Car manufacturers are working flat out on new electric car models that are being created on innovative platforms. We explain the plans of the traditional German brands.
Munich – The automotive industry was once the showpiece of the German economy. In the course of the mobility turnaround towards electric cars, however, a swan song is often attuned to local car greats. How serious are VW, BMW and Mercedes really? Tesla and Asian representatives such as BYD are considered the benchmark in terms of e-technology and connectivity. However, Europe's corporations have developed strategies to find their way back to their former strength in future technologies.
The focus of future car innovations will be on three core areas of modern vehicle technology: efficiency, performance and infotainment – these factors are appreciated by car buyers all over the world. We explain what the next generation of German models is all about.
VW plans unit cell, cost reduction and more range
Volkswagen's current electric strategy is based on the modular drive matrix (MEB). On the drive side, Europe's largest carmaker is thus well positioned, but this scratches the reputation: New cars from VW have not been affordable for a long time. As the F.A.Z. explains, however, a return to these roots is a big topic in Wolfsburg. According to the report, the MEB platform will be undergoing renewal measures in the coming months, including a new pulse inverter and better cooling for higher currents. This means more energy that can be converted into power and torque is also expected to increase rapidly in the upcoming electric models.
But how do these measures solve the price problem, which is likely to be one of the reasons why the core brand has sales problems? Not at all at first, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explains, referring to the year 2025: Then there will be a new type of battery that will reduce costs while maintaining the same range due to a planned unit cell. Accordingly, these are no longer packed in modules before they end up in the battery, as is the case today. Instead, the cells grow in dimensions. At the same time, electrical contacting and cooling of the energy storage system would be optimized. VW is apparently planning far-reaching economies of scale, because this architecture will then end up in the e-car model series across all brands - we are talking about about 80 percent of all electric cars sold.
An almost inexpensive "Volkswagen" could then be expected: It is the electrified Polo called VW ID.2. So it looks like the new battery technology is already being used here. Chief Technology Officer Thomas Schmall estimates the cost reduction potential compared to the F.A.Z. at around 40 percent, so its use in the new small electric car would be predestined.
Audi and Porsche will use a platform for electric cars in the future
The production of electric cars is also taking place at the premium and noble subsidiaries Audi and Porsche as part of a new strategy. While there are currently a total of three electrical engineering platforms for these brands, development and production costs are also expected to be reduced in the future. This is to be achieved with the help of the new "Premium Platform Electric" (PPE) substructure structure. New products are created on it, the system performance of which reportedly ranges from 190 to about 700 hp. As a result, the PPE platform seems to be usable for smaller models as well as brute e-sports players - a technologically demanding balancing act. One thing they have in common is the voltage system designed for 800 volts, which supposedly provides 80 percent more energy with the same charging time.
Porsche study Mission e: The VW Group is already working on the next generation of electric cars (symbolic image). © Hettrich/Imago
Porsche apparently considers the problem of battery ageing to be less dramatic: Otmar Bitsche, Head of Electromobility Development, is of the opinion that after covering 160,000 kilometres (via fast charging), around 93 percent of the battery can still be used - and that this value will be increased in the medium term. In the case of high-voltage systems, internal thoughts apparently even revolve around 960 volts instead of 800 - which makes the charging power noticeably increase again.
Another special feature: Audi and Porsche will only have two fixed battery sizes with a capacity of 83 or 100 kilowatt hours. Permanent-magnet electric motors benefit the power density, while power electronics that are identical across all models include silicon or silicon carbide semiconductors, depending on the series. The first vehicle with the new premium architecture PPE is to be the Audi Q6 E-tron SUV coupe next year, followed shortly afterwards by the sister model Porsche Macan EV.
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Mercedes: Three new platforms ready for electric technology
Mercedes-Benz is taking a slightly different approach: According to reports, a platform for different drive variants will continue to be used in the compact class segment in the future. The new MMA platform is designed for electric cars and combustion models, and the electrified version of the Mercedes CLA is expected to start at the end of 2024. In the upper, luxurious segment, on the other hand, the Stuttgart-based company is driving electrically and on two tracks: As the report explains, two electric platforms are due to be ready for the market in 2025, one of which is reserved for the AMG performance division.
The main difference is the design of the electric motor: while the comfort-oriented sedans and SUVs rely on permanently excited radial flow machines, the Mercedes-AMG athletes use an axial flux machine. The latter is accompanied by a greater development of the driving force. As with Porsche and Audi, 800-volt technology will also be the standard for Mercedes' electrical system.
BMW: More efficiency, innovation and a new design strategy
BMW is planning an enormous technological leap. The Munich-based company has recently given an outlook on the "New Class" with studies, which will presumably be heralded in 2025 with the new i3. In terms of design, the Munich-based company could cause as much uproar as with the first representative of the same name - whose drive seemed exotic a decade earlier.
In the meantime, BMW's electric expertise has matured massively and, in addition to the appearance of the exterior and interior, the drive technology (we are talking about consumption values of around 13 kWh per 100 km) and the infotainment area are on the verge of upheaval in the planned e-innovations. In the next generation of electric cars, a head-up display will stretch across the entire windshield, and the possibilities for OTA updates as well as operating software focused on target markets (Google, TikTok) will be fully exploited in connectivity. (PF)