Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen is setting more ambitious goals on the way to becoming a software-driven mobility company, and says that by 2030, every second vehicle it sells will be an electric car.
The new strategy comes hot on the heels of the latest set of fines dished out to European carmakers VW, BMW and Daimler for illegally colluding to delay the supply of clean vehicles in the wake of the 2015 Dieselgate scandal.
In a livestreamed event on Tuesday night (Australia time), Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said: “We have set ourselves the strategic goal of becoming the world market leader for electric vehicles – and we are on the right track,” presenting the group’s new corporate strategy for the rest of the decade entitled “New Auto”.
What exactly is new in the German carmaker’s grand plan is that it wants to generate revenue with software updates and additional services and collaborate with new partnerships.
Compared to 2018, the group wants to reduce its carbon footprint per car over the entire life cycle by 30 per cent by 2030.
In that same period it is targeting a share of sales of e-cars to increase to around 50 per cent, and by 2040 almost 100 per cent of new vehicle sales from the VW Group will be emission-free in its main markets. The group says it wants to be completely climate neutral by 2050 at the latest.
According to Diess, the priorities are shifting because “technology, speed and scaling will play a more central role than they do today”.
The high-margin business with internal combustion engines is intended to finance and accelerate the conversion to e-mobility, with the margins of electric cars being improved through lower battery and production costs and increasing unit numbers. They should converge over the next two or three years, according to Diess.
The Wolfsburg-based group intends to make greater use of its economies of scale across all brands with four standardized platforms from which the subsidiaries can use. This involves the basic technical architecture of e-cars, the increasing use of proprietary software in vehicles, in-house battery cell production and mobility services.
By 2030, the market for mobility services is likely to grow from below ten billion dollars today to over 100 billion dollars (almost 85 billion euros), said Diess, powered by driverless robo-taxis that transport people in cities and suburbs.
Electric cars to help stabilise power grids
Diess has also come to the view that electric cars can function as a key stabiliser of the electricity grid. Acting as a buffer with bidriectional charging capabilities, they can ensure a stable network.
“You will reduce the oversupply – several hundred hours a year in many grids around the world – with an increasing share of renewable energies.”
Chinese partner for battery cell factory
VW also announced that it would build its planned battery cell factory in Salzgitter together with its Chinese partner Gotion High-Tech, with production slated to start in 2025.
VW acquired a stake in the Chinese battery manufacturer in May 2020, with a plan to develop and commercialise volume production of battery cells.
“We look forward to expanding our partnership with Gotion High-Tech as an established, high-profile battery company in order to jointly advance battery cell technology. This is the first step on the way to our goal of becoming one of the three largest battery cell manufacturers in the world together with partners,” said Diess.
Growth in partnerships
In Europe alone, the VW Group will work with partners to build six gigafactories with a total production capacity of 240GWh by 2030 in order to secure the battery supply.
In Sweden, they are working with partner Northvolt to start production in 2023. At a third location, VW wants to make Spain a strategic pillar of its electric offensive. The group intends to locate the production of the planned small electric car series (“Small BEV”) there from 2025 onwards.
In addition, the car manufacturer wants to offer its customers “a comprehensive solution from a single source, from the products required for the charging process to energy management services”.
With this, Volkswagen will ultimately build a complete energy ecosystem around the vehicle and the charging infrastructure, which will enable customers to charge comfortably and open up further business potential.
From 2021 to 2025, Volkswagen will invest around 73 billion euros in future technologies, which corresponds to around 50 per cent of total investments.
The share of investments in electrification and digitisation will also be increased further in the future, says Volkswagen. The plans for the workforce are also ambitious: around half of the 660,000 employees currently work in traditional car production.
In the next ten years, VW plans to implement a “massive transformation program” at its German auto factories, securing jobs until 2029.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.