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Volkswagen electric cars: what you need to know

Published: 14 December 2021

Your Volkswagen ID sub-brand briefing
► Full range of EVs both present and future
► Plus, the tech and the factory behind VW ID

Volkswagen’s electric car division is called ID and began with the ID Concept of 2016, which arrived in dealerships three years later as the ID.3. This laid the foundations for the ID range, giving Volkswagen space to add electric cars above and below the Golf-sized ID.3 – and to potentially stretch its legs beyond a numerical naming system for the upcoming ID Buzz and ID Vizzion.

Once complete, the ID range will stretch from one to seven, with space for niche additions like the Buzz minivan and Buzz Cargo commercial van. So far, all models of ID have been built on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform, which is also used by Audi, SEAT and Škoda.

Performance variants of the ID range are also on the way, carrying a GTX suffix to denote their sportier character, quicker acceleration and dual-motor, all-wheel-drive configuration. The first of these warmed-up EVs was the ID.4 GTX, with the ID.5 GTX coming in 2022.

Once the ID range is padded out, VW will turn its attention to what’s currently known as Project Trinity. A flagship EV, this is set to arrive in 2026 and will usher in a new generation of electric cars with a focus on longer range, increased autonomy, and a shift in the way cars are built and sold. More on that later.

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The first couple of years of Volkswagen’s ID brand have been promising. Volkswagen's push for electric mobility would certainly appear to have been successful during 2020, with the brand delivering almost three times as many pure-electric vehicles as it did the year before.

Despite the obvious challenges presented by 2020, VW delivered nearly 134,000 electric vehicles, and 212,000 electrified cars in total (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids). That's an increase of 197% and 158% respectively.

VW's chief operating officer Ralf Brandstätter said: '2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility.

'We are well on track to achieve our aim of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles.'

In October 2021, VW reported more than 144,000 orders for the ID.3 to date, with 70,000 of those coming from buyers who hadn’t previously owned a Volkswagen. 

The ID range: Volkswagen's EVs explained

The electric ID brand is as significant to Volkswagen as the Beetle was in 1945 and the original Golf in 1974. In their different ways, they transformed the company. Can ID do the same at a time when VW is still being buffeted by the aftershocks of Dieselgate

Each of the ID models, which will range from A-segment through to a saloon, SUV and a seven-seater, will have 'the interior space of the class above’, explained Andreas Köhler of the MEB’s electronic project management team. 

With an anticipated 10 million vehicle sales across all VW Group brands during the first wave of electrification (and up to 22m by the end of the 2020s), there’s been considerable focus on component sharing and cost cutting. The use of an all-steel platform will help; it’s far cheaper than a lightweight aluminium alternative.

But the big cost challenge will be in the less familiar area of battery costs. As VW makes the transition from internal combustion to electrification, it needs to not only master the use of batteries but secure a reliable, cost-effective supply of the raw materials, while being on the lookout for technical advances.

VW ID.1

VW is building a small electric city car. CAR first predicted the model in the summer of 2020, with the brand officially confirming the new model at its annual conference in March 2021. It's slated to go into production in 2025 to replace the Up, with an entry price of around £17,000.

VW ID.2

We likely got our first glimpse of the ID.2 when VW pulled the covers off the ID.Life concept car at the 2021 IAA Mobility show (or the Munich motor show, to you and us). Making use of the MEB platform in its smallest configuration yet, the ID.Life previews a compact city car due to go into production in 2025. It has a 54kWh battery good for a range of 248 miles, VW says, and the company is targeting an aggressive price point of just 20,000 Euros.

VW ID.3

The VW ID.3 was the first of Volkswagen’s new ID electric car family, and entered production in 2020.What does ID stand for? Ignore dieselgate? Not quite; instead we're told it stands for 'intelligent design, identity and visionary technologies.'

It doesn’t really matter either way, but what is important is just how big VW thinks the ID brand will be; it’s calling the ID.3 the third major chapter after the Beetle and the Golf. That's a big claim.

The ID.3 will have a CO2 balance of zero. ‘We have investigated the supply chain. Our suppliers use green energy. Our Zwickau factory has already changed to green energy. Elsewhere we will use a compensation scheme [ie carbon trading],’says VW electrification chief Thomas Ulbrich. But other aspects of the grand plan were still, he said, works in progress, for example whether the owner of an ID will use green electricity, and the recycling of the car.

id3 convertible sketch

On top of that, VW has dreamt up an ID.3 convertible. While just a flight of fancy for now, Brandstätter and CEO Herbert Diess have both expressed their interest in developing one.

Read our review of the VW ID.3 review here

VW ID.4

The second model in Volkswagen’s ID range of electric cars, the 4 is a crossover SUV based on the firm’s electric MEB platform.

The ID.4 takes inspiration from the ID Crozz concept of 2017 and arrived internationally in 2021. Battery options are 52kWh and 77kWh, with power outputs of between 146bhp and 201bhp, and range spanning from 213 miles to 322 miles depending on the configuration you choose.

These single-motor, rear-drive cars are joined by high-performance GTX and GTX Max variants with dual-motor, all-wheel-drive outputs of up to 295bhp and a range of up to 301 miles.

As for charging, VW claims a top-up from five to 80 per cent takes as little as 38 minutes when using a 100kW DC charger.

Read our VW ID.4 review here

VW ID. 5

Another model inspired by the ID Crozz concept. The ID.5 is essentially a coupe-SUV version of the ID.4, with a shallower and sleeker silhouette while still offering the ID.4's practicality inside.

Going on sale in the first few months of 2022, the ID.5 arrives with three power outputs and only the larger 77kWh of the ID4’s two battery options. VW claims up to 323 miles of range, dropping to 298 miles for the more powerful, dual-motor GTX model.

VW ID.6

The new ID.6 a is purely aimed at the Chinese market – so much so, that it won’t be on sale anywhere else. As you can probably tell from the name, the ID.6 will slot above the hatchback-sized ID.3 and the more crossover sized ID.4. It'll seat seven.

The familiar 58kWh and 77kWh battery options from other ID models are seen here too, but with claimed range increased to 271 and 365 miles respectively.

VW ID Vizzion

The 2018 Geneva motor show brought a fourth concept example, the super-sleek VW ID Vizzion. 

The ID Vizzion follows the original the ID hatch (which became the ID.3), the ID Crozz coupe-SUV and the ID Buzz van/MPV, and immediately establishes itself as a strong contender for the ID with the daftest name.

In terms of looks, the Vizzion is perhaps the least outlandish ID model yet – but with absolutely no hint of a steering wheel or pedals inside and lots of talk of artificial intelligence-led autonomous driving, it totally gets its futuristic mojo back when it comes to technology.

VW ID Buzz

Volkswagen has committed to bringing its Microbus minivan back from the dead – as a heavily stylised, all-electric fashion wagon. We first saw the reborn MPV as the ID Buzz concept back in 2017, and VW has since said it will bring an electric minivan – and a commercial version currently called the ID. Buzz Cargo – to market.

Again based on the scalable MEB platform, the ID. Buzz is rumoured to be badged as the ID.7 when it arrives later in 2022, and will offer seven or eight seats across three rows. Likely to share its motors with the ID.4, range is expected to be well in excess of 300 miles, and to that end VW has previously hinted at the battery being as large as 111kWh.It's due in showrooms in 2022 and will be based heavily on the ID Buzz concept car

VW ID Space Vizzion

vw id space vizzion

Codenamed Aero 2, the production version of the ID Space Vizzion – an all-electric estate – will arrive in 2023. A Vizzion but with more space – see what they did there? – this EV is an estate version of the regular ID Vizzion concept from 2018.

VW ID. Buggy

After the ID range of cars reaches full fruition (meaning everything from ID.1 to ID.7), Volkswagen is considering adding more niche EVs to its range to inject a bit of fun into the mix. Volkswagen brought out a concept to resurrect the buggy as an electric ID model, with CEO Herbert Diess saying at the 2019 Geneva motor show that it was considering launching it by collaborating with third parties to make such niche cars viable. However, CAR insiders say the project has been canned, after a deal with Aachen-based e:Go Mobility fell through due to e:Go filing for insolvency.

VW ID Ruggedzz

vw id ruggedzz

Instead of the ID Buggy, VW is considering launching a tough, small 4x4 codenamed Ruggedzz in 2025. Designed to be a rufty-tufty off-roader with e-power, the Ruggedzz will be cheap to build, easy to clean, flexible and affordable to run – aimed at the young outdoors and lifestyle crowd. This project, however, could be handed over to Skoda.


What is Project Trinity?

vw ralf brandstatter

The next step of the electric onslaught. While the ID range is the start, VW says Trinity will be all of the elements it's developed in the first range of cars boiled down into one entity, arriving in 2026. It's linked to Audi's Project Artemis but, while Audi's project is more for developing electric luxury cars for itself, Porsche and Bentley, VW is focusing on the accessible end of the market. 'This technology must not become the preserve of a select elite, which is why we are scaling it to make it available for many people,' VW's Ralf Brandstätter said during the 2021 annual conference.

