Volkswagen ID.3: electric VW goes live in Frankfurt - read the full story

Published: 11 September 2019

► Volkswagen's ID.3 priced from £26k
► 3 name leaves space above and below
► Size of a Golf, interior space of Passat  

Volkswagen is calling its new ID.3 EV its most important car since the Beetle and Golf and we were there to watch the covers come off at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show, revealing the final production version.

But as well as viewing its official public debut, we've been speaking to the people who developed and visiting the factory that will build it to bring you the latest news on the electric VW that promises to spark a revolution.

The ID.3 is the first of a new generation of bespoke Volkswagen EVs scheduled for production, and therefore the first of the brand’s new ID series.

Where does the ID.3 fit into the VW range?

'In a nutshell the ID.3 is as compact as a Golf, has the interior space of a Passat, and the [performance] punch of a Golf GTI,' said Ralf Brandstatter, VW's COO for passenger cars. 'It has a range of up to 550km [342 miles] which means it can go a full week [of driving] without recharging. The ID.3 is the first car worldwide with a carbon neutral footprint to the customer. It will be the must-have for the generations to come.'

VW ID.3 at the Frankfurt motor show 2019 - front view, grey

VW says this car's MEB electric platform will lead a transformation of the company's line-up - and could eventually underpin nearly every possible Volkswagen model in the future, from Polo to Passat, SUVs and more. VW has already confirmed it will build an MEB-based electric van. No wonder bosses claim they'll soon be producing 15 million vehicles based on ID hardware by 2028.

Why are the new electric Volkswagens called ID?

Jürgen Stackmann, VW board member for sales, marketing and aftersales, described the meaning behind the name: 'We are starting from the centre, the Volkswagen brand’s core, in which the majority of the models and sales volume can be found.’

He added that ‘the number 3 also signals expandability into the segments above and below it. We have a lot in the pipeline. The brand is willing to become the number one brand globally by 2025, with more than 20 purely electrically driven models and more than a million vehicles sold annually, all of which being both networked and emission-free.'

VW ID.3 at the Frankfurt motor show 2019 - rear view, grey

'It is launching at exactly the right time,' he told us in Frankfurt. 'We are fulfilling the promise of keeping what consumers like in today’s cars - which is a car with the technology and reliability of a Volkswagen - and a very, very fresh and new design and a zero-emission footprint. We have reached more than 33,000 [pre-bookers] so far. It’s rising daily. And we expect it to go even further after people see the car at Frankfurt.'

Big plans, then… 

That’s an understatement. The new ID.3 hatch is the first of 50 (yes, five zero) EVs due from the VW Group between now and 2025. 

While Golf-sized, this five-door hatchback has a markedly different vibe from the evergreen Golf. The design is very cutesy, with a front end much like the cuddly medical robot, Baymax, from Disney's Big Hero 6. The eye-like headlights remain, to a degree, from the concept – all cars have full-LED headlights as standard. Buyers also get a choice of 18-, 19- or 20-inch wheels.

Note the long wheelbase and really short overhangs - designed to give the hatchback maximum interior space for minimum exterior footprint (one of the useful packaging benefits of an EV architecture).

Inside the VW ID factory

Ahead of the ID.3’s official unveiling, CAR’s James Taylor was among the first journalists in the world to see the first ‘pre-series’ cars being built at the Zwickau factory in eastern Germany, and he's sent us this brief report.

VW !D.3 being assembled in the factory - worker under bonnet

Full ID.3 production commences in November 2019. Meanwhile, 2000 ‘pre-series’ cars are being constructed for crash tests, endurance testing and quality checks. When CAR visited at the close of August 2019, 200 ID.3s had been built thus far. 

Zwickau currently has a split personality, part new electric car factory, part outgoing combustion engine car plant, as the final remaining Golf Mk7 hatches and estates are being completed.

