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Get ready for a new wave of electric VW Group cars

From an electric VW Phaeton to a new e-Bentley... Paul Horrell reports

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The Volkswagen Group is making a sudden corporate swerve towards electric cars. Shortly after the emissions scandal broke, it decided to build a new all-electric platform for small and medium cars in all its major brands. It also decided to make the new VW Phaeton an electric-only car, and launch an e-Bentley.

We’ve been getting some detail from VW brand boss Herbert Diess. Diess is visibly free of the taint of the emissions cheating. He joined the Group only this summer, having been head of development at BMW previously. Which means he oversaw the i3 and i8.

The new small-to-medium electric platform is officially called MEB, for modular electric kit. Diess said it uses a flat-floor type battery, so it can make room for more electrical storage than today’s all-electric e-Golf (pictured above).

“The MEB can cover all the brands, covering cars bigger and smaller than the Golf, with ranges of 300-500km (about 190-310 miles). It’s much easier to make full use of the electric technology if you dedicate a platform to it. We have enough scale to dedicate one of our platforms to electromobility.”

He says that the MQB-based electric Golf isn’t enough. “In the end there is a constraint in range. So over and above that [the electric versions of the MQB] we decided we also need an electric platform.” He says this is a decision taken after the emissions scandal.

The MQB will continue, he says, and be made lighter in the next generation, with among other powertrains petrol, diesel, hybrid and PHEV.

Because the Group is starting almost from scratch with MEB, Diess acknowledged the first cars wouldn’t be launched for three to four years.

But he says he’s relaxed about this timeframe. “The batteries are getting cheaper and the charging infrastructure is getting richer in most countries, so the rationale for investing in electric cars gets better every month.” By the time the MEB cars go on sale they will be a mass-market proposition.

Diess also talked abut the successor to the VW Phaeton. The company has officially confirmed this will be an all-electric car. I ask Diess to elaborate. He says this is not just a case of dropping the gasoline version. “We are starting anew. Styling, platform, everything.”

He says the Phaeton will be related to production versions of other recent Group show cars. “In this class, bigger [vehicles] than the MEB, Audi is launching a car [shown as the eTron Quattro concept at Frankfurt, likely to be called Q6 in production], Porsche is launching a car [the Mission E]. We have decided the Phaeton will go onto this electric platform.”

The electric Phaeton will almost certainly share suspension, and not just electric parts, with the Audi Q6. But the engineer responsible for the Porsche Mission E told us a production version uses suspension from the next Panamera. If you collect VW platform abbreviations, that’s MSB (Panamera) rather than MLB Evo (Q6 and Phaeton). Meanwhile we have also learned that Bentley is working on an electric version of its next sports car.

VW is having to spend a fortune over the next couple of years, sorting out its past diesel sins. But it seems it’s still putting money aside to rapid-track all this electric-car development and production.

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