Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has issued a challenge to take on Tesla, in a tweet that implies a tri-motor electric car is being planned by the company.
Facing €100 million in fines from the European Union for failing to comply with CO2 emissions targets in 2020, it is crystal clear to the German auto mainstay that it must ramp up its efforts if it is to survive in the transition to electric transport.
In particular, CEO Diess has acknowledged in a tweet that Tesla’s “Giga Berlin” electric car factory being built at Grünheide, Brandenburg, will signal a further onslaught of Tesla electric cars once it is completed.
And it is not only the spectre of the Model Y crossover that Tesla intends to build first in Berlin; it is also the intense fervency that surrounds Tesla’s enigmatic and visionary CEO and co-founder Elon Musk, whose presence on Twitter seems to have an almost god-like status to some.
Volkswagen on the other hand, on top of new emissions fines, is still clambering out of the pit of the “Dieselgate” scandal in 2015.
Recent rulings in the EU’s top court found VW owners who bought vehicles fitted with the so-called “defeat device” that allowed the company to cheat on emissions tests could sue the company in their own countries instead of having to do so in Germany, opening up the possibility of more lawsuits, according to Euro News.
While Volkswagen’s ID.3 – the first off the rank in its all-electric ID series – has already topped EV sales in Europe, how long it will hold onto that position after initial orders are filled remains to be seen.
And so it’s no surprise that Diess has also taken to Musk’s favourite channel, Twitter, to make the new announcement.
But first, having just joined Twitter in December, Diess first took a moment to take aim at Musk with a tongue-in-cheek dig: ”
Hello @Twitter! I’m here to make an impact with @VWGroup, especially on political issues. And, of course, to get some of your market shares, @elonmusk – after all, our ID.3 and e-tron have won the first markets in Europe. Looking forward to productive discussions!
— Herbert Diess (@Herbert_Diess) January 20, 2021
In a late Thursday tweet (Europe time), Diess then said, “Trinity comes after NEO (ID.-Project) and will revolutionize Volkswagen – and especially Wolfsburg even more!
“A huge challenge for our most traditional and historic site to compete against a greenfield in Grünheide. But we take on the challenge!”
Trinity comes after NEO (ID.-Project) and will revolutionize Volkswagen – and especially Wolfsburg even more! A huge challenge for our most traditional and historic site to compete against a greenfield in Grünheide. But we take on the challenge!
— Herbert Diess (@Herbert_Diess) January 21, 2021
One can only assume that the choice of the name “Trinity” refers to a tri-motor electric vehicle.
Diess, of course, has made no secret of the fact that he knows Volkswagen is years behind Tesla in terms of electric vehicle development.
Tesla already has a tri-motor drivetrain under development, known as “Plaid” (which refers to sci-fi comedy cult classic Spaceballs in which a joke is made referring to warp speed as plaid).
In September it shared a video of its Tesla Model S with the tri-motor drivetrain which it intends to launch in 2021.
It is also offering its Cybertruck which will be made at the upcoming Texas gigafactory with a tri-motor drivetrain.
Meanwhile, Musk – who in early January became the richest man in the world as Tesla’s shares continued to rise and his personal wealth topped $A238 billion – announced via Twitter on Friday morning (Australia time) that he would donate ($US100 million ($A128 million) towards a prize for the “best carbon capture technology”.
Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2021
While he quickly added that more details would be forthcoming next week, questions remain around Musk’s choice of carbon capture as worthy of his millions.
Carbon capture and storage technology has been stubbournly difficult to prove, let alone commercialise; although this hasn’t diminished its popularity among those – like Australian energy mnister Angus Taylor – who would like to continue burning fossil fuels for decades to come. There are currently a little more than 20 projects testing the viability of the technology worldwide, according to Carbon Brief.
But recent analysis shared by the Australian Conservation Foundation showed that carbon capture and storage is at least six times more costly than simply using wind and storage.
In Australia, there is only one carbon capture project in operation – the undersea Gorgon LNG project off the West Australian coast owned by Chevron. However, it appears that it is facing setbacks after filling up with sand.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.