VW !D.3 being assembled in the factory - bare chassis

When we see the first ID.3s travelling down the final production line conveyer belt (lightly dripping with water having exited a monsoon booth to check seals against rainwater ingress), there’s the surreal juxtaposition of a steady stream of old-worlde Golfs on one line, and an intermittent trickle of new MEB-platform EVs on another line right next door. 

Once mass production is in full swing a new ID.3 will cross the production finish-line every 1.5 minutes.

VW !D.3 being assembled in the factory - rear view, surrounded by robots

We see the ‘marriage’ between the MEB platform and the ID.3 bodyshell – the latter quite simply lowered onto the former (with its axles already in place), and secured by giant screws robotically inserted beneath, before human technicians complete the final steps. At full pace, the entire wedding will take only 1.4 minutes.

The Zwickau factory is the first VW factory to be converted to full EV production. There will be a further seven MEB production locations worldwide, but VW promises Zwickau will be the ‘largest, highest-performance electric car plant in Europe.’

VW !D.3 being assembled in the factory - completed car

VW has invested €880m in the plant; more than 1600 new robots have been installed, five new buildings completed, seven more in construction and thousands of training sessions to retrain its existing employees in MEB production.

What's it like inside the car?

Clean, simple and neatly-arranged are the messages the ID.3’s interior give off. The dashboard itself is free from clutter and a large centre console is filled with storage cubbies, with VW adding that only the window switches and hazard warning light switch are physical buttons; the rest are done via the steering wheel or the infotainment screen. The play and pause accelerator and brake pedals from the ID concepts have made it to production, too. 

We've sat inside the ID.3 and it feels modern, very Volkswagen and yet less cluttered than today's cabins.

The ID.3 has a central instrument panel and a high-mounted 10.0-inch infotainment display with an all-new system for occupants to use. Like recent infotainment developments from other brands, the ID.3’s infotainment system responds to natural voice commands by saying ‘Hello ID’ and has live navigation update capabilities. On the options list is an augmented reality head-up display. 

What’s the power and range like? 

VW is offering flexibility with the ID.3, providing three battery sizes and two e-motor power derivatives depending on what buyers want: 45, 58 and 77kWh for the former and 110kW and 150kW for the latter. 

With regards to power, that translates to either 148bhp or 201bhp, both producing 229lb ft. Expect 0-62mph in around seven seconds via the single e-motor, sent to the rear wheels. Twin-motor and AWD modesl will be coming later. 

As for range, VW claims 205, 261 and 342 miles under WLTP conditions for the three battery sizes. Every ID.3 has at least 100kW charging capacity, with around 161 miles charged in 30 minutes. VW also guarantees the battery pack for eight years or 100,000 miles and ‘1st’ models benefit from a year/2000kWh of free charging.

The warranty will guarantee that the ID.3’s battery unit will retain at least 70% of its charge, over the above time limit and mileage. It’s another example of the old guard playing to its strengths, and offering peace of mind it feels competitors may not be able to. 

Can it carry people and things? 

Well, given the MEB platform’s space benefits, fitting five people should be easy. However, VW also says the boot space is rated at 385 litres, which is more akin to a Polo than a Golf.

What about ID.3 specs and prices?

The launch model is badged VW ID.3 1st, with regular, Plus or Max trims - progressively adding smarter lights, bi-colour design and clever features such as an augmented reality head-up display and large panoramic sunroof. The 1st model uses the mid-range 58kWh battery.

'For the ID.3, the starting price of the standard model in Germany will be under €30,000 [£25,800], as promised,’ said Stackmann, ‘The special edition will cost less than €40,000 [£34,400] in Germany. At these prices, the car is also economically viable. The purchasing costs are slightly higher than those of a combustion vehicle, but the e-vehicle is considerably more economical in terms of maintenance, for example about 30 percent in terms of maintenance. This means electric mobility is becoming available to the masses.'

The first deliveries will start in 2020.

Electric Volkswagens: what’s next?

You can read more about VW’s ongoing plans for EV domination, here. We'll update this story when we know more. 

Further electric car reading

The best electric cars and EVs on sale today

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Future electric cars: upcoming EVs to look out for

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches