Visionary I.D. heralds VW’s all-electric future

Published: 05 October 2016

► Production version of Volkswagen I.D. concept on sale in 2020
► Aggressively priced on a par with current diesel-powered Golfs
► Key player in VW’s goal of 1 million electric car sales by 2025

VW’s goal is to the global market leader is electric vehicle sales, with one million electric car sales by 2025,’ said VW boss Herbert Diess as he unveiled the I.D. – that car that will spearhead VW’s nascent reinvention – at the Paris motor show.

Looking relaxed and without a tie (so caaaasual) Diess was keen to talk about VW’s electric-powered future and how the beleaguered carmaker was undertaking the greatest change process in its history – and reinventing itself as the leader in sustainable mobility to tackle new rivals like Tesla and Apple.

Volkswagen I.D. concept

‘VW is facing some quite serious challenges, but we are getting back on track. We are looking to be more profitable and more futureproof,’ Diess told a packed audience on the stand. ‘VW is going electric and fully connected. This is a new era for VW. Electric is the new cool.’

To underline just how cool electric is (and perhaps how diesel isn’t) we were then treated to a five-minute video filled with lots of bright young things with shiny white teeth and active lifestyles, accompanied by uplifting music and a sonorous voiceover complete with catchy ‘Be The Change’ soundbites. 

This sounds very similar to the hype GM generated around Volt. And we know what happened there. Is the I.D. really going to be The Next Big Thing?

VW certainly thinks so, claiming it will as much of a game-changer as the Beetle and Golf before it. ‘It’s a real first car, not a compromised second car, and it will have strong residual values,’ says Diess.

That’s a lot of anticipatory weight for such a small car to carry, but the sleek and slinky I.D. is certainly armed with enough headline-grabbing features and technology to fend off any initial scepticism. 

So, here’s what we know:

  • It will be VW’s first compact car based on its much-vaunted new MEB Modular Electric Drive Kit. 
  • It’s 4100mm long (155mm shorter than a Golf), 1800mm wide, 1530mm high and features a 2750 mm wheelbase (the Passat’s measures 2791mm).
  • The lithium-ion batteries are housed in the floor to deliver Golf-exterior with Passat-interior dimensions, as well as balanced 48:52 front-to-rear weight distribution.
  • The rear features a multi-link axle with an integrated drive unit and decoupled subframe; the layout of the front suspension enables a high front wheel steering angle for an urban-friendly 9.9metre turning circle.
  • The batteries are capable of delivering a 360mile range on a single charge, with an 80% charge taking half an hour. Charging is by fully automatic wireless induction or by plug-in cable.
  • It’s the first-fully automated VW – the sophisticated I.D. Pilot employs 10 laser-scanners to navigate the car safely through traffic. Touching the VW logo on the steering wheel for three seconds activates the I.D. Pilot system with the steering wheel retracting itself into the dashboard to signify hands-free autonomous driving.
  • There’s no B-pillar – when closed the rear-hinged rear doors and traditionally-hinged front doors created a central pillar – and high-def cameras replace the wing mirrors.
  • The cabin – Open Space in VW lingo – features voice and gesture control. ‘No buttons, no switches, no sticks, just screens,’ says Diess.
  • Augmented reality head-up display combines navigation, entertainment and information and uses the entire windscreen as a display screen
  • It rolls on 20inch alloys shod with blue low-rolling resistance tyres
  • Intelligent lighting adopts different characteristics according to the car’s charge status and driving modes. The headlamps will, somewhat spookily, mimic a human eye to ‘look’ at you as you approach the car.
  • Each I.D. driver will have their own, errr, ID. This profile will contain the driver’s personal and driving preferences, connect the driver to their home and even allow parcels to be delivered to the car. Parcelforce won’t know what’s hit it…

So what don’t we know?

Details on the battery technology, charging process and recharge network are scant, and no one at VW is answering any questions.

Volkswagen I.D. concept

There’s no word on hard figures – outright performance or kerb weight – for example and while that 360-mile range sound groundbreaking just how far the I.D. would go in the real world remains to be seen.

Anything else to report?

Yes. VW also showcased its new Tiguan, which is now tipped to be one of the world’s best-selling SUVs. The soon-to-launched new e-Golf now has a better range – now up to 180miles. And don’t forget to check out how VW Group CEO Matthias Müller will be redefining his company’s global role in the automotive sector.

Click here for more stories from the 2016 Paris motor show

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars