VW CEO Müller: Automotive Future Must Not Be Left To Silicon Valley

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Matthias Müller

Matthias Müller

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Like many automakers, Volkswagen Group has had a research facility in Silicon Valley for many years.

In 2011, Its Electronics Research Laboratory--first launched in 1998--tripled its size and moved northward from Palo Alto to Belmont. It now has almost 100 people.

But new VW Group CEO Matthias Müller seems to find the Valley's growing expertise in automotive software and electric cars unsettling.

DON'T MISS: How Audi, BMW & Mercedes Plan To Compete With Tesla--And Why (Dec 2014)

Müller commented on the Valley during a presentation to "numerous honorary guests and EU parliamentarians" at the company's "traditional New Year reception" in Brussels, according to a VW Group press release.

The new CEO "demands," according to the release, that "Europe ... take the technological lead in future areas of the automotive sector, and work with policy makers to create the necessary framework conditions."

"We must not leave this playing field to Silicon Valley," Müller said.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf

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He urged that European "industrial companies and policy makers ... work more closely on the future of mobility in the EU."

Müller suggested that such cooperation was vital to ensure "Europe remains innovative and competitive as an industrial location in a rapidly changing world."

ALSO SEE: Germans Vs Tesla In High-End Electric Cars: Will Fast Charging Follow In Time?

By way of example, he said, "Europe desperately needs an extensive network of 150 kW rapid charging stations."

Customer trust in electric cars can only grow "if there is a visible, functioning infrastructure," he said.

Tesla Motors Supercharger network in the U.S. - map as of January 2016

Tesla Motors Supercharger network in the U.S. - map as of January 2016

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The group's electric cars, whether from Audi, Porsche, or Volkswagen, will use the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) protocol for fast charging.

That standard is backed by every German and U.S. carmaker.

CHECK OUT: Electric-Car Fast-Charging Networks: Competition Heats Up

California has long had 50-kilowatt DC fast charging using the CHAdeMO protocol for Nissan Leaf electric cars, and it is now seeing CCS quick-charging stations roll out as well.

Virtually all new DC quick-charging stations for electric cars are now built with one CHAdeMO and one CCS cable, allowing any electric car fitted with quick charging (except Tesla) to recharge its battery to 80 percent of capacity in about 30 minutes.

Infographic for 100 CCS fast-charging stations to open during 2015, funded by BMW, VW, ChargePoint

Infographic for 100 CCS fast-charging stations to open during 2015, funded by BMW, VW, ChargePoint

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While CHAdeMO and CCS presently top out around 50 kW, most new sites have "future-proofed" electrical infrastructure capable of providing higher power in the future.

Müller's reference to Silicon Valley likely alludes to the unlikely emergence of electric-car startup Tesla Motors, which has sold roughly 100,000 electric luxury cars since 2008.

MORE: Audi Q6 e-Tron Electric Car To Offer 150-kW Quick Charging Sites

Tesla has also built its own Supercharger network of DC fast-charging sites, for use only by Tesla drivers on long-distance trips, that can operate at 125 kilowatts and above.

Meanwhile, VW Group's Audi luxury brand has promised that it will offer a 150-kw fast-charging network in the U.S. by the time its Q6 e-Tron Quattro battery-electric SUV launches in 2018.

Audi of America president Scott Keogh with Audi e-Tron Quattro Concept, 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

Audi of America president Scott Keogh with Audi e-Tron Quattro Concept, 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

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How that promise will be met remains one of the more interesting questions surrounding the accelerating German move into battery-electric vehicles by 2020.

The Silicon Valley worries probably also refer to Apple's "Project Titan," rumored to be an effort to develop its own electric car, and Google's longstanding work in self-driving cars.

None of those companies emerged from the legacy auto industry in Detroit, Germany, or Japan--and from his new office in Wolfsburg, it appears that Müller worries about that.

In the intervals, anyhow, between taking the reins of the sprawling global automaker and dealing with the continuing fall out from its U.S. diesel-emission cheating scandal.

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