Volkswagen is intent on becoming the world’s leading automaker by 2018 and that means being the top dog in every segment, including hybrid and electric vehicles. In fact, the automaker is so serious about its electric car efforts that it recently announced plans to start building its own electric powertrains, and enlisted the help of Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard.
Eberhard is the electric vehicle engineering director at Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California, and speaking recently with Autocar he predicted that within the next 10 years electric vehicles will have a range of 500 miles or more. He went on to explain that at the point the further development of fast charging infrastructure will be unnecessary as most drivers rarely drive more than 500 miles in a day.
At ERL, Eberhard’s main focus is the development of the lithium-ion battery packs for the Golf blue-e-motion and E-Up all-electric vehicles--both of which are destined for trials and eventual sale in the U.S. The batteries being developed at ERL are the 18650-type lithium-ion cells commonly found in laptops and they will also be used for the more premium Audi e-tron electric vehicles as well.
Eberhard explained that the common 18650-type battery is at the forefront of electrical storage technology. There’s also a cost factor; the 18650-type battery, for example, costs about half of that used by the Nissan Leaf.
Incidentally, in addition to electric drive systems, the engineers at ERL are also working on new driver assistance systems and human-machine interface technologies, as well as improving the multimedia functionality and connectivity for the different Volkswagen Group brands. Some of its latest developments, for example, are the autonomous Audis that competed in the DARPA Challenge as well as the Google Earth functionality for the sat-nav systems featured in the new Audi A8 and A7 models.