The Volkswagen Group has outlined its global strategy for the launch of vehicles with alternative powertrains. The Group’s Commissioner for Electric Drive Systems, Dr. Rudolf Krebs, said at a sustainability workshop at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday, “We are going to electrify all segments. In plants equipped with our standardized assembly kits and modules, we are able to produce cars on the same assembly line, bumper-to-bumper, with conventional, electrified, and CNG powertrains. This flexible strategy enables us to react fast and cost-efficiently to actual demand and thus reduces risks.”
Dr. Krebs stressed that the Volkswagen Group aims to become a leader in e-mobility by 2018 by offering a full range of technologically refined, reliable, and affordable cars with alternative powertrains. By 2014, a total of 14 models from the Volkswagen Group brands will be available as Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Battery Electric Vehicles, or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, according to Dr. Krebs. A total of up to 40 models can be fitted with alternative drivetrains, including those running on CNG, as demand rises, he added.
Dr. Krebs emphasized: “We start at exactly the right time. Volkswagen has placed e-mobility at the center of the Group and has invested heavily to build up core competencies for e-drive and battery manufacturing in-house.” The group has hired 400 experts and trained 70,000 employees in e-mobility development, production, and servicing.
The Volkswagen brand now has a positive interim balance from its “Think Blue. Factory.” environmental program which was launched in 2011 and has since contributed to the carmaker’s considerable progress toward sustainable automobile production, said officials. The Volkswagen Head of Strategy, Processes and Organizational Structures, Peter Bosch, said: “The objective of the program is to continuously improve the environmental compatibility of the production process.” By 2018 (based on figures for 2010), waste, energy, and water consumption and solvent and carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced by 25 percent. Bosch added: “Already, half of the 3,400 environmental measures planned at our manufacturing plants have been successfully implemented.” On balance, key performance indicators have been improved by more than 10 percent in the first two years of the program.
“Think Blue. Factory.” is a part of the group’s overall ambition to become the world’s greenest car maker by 2018. Volkswagen integrates sustainability in all business units. The company is undertaking one of the most comprehensive ecological self-assessments ever and is making verifiable and comprehensible progress, said officials. At the same time, Volkswagen pushes renewable energies to supply production worldwide—from the large solar park at Chattanooga in the U.S. to hydroelectric power plants in Brazil, the use of geothermal energy in Emden, Germany, and a biomass thermal power plant in Pune, India.
The “Think Blue.” sustainability strategy differs from similar projects in its holistic approach: It reaches beyond products and technologies, is inspiring and motivating for both customers and the interested public to participate in, and encompasses multi-faceted collaborative projects with a broad range of environmental organizations. Volkswagen, as an automaker, puts the focus on innovative, environmentally friendly products and engineering, officials said.
Lars Menge, general manager of Product Strategy, Volkswagen of America, pointed out that Volkswagen has expanded its diesel leadership position in the U.S. market, selling 72 percent of all light-duty diesel vehicles in 2013. Currently, the TDI Clean Diesel installation rate is above 22 percent—an all-time high. Volkswagen now offers seven Clean Diesel models, more than any other brand, and six of those have an EPA estimated highway fuel economy rating of 40 mpg or better. In 2014, Volkswagen will launch the latest high-performing TDI Clean Diesel engine generation, codenamed EA288. Menge also announced that Volkswagen of America will add Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles to its lineup in the near future.