When you think Volkswagen and alternative powertrains, only one kind of springs to mind, and it’s no very alternative. Diesel. They are pretty good at it in Wolfsburg. But these days it isn’t enough. Nowadays, we have E85, fuel cells, hybrids, more efficient petrol engines and many more. Volkswagen can’t afford to bet their future on Diesel. So where do they go from here? I hear California is quite nice…?
Mercury News reports that Volkswagen is expanding their Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California. They’re moving to a 157,000 square foot office (up from 40,000) and are expanding their workforce from 40 to 65, with a forecast to exceed 100. The justification for this expansion is that they’ll need more space for prototypes. Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen AG CEO, visited Palo Alto and declared that he wants Volkswagen to be the top electric carmaker by 2018 (something else was supposed to happen in 2018, what was that again…?) and will start launching electric cars in 2013 (more about that later). “We want to conquer the market for electric cars,” Winterkorn said. Conquering the car market not enough? No, they also want to rule the electric world. Winterkorn then went on to call the laboratory in Palo Alto a “powerhouse for the car of tomorrow”. Someone’s got big plans!
Speaking of Herr Winterkorn’s plans: 2013 will mark the year VW will launch their assault on the alternative fuels scene. The Telegraph reports the Up! (or Lupo, as it’s now called) or the Golf will be launched as an all electric vehicle in the US by 2013. The Touareg will have a petrol-hybrid powertrain, followed by the Jetta. Martin Winterkorn wants low-carbon car to account for 3 percent of Volkswagen’s sale by (you guessed it) 2018. “Our goal is clear and ambitious,” said Herr Winterkorn at their Palo Alto facilities, “Volkswagen will be the automaker to mass produce the electric car for everyone.” More big words! With Honda announcing that they will throw their hat into the electric car arena, GM ramping up their Volt, Nissan touting their leaf, Ford readying their electric Focus and Toyota set to unleash their Tesla derived electric cars onto the market, Herr Winterkorn could be eating his words. But lest we forget, when Volkswagen announced that by 2018 they’ll be the biggest car maker in the world, many people wet themselves laughing. Now, they’re within spitting distance of GM and Toyota and, now, no-one is laughing.