An affordable electric Volkswagen could follow in the Beetle’s tyre tracks as the ‘people’s car’ for the 21st Century, following reports the German giant could launch a VW-branded zero-emissions range available to the masses.
The company’s Spanish marque SEAT had been earmarked to spearhead a new family of cheap electric compact cars into the Chinese market, but global turmoil has lead to that strategy’s scrapping and room for a new one in its place.
Seat's El-Born electric concept
In partnership with JAC Automotive low-cost manufacturing, China’s lucrative electric vehicle arena was the obvious place to introduce an affordable electric-only range, but a looming recession caused by the coronavirus crisis, coupled with recently reduced EV incentives put a nail in SEAT’s big moment.
Now, it seems Volkswagen itself has been muscled to the front of the line as the most likely brand to carry the new low-cost EV mantle into a new era, and that could mean the advent of electric motoring for everyone.
While it would have been highly unlikely to ever see a range of EVs rolling out in Australia wearing the continentally esoteric SEAT badge, it’s far more probable Australians and the rest of the world will get a piece of the electric action as part of the popular VW wheelhouse.
Volkswagen will continue to partner with the Chinese state-owned manufacturer in development and manufacturing projects, but if the models will be produced in other parts of the world is unconfirmed - that crucial element will decide where the cheap VWs are made available as well.
If the line-up also originates outside China, showroom prices are unlikely to come in at the rumoured sub-€20,000 mark (less than $35,000), but there’s every chance base models will better the current cheapest EV in Australia - the MG ZS EV that’s priced from $46,990.
Charged with battery
Whatever the new VW looks like, it will certainly thank a small battery for its more affordable price. While Tesla and other premium offerings continue to boost range toward the milestone 1000km mark and circa-$100k price tags, largely urban-confined EVs require a fraction of that range.
Volkswagen's first electric vehicle - the ID3 small hatchback
Coupled with more compact, energy dense battery technology rolling out on a regular basis, growth in the small car market has great potential particularly in mass markets. You can expect smaller, lighter, cheaper EVs to find a foothold whether it’s badged a VW or not.
And those smaller options that don't break the bank will offer between 150km and 300km in the 'tank'.
For the German manufacturer’s baby, extra production outside of Chinese borders will almost certainly indicate build quality and manufacturing standards to satisfy more demanding markets. And that scenario certainly fits with Volkswagen’s own grand plan and vision.
Although whether the new range of bargain basement EVs will be marketed under the growing ID family remains to be seen.
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As a global automotive group, Volkswagen has a generous number of brands to chose from but the list is dramatically shortened when it comes to fitting a budget persona. It’s hard to imagine anything other than the now ineligible SEAT, Skoda or the Volkswagen brand itself supporting the new line of EVs for the people.
Unless, that is, the company is planning to forge an all-new brand as part of the venture.