Volkswagen presently sells just one all-electric car under its own brand in multiple markets, the e-Golf electric variant of its well-known five-door compact hatchback.
But in the wake of continuing fallout from the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the company is wrenching itself toward a more electric future.
It has just released the first renderings of the electric-car concept it will unveil tomorrow at the Paris Motor Show, to be called "I.D."
To underscore just how much of a change VW expects the car to represent, it's comparing the car to the original Beetle—with the theme, "Think New," echoing that car's famous "Think Small" ads half a century ago.
This "iconic design study" is intended to signal "the brand's entry into a new era," Volkswagen says, and the concept is "as revolutionary as the Beetle was seven decades ago before it evolved into the world's best-selling car of the century."
The concept "has the potential to make history" as the first high-volume electric vehicle from the German brand. And this time around, the car isn't retro-cute but a smoothly shaped five-door hatchback with the well-known round VW symbol on the nose
The concept vehicle will be the first vehicle produced on the MEB architecure for compact-sized electric cars that the company discussed last year.
VW says the production version will arrive in 2020, to be sold alongside the Golf, with a range of 400 to 600 kilometers (250 to 375 miles) on a single battery charge.
Because the European test cycle is notoriously gentle, that might translate to ranges of perhaps 200 to 300 miles under the U.S. EPA test cycles and adjustment factors.
The VW ID will have a motor output of 125 kilowatts (168 horsepower),the company says, and from 2025, will offer fully autonomous driving.
Volkswagen has said it plans to launch 30 new electric models across multiple brands between now and 2025.
Two weeks ago, it released three teaser photos of the concept, showing portions of sketches that it says were made for the project.
Unsurprisingly, those carried numerous design elements that are instantly identifiable as Volkswagen hallmarks.
Those include large circular "VW" badges, headlights with pointed inside edges, and taillights that wrap around the corners of the rear.
It appears to have slightly more rounded corners and edges on the classic square-cut Volkswagen shape, but the full form of the vehicle remains unknown.
Another technical advance promised by VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller is DC fast-charging to recharge the battery pack to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes.
That would require considerably higher-rate current delivery under the Combined Charging System (CCS) protocol than has yet been adopted by that standard's working group.
While the car is expected to fall squarely in what Europeans call the C-segment, or compact size, it will likely have the interior volume of a much larger vehicle—VW calls it an "entirely new spatial experience"—than its footprint would indicate.
That underscores the packaging advantages of a tall and upright hatchback sitting on a dedicated electric-vehicle architecture, as the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV demonstrates.
GM's upcoming electric hatchback contains 94.4 cubic feet of interior volume, more than the Nissan Leaf and roughly equal to that of the far larger Tesla Model S.
Volkswagen Budd-e ConceptEnlarge Photo
While VW calls the ID production car "the first Volkswagen in a completely new fleet of highly innovative electric vehicles," some reports indicate that it may not be the very first dedicated electric vehicle from the brand.
According to the British publication Autocar and other sources, the first of five dedicated electric Volkswagens to go on sale will be a production version of the well-received Budd-e "electric Microbus" shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated numerous times as VW released more information.]