UPDATE: The very premise of this piece has been shaken when Volkswagen told the original source of this report, Automotive News, that its chief executive had misstated the number of MEB vehicles it now planned to eventually build to be 50 million, not 15 million. The latter is not surprising based on previous targets that had already been released.
Accordingly, we've changed those references in our piece.
Volkswagen already had ambitious goals to ramp up electric-vehicle production to a rate of up to three million EVs annually by 2025, and potentially hit 10 million vehicles around 2027 if all goes right. But its plans look even more bullish on electric cars, considering the number of vehicles it's now supposedly signed up to build over a longer stretch of years: 15 million.
Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess, speaking to Automotive News, in an interview from October 31 but published yesterday, said that the company has already sourced the batteries for 15 million electric cars to be built on the modular electric (MEB) platform alone—not counting additional premium-brand vehicles that will be built on other platforms.
Although it’s not entirely clear what Diess means by “sourced,” the statement implies that VW has made a significant, long-term commitment to some combination of battery-tech companies, cell suppliers, and raw-materials sources.
VW Battery Packs
There’s one frustrating piece Diess didn’t place on this—the timeline. Volkswagen officials have confirmed that the MEB platform could be produced into the next decade—but it’s likely that in the early 2030s it would be replaced by a second-generation platform.
By 2025 Volkswagen aims to have 50 distinct battery electric vehicles, and for 25 percent of all VW Group vehicles to be powered solely by electricity. By 2030 it plans to have at least one electric version of every one of the group’s more than 300 models.
Building 50 million vehicles will take a lot of dedicated assembly space. The company is in the process of choosing 16 global hubs for that. The first of those will be in Zwickau, Germany, where next year VW plans to begin transitioning the plant to all-electric vehicles on the MEB platform. The plant will go all electric by 2021.
VW MEB platform
Diess cast some question on likelihood of using the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant for electric-vehicle assembly. While a board member Thomas Ulbrich suggested some weeks ago that it was the preferred spot for North America, Diess said that the plant is too small and it’s considering various options.
The VW chief executive also said that, for the foreseeable future, the battery pack will be more expensive than an internal-combustion powertrain—so there’s an incentive to lower those costs sooner with higher production volumes.
In Tesla’s third-quarter conference call last month, chief executive officer Elon Musk called the global demand for Model 3 “anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million cars a year.” Even if Tesla could make about that many Model Y crossovers, or increase production by lowering prices, Volkswagen could soon pass the California electric-car maker.
The first wave of 10 million electric vehicles, by the way, doesn’t quite reach the number (11 million) of diesel vehicles that it’s admitted to rigging for more favorable emissions-test results. Although it's too early to tell, VW could end up outdoing itself—in a good way.