’s output of EVs is going to be huge, a gamble as big as the investment itself.)

Slide by VW

There are, of course, challenges with reliably obtaining all those batteries, which is why VW is working with not just LG and Samsung, but also battery companies SK Innovations and CATL.

To ensure a reliable supply chain when it comes to batteries, VW says it actually meets with LG’s board in Poland every second week to help get the company ready for cars. Thomas Ulbrich outlined the supply-chain related risks, with Automotive News Europe quoting him as saying:

“There are risks in third- and fourth-tier areas, especially in these new technologies. This is the reason why we created this task force with LG Chem,” Thomas Ulbrich, the VW brand’s management board member responsible for electric mobility, told reporters in Dresden, Germany.


“The battery cell availability is for us the base really to produce the cars,” Ulbrich said, “but we are taking care of it.”

As for other components, Ulbrich said VW in Europe would use primarily its existing supply chain used to build millions of VW Group products in Europe. He also said, when asked about building in the U.S. rather than Mexico, that VW feels responsible for “built in America,” mentioning that the U.S. has a stronger supply chain than its southern neighbor.


But we all know that one of the major issues that could bring VW’s lofty electrification plans to a halt is the lack of a charging network.

Among things the company mentioned on this topic was the debut of a new 11 kW “wall box” at-home charger that VW says will be available in all markets when the Neo launches, and will start at 300 euros in Europe. This is not dissimilar to the Wall Connector that Tesla sells for $500.

In addition, VW dealerships will become EV charging locations. “Our dealer will become a publicly available charging network,” VW’s head of e-mobility services Martin Römheld told journalists, going on to say that all 4,000 VW brand dealership and service centers in Europe must have two 11kW AC chargers and one 20kW DC charger by the time the ID “Neo” launches in 2020, and that every new dealer from here on must have those chargers as part of their plans. This is similar to what Nissan did for Leaf owners, with varying degrees of success.

Volkswagen also highlighted the fact that it—along with Ford, Daimler, and BMW—cofounded Ionity, a charging network in Europe that plans to build 400 stations by 2020 (47 are currently operational). And the Wolfsburg-based carmaker mentioned Electrify America—a company created as a part of the automaker’s Dieselgate settlement with the U.S. government—as a key to helping solve the infrastructure issue.

These are obviously tiny steps considering the vast expense associated with building EV infrastructure, but they’re at least something.

Is This The Platform That Brings EVs to the Masses?

The electric car revolution has already begun thanks in large part to government regulations and incentives in China, Europe, and even the U.S., and also thanks to solid EV offerings from Nissan, Chevrolet, and Tesla.

VW has clearly taken quite a bit out of the latter’s book with the flat skateboard-like battery, rear-wheel drive setup, and the mostly steel design. But while Tesla is relatively new at large scale manufacturing and learning as it goes, VW is a manufacturing powerhouse with clever platform-sharing skills, enormous volumes, and a diverse supply chain, so it will be interesting to see just how affordable the company can make EVs.

And, even more so, whether people will buy them, and whether infrastructure can keep up.

Tony Hartman Kok

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