Few manufacturers have made such a broad commitment to pure battery-electric propulsion as Volkswagen, the German automaker in the midst of a $12 billion program that will lead to nearly 50 different BEVs in global showrooms – through its various mainstream and luxury brands – by mid-decade.
For the VW brand itself, the first entry, the hatchback ID.3, has just gone into production in Europe, with the first American BEV, the ID.4 SUV, set to follow next year. And the automaker is already offering hints of what will follow. It has, in fact, already shown off six concepts based on the new MEB modular “architecture” that will anchor the majority of those new products.
Now comes a seventh, the ID Space Vizzion Concept that made its debut Tuesday night at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. As has been the case with so many of Volkswagen’s electric vehicle show cars, this is, quite literally, a vision of the future, with a production model to come to Europe “in late 2021,” and in the U.S. “sometime in calendar-year 2022,” Volkswagen Group of America Scott Keogh.
“We will be the first automaker to truly develop scale in the electric car market,” Keogh forecast in a conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com following the Space Vizzion unveiling.
Keogh said the production version of the concept will become the third Volkswagen EV to reach the U.S., following the ID.4 sport-utility vehicle and the the ID Buzz microbus. But he also noted that there are several variations of the Space Vizzion production model in the works, VW adopting different “top hats,” as automotive designers like to call them, depending upon market tastes. That would likely mean the wagon-like concept debuting in L.A. would target Europe and, perhaps, China. With the American version of the Vizzion, VW will more likely opt for more SUV-like styling, he hinted.
What remains to be seen is just how much of the cutting-edge technology on the Space Vizzion Concept will actually follow into production as well.
That includes a minimalist instrument panel that eliminates almost all traditional gauges and controls. Most of the information that normally would appear on the instrument panel instead is projected, seemingly into space, using an augmented reality head-up display, or AR HUD.
Additionally, says a VW news release, “All information, entertainment, comfort, online functions, and vehicle settings are grouped together on a 15.6-inch touchscreen which appears to hover in mid-air.”
Most vehicle functions can be controlled by voice and there are indicator lights that show that the digital assistant has heard and responded to those commands. You’ll be able to say something like, “warm my feet” and the Smart Climate Control will redirect the heater, for example.
Even seemingly mundane things like the shifter have been redesigned in Space Vizzion. Here, the driver uses a small switch on the side of the steering column to go from Park to Drive to Neutral and Reverse.
From the outside, the VW Vizzion Concept adopts the latest themes in EV design. Aerodynamics are critical, the lower the drag the better the range. So there’s essentially no grille, though a small opening between the headlamps redirects airflow over the hood.
Calling the new concept the “Space” Vizzion refers to more than just its sci-fi-like technology. One of the advantages of going all electric is that it frees up space normally devoted to the passenger compartment. Some of that can be repurposed, providing what industry designers like to call a “size-class larger” interior, as well as a “frunk,” a trunk-like space under the hood.
VW’s flexible MEB architecture was designed not only to allow a wide range of body styles – in various lengths, widths and heights – but also a mix of powertrain packages. As shown in L.A., the Space Vizzion Concept is powered by a single, rear-mounted motor producing 275 horsepower. But the German automaker says it could readily add a second motor up front, giving the vehicle another 80 horsepower – and all-wheel-drive. That would allow the Vizzion Concept to launch from 0-60, VW claims, in just 5.0 seconds, topping out at 109 mph.
Like virtually all new, long-range battery-electric vehicles, the VW show car mounts both motors and batteries below the load floor. Here, it uses an 82 kilowatt-hour pack that would yield 590 kilometers, or 366 miles, using the European WLTP test cycle. Using the U.S. EPA measurement system, however, that would dip to around 300 miles.
That’s rapidly becoming the target that manufacturers seem to believe can minimize dreaded range anxiety. Most of Tesla’s products now offer optional battery packs in or above the 300-mile range, and Ford expects to hit that bogey with the optional pack for the Mustang Mach-E that it revealed during an L.A. event on Sunday night.
In fact, there are going to be a wide range of BEVs making their debut at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, along with an assortment of mild conventional and plug-in hybrids, coming from manufacturers as diverse as Aston Martin, BMW, Hyundai and Toyota. The bigger question, however, is whether market acceptance is reaching the point where they’ll be available to generate sustainable consumer demand.