Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept live photos, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Volkswagen plans to take full advantage of the SAE-approved CCS Combo-plug standard for fast charging. It's so committed to the standard, in fact, that it plans to include Combo-plug capability on every plug-in vehicle, looking ahead.
Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s U.S. CEO, confirmed the feature this past week at the Detroit Auto Show as we pointed to the port on the Cross Coupe GTE mid-size SUV concept. Horn said that it adds the capability for “very fast” charging—perhaps in the vicinity of 15 minutes to 80 percent for a vehicle like the Cross Coupe GTE, as it was shown with its 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
“Our future plug-ins will be on Combo, and you will see a strong commitment for Combo,” said VW’s U.S. product chief Joerg Sommer in a separate Q&A at the show.
Sommer added that VW is adding Combo fast chargers at its U.S. dealerships, and it’s thinking about investing in public fast charging in ‘hot spots’ of plug-in customers.
Fast-charging could add appeal to plug-in hybrids
As VW seeks economies of scale with some core vehicle-electrification components like motors, battery packs, and other hardware that’s used across electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the move could prove especially attractive to a certain kind of plug-in hybrid shopper—those like the idea of a pure electric vehicle and are especially driven to minimize their use of gasoline.
Data profiling drivers of plug-in hybrid models has quite consistently shown that they’re plugging in far more than both automakers and electric-vehicle experts originally expected.
2015 Ford C-Max Energi
Ford, which only offers 110V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) charging in its plug-ins, even found that those with its C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid products were plugging in both more and more often than those with its Ford Focus Energi electric car—counterintuitive, as those with the all-electric model didn’t have the security and far longer potential range of a gasoline engine backing them up.
Relating to the charging patterns it was seeing, and use of midday charging, a Ford executive even called it the ‘gamification’ of plugging in and ‘staying on the grid.’
GM has said that owners of the Chevrolet Volt complete more than 80 percent of their trips—and more than 60 percent of their overall mileage—on electricity alone. Yet not even the upcoming 2016 Chevrolet Volt has added fast-charging availability.
Not all automakers convinced
2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid
Volvo, for instance, has no plans to offer fast charging on its upcoming XC90 plug-in hybrid, confirmed North American brand manager Frank Vacca, because it’s simply not expecting owners to plug in more than twice a day: at home and/or at work. Charging times on 240V from empty will take as little as 2.5 hours, Vacca reminded us, hinting that fast charging involves expensive additional hardware.
That largely parallels the argument we’ve heard from other automakers with plug-in hybrid models. Many owners, after all, may drive more often in hybrid mode—perhaps charging in their garage overnight but not paying heed to it during the day.
On the other hand, if VW can thrill those ‘gamification’ plug-in hybrid owners by letting them top off their batteries when they’re grabbing lunch picking up a bag of groceries, it adds up to a potentially game-changing advantage.