Volkswagen had painted a bulls-eye on Toyota and wanted to beat the Japanese by 2018. At least in terms of production numbers, Volkswagen will have Toyota beat this year. Instead, VW has to contend with GM.
The long-term new energy strategy of Volkswagen and Toyota on the other hand could have been devised in a joint planning session. Volkswagen believes that near-term, the plug-in-hybrid has a great future, whereas Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn won’t live long enough to witness the boom of the pure electric car.
The German newspaper Handelsblatt has an interview today with Winterkorn. It echoes in large parts the interview which I had ten days ago with Toyota’s Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso. The two sound amazingly similar: Bullish on plug-in hybrids. Cautious on EVs.
Winterkorn on EVs:
“I cannot imagine that the whole fleet will run on pure electric power in the foreseeable future. A current technology lithium-ion battery weighs 250 kilograms, and in the best case, it will take you 150 kilometers down the road. Maybe this can be optimized a little, but I expect significant progress only from the next generation of batteries. From our current perspective, this could be based on lithium-sulfur. This battery could be good for 300 kilometers.
A decisive technology leap could be lithium-oxygen batteries. This is a topic that still needs a lot of research. With this technology, a car could have a pure electric range of 450 to 600 km. That would be the breakthrough.
But I don’t expect it before 2030. It won’t happen in my life – at least not in my life as CEO of Volkswagen.”
Winterkorn on plug-in-hybrids:
„The bridge to the future will be the plug-in-hybrids. You can charge their battery from a wall socket. You can drive 50 or 6o kilometers on electric power, then, an efficient internal combustion engine powers the car. Right now a gasoline engine, at some point in time a diesel.
That way, the battery can be down to two thirds of both the weight and the price of a pure EV. Don’t forget, the battery of a pure EV alone costs €8,000 to €10,000. Together with Bosch, we want to reduce the price of the battery to € 5.000, but that is still a lot of money. A battery for plug-in-hybrids runs us only €3,000 today.”
Interesting: Winterkorn didn’t mention hydrogen at all. Volkswagen used to be gung-ho on hydrogen.