Volkswagen is evidently not messing around when it comes to its 2030 plans. It’s easy to scoff at the fact that the brand isn’t going to fully phase out its ICE cars by then, as other manufacturers are doing. But then again many of those aren’t looking to create an end-to-end ecosystem which will support several brands under one Group umbrella.
Volkswagen is aiming to produce 240GWh worth of batteries before the end of the decade. To put that into perspective, the world’s current battery capacity is around that figure, and the entire UK car industry requires just 130GWh by 2040 according to an industry body.
VW will achieve this by building a series of gigafactories. Thomas Schmall, one of the Board of Managers for Technology at VW stated: “Together with partners, we want to have a total of six cell factories up and running in Europe by 2030 thus guaranteeing security of supply.”
At a total of 240GWh, VW’s six plants will rival Tesla’s single, colossal, Berlin plant.
The first two plants will be in the Swedish cities of Skellefteå, in collaboration with Northvolt, commencing production of new cells in 2023, and in Salzgitter, where VW’s existing plant will be upgraded to build its new unified cells (see below) by 2025. Each factory will have a capacity of 40GWh.
Volkswagen is developing a new ‘unified’ cell which it hopes will significantly reduce the cost of batteries, and therefore the cost of EVs themselves. “We aim to reduce the cost and complexity of the battery and at the same time increase its range and performance”, says Thomas Schmall, Volkswagen Group Board Member for Technology. “This will finally make e-mobility affordable and the dominant drive technology.”
VW reckons its new ‘prismatic unified cell’ technology can cut the overall cost of its volume EVs by 30 per cent and its entry-level EVs by 50 per cent with battery packs dipping below £85 per kWh. The Group’s aim is to power four out of five of its EVs from across its brands – such as Skoda, SEAT, Audi etc. – with the new cells. Whilst VW doesn’t mention it, it could theoretically sell space cell capacity to other non-group brands.
“We will use our economies of scale to the benefit of our customers when it comes to the battery too. On average, we will drive down the cost of battery systems to significantly below €100 per kilowatt hour. This will finally make e-mobility affordable and the dominant drive technology,” added Schmall.
Not content with securing its own supply of lithium-ion batteries, VW is driving forward with the development of new battery technology including solid-state. It reckons “the new prismatic unified cell offers the best conditions for the transition to the solid-state cell… by the middle of the decade”.
Something Tesla does really well is charging. Its supercharger network is simple, reliable, fast and located strategically to make long-distance travel easy. VW wants to compete and is partnering with BP in the UK, Iberdrola in Spain, and Enel in Italy, as well as continuing to have a hand in the IONITY network. By 2025, VW’s aim is to have a network of 18,000 fast chargers in Europe, delivered alongside these partners.
A total of 4000 150kW chargers will be built via BP and ARAL in the UK and Germany respectively, and Iberdrola and Enel in Spain and Italy. VW is investing 400 million euros in the plan between now and 2025. It is also working in the USA and China, aiming for 3500 fast-charging points in the US through Electrify America by the end of 2021, and 17,000 fast-charging points in China by 2025 through its CAMS joint venture.
Whilst Tesla uses its power wall and hasn’t currently got V2G enabled in its latest models, VW is looking to have its vehicles enabled to become part of the home energy system by 2022. Domestic solar power, for example, could be stored in an MEB-based car and used to help reduce reliance on the wider power grid.
Volkswagen is aiming to have its MEB platform ready to support this technology from 2022 and will offer a package of a bidirectional wall box and energy management module to customers.