VW’s Born-Electric MEB Platform Will Spawn 27 Models by 2022

Volkswagen Group wants its all-electric MEB platform to do for electric vehicles what the legendary Beetle — now slated to stop production (again) in 2019 — did for combustion-engine cars.

The company unveiled the underlying platform under the banner of what it calls its “Electric For All” campaign.

“It will be the first fully connected electric car with full everyday utility that millions of people will be able to afford,” Christian Senger, head of the company’s E-mobility Product Line, noted in a press release on Monday. Likewise, the Volkswagen Type 1, introduced in 1938 and later renamed the Beetle, was designed to make cars affordable to the average German family. VW sold more than 20 million Beetles around the world before the model was discontinued for the first time in 2003.

The company’s plans for the MEB, or “modular electric drive matrix,” are similarly ambitious. It was developed purely for EVs, not repurposed from a traditional platform. By the end of 2022, the MEB will form the basis of 27 models from four Volkswagen Group brands. The company expects to sell 150,000 MEB-based cars by 2020 and, in the platform’s “first wave,” produce some 10 million vehicles across the group.

In the press release, the parent company didn’t name the four brands. It owns VW, Audi, Porsche, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, and a range of other marques including Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. Audi and Porsche are already lined up to share another electric platform, called PPE, which forms the basis of the Audi E-tron SUV launched on Monday.

The first model based on the MEB platform, the Volkwagen I.D., is in testing now and set to go into production at the end of 2019. The I.D. line itself will ultimately include a range of different types of vehicles.

VW has shown off I.D. concept cars before, but on Monday it unveiled the underlying MEB platform, without a body, for the first time. It was revealed at a press event in Dresden, Germany.

By using a common platform, the company thinks it can achieve economies of scale that will make electric cars affordable to the average buyer. It uses a set of modular batteries in the floorplan of the vehicle, so VW can add batteries in larger models to increase range.

The parent company will build its own batteries and chargers. It showed off a prototype of the “Volks-Wallbox,” an affordable home charging system, at the event in Dresden. With a fast charging system, batteries developed and built by Volkswagen Group Components can be charged to 80% in about 30 minutes, according to the company.

The big push behind the MEB is also part of VW’s rapid shift away from diesel, the power source that left the company mired in an emissions-test cheating scandal. In the US, some of VW’s own money is funding public service announcements encouraging consumers to think about buying electric cars.

VW’s platform announcement comes amid a surge in EV activity. The group’s own Audi brand began accepting orders for the E-tron on Monday, after recently starting volume production in Belgium. Rival BMW reportedly began taking orders for its electric iX3 SUV in Norway earlier this month.

Also on Monday, luxury electric-car startup Lucid announced it had signed an agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia for more than $1 billion in funding that it said would bring the Lucid Air sedan into production. Lucid expects to finish engineering development of the car in 2020. And a Cadillac executive reportedly said that company has put further development of diesel engines on hold after witnessing the industry’s strong movement toward electric drivetrains.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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