In the “near future,” Volkswagen plans a fleet of more than 20 electrified vehicle models for the Chinese market.
As part of Volkswagen’s recent sustainability report, Prof. Dr. Jochem Heizmann wrote about the different requirements for the Chinese market and how Volkswagen plans to address them.
Heizmann, a member of Volkswagen’s group board of management with responsibility for China, expounded these plans in his essay, “Electrifying China With a Tailor-Made Efficiency Strategy.”
The strategy will include a wide selection of vehicles, said Heizmann, “from small cars to large sedans and SUVs, from plug-in hybrids to all-electric drives.”
But unlike Lexus, which recently declared that it will focus on hybrid over plug-in vehicles, Heizmann said Volkswagen will concentrate on plug-in hybrids.
“I think we should be aware that plug-in hybrid power is the best solution in the short and medium term. Perhaps the development of all-electric vehicles can be realized in the long run,” said Heizmann.
In order for electric vehicles to become more successful, Heizmann listed three concerns that need to be tackled. The first is to build a better rechargeable battery.
“We need to find solutions to facilitate the development of highly efficient batteries. And at component level we need to consider how to further improve energy conservation in both conventionally powered and electric models,” Heizmann said.
The price of electrified vehicles also needs to be reduced to more affordable levels that are on par with gas-only vehicles.
“For the time being, electric vehicle technologies are very costly, so customers need to obtain a government subsidy in order to purchase an electric vehicle,” explained Heizmann. “For one thing, battery technology costs need to be further reduced; for another, costs can also be reduced by increasing quantities or through volume production.
“We expect future electric vehicles to achieve the same price levels as conventional models.”
Developing a region-wide standard for charging stations is also vital to the success of electrified vehicles, said Heizmann.
“Our plug-in hybrids do not require special charging facilities and they can easily be charged overnight at ordinary household sockets,” Heizmann explained.
“However, when we consider all-electric vehicles, a fast-charging infrastructure should first be put in place. So for the future of electric mobility it is essential that common standards for fast charging should be defined immediately.
“China has not established any unified standard in this regard so far. Currently, for example, you cannot drive an all-electric vehicle from Beijing to Shanghai and rely on charging along the way. This is because the infrastructure has not been completed yet – and even once it is, the standard may not be universal.
“To this end, we need dependable, stable technologies. This way, in the future we can channel our development investments in the right direction and contribute towards advancing plug-in hybrid technologies.”
While the Chinese market differs from Europe and the U.S., Heizmann said that Volkswagen’s decision to add so many electrified vehicles is also due to China’s stricter emissions standards.
“The guideline to reduce CO2 emissions in China to a fleet fuel consumption of 5L [per 100 km], is even more challenging than the 95 g/km target for 2020 set by the European Union. The explanation is very simple: in China only 1 percent of cars have a diesel engine and there is a preference for more spacious vehicles which naturally are heavier,” said Heizmann.
Though meeting these emission standards is important, Heizmann said that design can’t be sacrificed for function.
“We cannot allow the electric car to be a compromise on wheels. It has to be perfect in every way – technically mature, practical, safe and affordable.”