Plug-in hybrid technology may seem a perfect solution for those with range anxiety, but it’s a concept with a limited shelf life, according to aspiring electric vehicle leader Volkswagen.
The German car-maker, which wants to be the world’s top EV brand by 2025 by selling more than a million units annually, says that as battery technology improves and charging infrastructure grows to support demand, PHEVs will be phased out.
It may seem self-evident, but it’s confirmation that combining a combustion source with an electric motor/battery drive unit is a technology bridge, rather than an end point - at least according to the world's number-two car brand.
“Plug-in hybrids will be a continued way forward… but in the long run, as PHEVs are a call for two engine types carried with you, it’s not a logical end place to go for,” Volkswagen AG board member Jurgen Stackmann told Australian media in Paris last week.
“What we see moving forward is a full electric range of 460 kilometres basically gives you everything at once… and it will be a non-question mark mobility answer.”
This appears to suggest that cars such as the Golf GTE, which has about 50km of electric range and can be plugged into a wall, but also has a petrol engine to support longer drives, are a technological cul-de-sac.
For its part, Volkswagen says it will launch a brand-new pure electric model by 2020 with a 600km range, priced the same as a diesel Golf. This car was previewed last week in Paris by the I.D. concept. It will be the first of many cars based on its new electric-only MEB common-module architecture, with batteries in the floor and the motor on the rear axle.
Addressing the issue that PHEVs must surely be a valuable solution for places such as Australia, with massive distances and scarce public fast-charging options, Stackmann suggested that the overwhelming majority of people would be covered.
“I don’t think infrastructure in metropolitan zones, like Melbourne or Sydney, will be a problem, I think the problem is connectivity along the long lines,” he said.
“[But] we’ve done a simulation for Europe, it’s quite amazing, probably 450 fast charging points can cover Europe… Even countries like Australia, being continents, can be covered with limited amount.
"It sounds very limited, but you don’t need a fast charger every 15-20km, what you do need is setups in major centres at every 150km distances. Fast charging becomes a key requirement — anything between 20-30 minutes — going forward.”