Tangible details and imagery are scarce, but VW says Trinity will offer Level 2+ autonomous driving from launch (already the market standard, really), with the technology in-built to upgrade that to Level 4. On top of that, Trinity will be the framework for driving forward Car-to-X technology, allowing all of the brand's cars on the road to talk to each other – that detail could make a huge difference to Level 4 autonomy being safe and successful.

As well as Level 4 autonomy and a claimed range of over 400 miles, Project Trinity will bring about a change in how VW cars are sold. This will see the Trinity delivered in a largely standardised form, with the owner able to purchase and unlock additional software features at a later date – a bit like adding extra functionality to a smartphone by purchasing an app.Trinity will be built on VW’s new Scalable Systems Platform (SSP), which will be even more customisable than the current MEB platform used by ID vehicles.


Electric Volkswagens: the new ID EV tech explained

VW's new MEB electric car architecture will be used in 27 VW Group electric vehicles by 2022

With an anticipated 10 million vehicle sales across all VW Group brands during the first wave of electrification (and up to 22m by the end of the 2020s), there’s been considerable focus on component sharing and cost cutting. The use of an all-steel platform will help; it’s far cheaper than a lightweight aluminium alternative.

But the big cost challenge will be in the less familiar area of battery costs. As VW makes the transition from internal combustion to electrification, it needs to not only master the use of batteries but secure a reliable, cost-effective supply of the raw materials, while being on the lookout for technical advances.

CAR lives with a VW Golf GTE plug-in hybrid

How VW ID electric cars work

VW's Christian Senger told CAR: ‘Today 40% of an EV’s cost is the battery, and while the cost of components like electric motors and power electronics has halved we won’t achieve cost parity until 2025, not before. We have to reduce battery costs but in the meantime reducing complexity by simplifying the architecture is a move in the right direction.’

Like the MEB, the battery pack is modular. According to the new WLTP assessment, the entry-level battery will offer 200 miles of range. The next step up is around 270 miles.

A third, yet to be confirmed, is expected to hold enough charge to offer a 340-mile range. 

The lithium-ion batteries (above) are still undergoing development, according to Dr Armin Modlinger, responsible for developing cell technology for all the VW brands; he’s based at the pilot line for battery cell production in Salzgitter. VW is using both prismatic and pouch cells for the most efficient packaging and easier handling. ‘We need to increase the energy density to improve range by adding more nickel to the cathode and silicon to the anode,’ he said. 

Crucially, because the ID range will be built on a global scale, including the USA and China, the batteries are ‘cell agnostic’ – able to accommodate locally produced cells.

According to Modlinger, solid-state batteries – with their improved safety and higher energy density – are not likely to appear until the end of the 2020s.

ID is not just about electrification. They are the first VWs to be permanently connected to the cloud via 4G, and are being future-proofed for 5G. VW has developed a completely new end-to-end electronics architecture, branded E3, together with the new vw.OS operating system allowing the car’s software to be remotely updated. 

Volkswagen is about to start mass-producing its own electric car batteries

A trio of separate application servers control various functions on the car: an infotainment server for third-party apps; an autonomous driving server; and a third server that is only accessible via VW’s digital platform.

How will you charge the ID range? 

VW is part of the Ionity partnership with Daimler, BMW and Ford, which plans to open hundreds of charging sites with an average of six charge points per site across Europe. As of December 2021, there are 1,538 Ionity chargers at 388 locations across Europe, with a further 37 locations under construction. Ionity stations are able to charge at up to 350kW and 920 volts, exceeding what most electric cars are currently capable of receiving.; as demand and technology evolve, these will be able to charge at up to 350kW and 920 volts.

Senger dismissed concerns about battery recycling and the prospect of a dead li-ion battery mountain, revealing that VW is working with both universities and industry to develop recycling processes that will recover 97% of the batteries’ chemicals, although that is unlikely to emerge before 2025 when there are sufficient EVs on the road to make it financially viable. 

‘Before then we could just replace any cells that fail and rebalance the battery or remove the battery and use it for stationary storage – there will be  a huge market for this as the pricing is higher than in the automotive value chain.’

Credit where it’s due: hasn’t VW been forced into this by  Elon Musk and Tesla?’ Senger says: ‘Tesla proved that people like EVs and that it’s not just about being CO2 compliant. If Model 3 had been on time – yes, that would have been a serious threat.’

Further electric car reading

The best electric cars and EVs on sale today

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The best hybrids, plug-ins and PHEVs

Wireless electric car charging

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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