2016 Volkswagen e-Golf
The Volkswagen diesel-emission cheating scandal has caused executive heads to roll, cars to be yanked off sale, and regulators to pore over real-world emission data with a laser-like focus.
It has made the future of the VW Group as the world's largest carmaker seem far more perilous than it did just one month ago.
This morning, the company's board of directors released a statement laying out its plans to move forward, even as it cuts capital investments by 1 billion Euros ($1.14 billion) to cope with the crisis.
It contains a laundry list of adjustments to VW's planned future technology investments, including more focus on electrified drivetrains.
First, Volkswagen said that it will sell only the cleanest diesel vehicles in Europe and North America.
"Diesel vehicles will only be equipped with exhaust emissions systems that use the best environmental technology" in those markets, which is Selective Catalytic Reduction--also known as urea injection. (The rest of the world, however, will apparently not be quite so lucky.)
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car
Second, the company will further develop its high-volume MQB architecture, the front-wheel-drive toolkit on which the VW Golf and Audi A3 are now built.
VW has said in the past it will offer up to two dozen future models on this architecture, totaling up to 4 million vehicles a year globally.
"The focus is on plug-in hybrids with an even greater range [and] high-volume electric vehicles with a radius of up to 300 kilometers," according to the board statement.
There will also be versions with a 48-volt power system, for enhanced start-stop and mild-hybrid applications, along with "ever more efficient diesel, petrol and CNG concepts."
More specifically, VW Group will develop a new "MEB Modular Toolkit" for future compact vehicles. The company's statement on that new architecture reads, in full:
An MEB electric toolkit for future use in compact segment vehicles is to be developed based on the experience gained with existing vehicle architectures. This will be a multi-brand toolkit suitable for both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and will thus leverage synergies from other electric vehicle projects in the Group.
2016 Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid
2016 Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid
The standardized system will be designed for all body structures and vehicle types, thus allowing particularly emotional vehicle concepts, and will enable an all-electric range of 250 to 500 kilometers.
In other words, electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles with longer electric ranges will have their own dedicated architecture (though likely derived in some aspects from the existing MQB toolkit).
That's a significant advance from a company whose director of diesel programs sneered openly at hybrids just five years ago, saying smarter consumers would buy clean diesels instead.
Today, there are just four plug-in vehicles of any type in production on the MQB architecture--and only two of them are offered in North America.
Those are the Volkswagen e-Golf hatchback, a battery-electric model with an EPA-rated range of 83 miles, and the Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid whose official electric range hasn't yet been released.
That same plug-in hybrid system is used in two models on sale only in Europe, the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Passat GTE. (The U.S. Passat is a different vehicle from the newer-generation Passat now sold in Germany.)