It’s not quite the holy grail, but Volkswagen wants to achieve some kind of holy trinity when it comes to its $ 86 billion battery car program.
The automaker plans to put at least 50 electric vehicles on sale by the middle of the decade. But it faces a flood of competition from old and new automakers, including current segment leader Tesla. If anything, it needs to step up its game if its first wave of products including the VW ID.4, Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan is any indication.
This is where the “Trinity Project” comes in. The program aims to “set new standards”, according to VW officials, especially when it comes to two big obstacles to more widespread adoption of BEV: range and charging time. To this, add a goal of bringing significantly advanced levels of autonomy to the cars that will be developed under Trinity.
Some sort of big breakthrough seems essential if VW expects to hit an ambitious target of having BEVs account for 50% of its sales in the US and China by 2030, and 70% in the European market.
Targeting range, charge time and more
In a statement, VW said the target was a sedan offering “high range, extremely short charge times and breakthrough production.” He offered few details beyond a target date of around 2026.
How VW will get there is far from certain. Among questions raised by Project Trinity, observers are wondering if the German giant is considering updating or replacing MEB modular architecture which was intended to support the vast majority of BEVs it planned to bring to the market.
Autonomy is clearly one of the challenges VW faces. The new ID.4, for example, can barely go 250 miles per charge, and the e-tron and Taycan can’t do better. Ford is traveling 300 miles with the long-range version of the new Mustang Mach-E. The Tesla Model S can now travel 400 miles with an optional pack and is expected to reach 500 miles with the upcoming Plaid Edition. Lucid hopes to reach 517 miles or higher when the EPA gives final approval on the Air sedan entering production later this year.
What range is really needed?
While over 500 miles may be more than most buyers will need, it is widely believed that a 400 mile goal will effectively eliminate range anxiety, especially as the public charging network grows. over the next decade.
Charging times are also critical. the Porsche Taycan is currently one of the market champions thanks to an electrical architecture of 800 volts. The electric sports sedan can reach a state of charge from 5% to 80% in about 22 minutes with one of the newer public fast chargers. The e-tron and the ID.4 need about double that. The reality is that even the Taycan – or any current Tesla – fails to meet consumer expectations that are more like what it takes to fill an empty gas tank.
Could VW go below 10 minutes? It is certainly a good target – and it would not be the only one. General Motors chairman Mark Reuss told TheDetroitBureau.com last year that this is the number GM is targeting with its new Ultium batteries – but not initially.
Address the basics
The bottom line, according to industry analysts, is that BEVs will need to provide the kind of comfort motorists now expect from vehicles using internal combustion engines, even with the addition of other attractive features.
These include the quiet driving only possible with electric motors, as well as the incredible torque that an electric transmission can muster. The Porsche Taycan, for example, can hit 60 in as little as 2.6 seconds and Tesla claims its next Roadster will get there in under 2 seconds.
But there’s another breakthrough the California automaker is moving closer and closer to: hands-free operation. And VW wants to beat Tesla at its own game, promising that Project Trinity will make “autonomous driving widely available”. More importantly, it should go way beyond the technology Tesla and General Motors are currently offering, reaching something along the lines of what VW has described as “level 2+” capabilities.
3D printing could be on the program
Exactly what this means is unclear, but would suggest the ability to operate hands-free under virtually any circumstance, even with someone still behind the wheel and ready to take control in an emergency. The automaker has gone so far as to suggest that Project Trinity could take us to the line between hands-free operation and the need for no driver at all, what’s called in the industry driving range. level 4.
The ambitious company also set another intriguing, albeit vague, goal. We’ll have to guess what “revolutionary production” might mean. Adding even more robots to its existing assembly lines would hardly seem permissible unless humans can be removed entirely from key parts of the assembly plant. Another possibility would be the introduction of technologies such as 3D printing to replace conventional stamped and forged components.
VW has been hinting at major breakthrough projects in electric vehicle design and technology for some time. There are many ways to stay ahead of the competition, especially if it can offer a whole new generation of batteries, such as solid-state cells that are supposed to reduce costs, increase range, and speed up charging. .
Unsurprisingly, the sedan VW is working on will be built at the automaker’s flagship plant near its headquarters in Wolfsburg, along with the German newspaper. Die Welt announced earlier this year that it will carry a starting price of around $ 42,000.