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VW’s multi-billion-euro MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture
Volkswagen thinks small
by Michael Taylor 18 December 2013
Electrification will help four out of every five Volkswagen Group cars to be based on the current Golf by the end of the decade, one of the German car giant’s board members has admitted
Doctor Heinz-Jakob Neusser said Volkswagen’s multi-billion-euro MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture will be responsible for at least three quarters of the group’s total production by 2020.
“By the end of the decade more than 70 per cent and perhaps 80 per cent of our production will be based on the MQB,” Dr Neusser admitted.
“By 2016 more than 40 per cent of all VW Group volume will be MQB.”
That would make the MQB responsible for more than six million cars a year, with VW selling 5.7 million cars last year, Audi adding 1.5 million, Skoda falling just short of a million and SEAT delivering 321,000.
No other full-line group in automotive history has bet so large on one chassis, but VW is shoving its chips into a €25 billion research-and-development push into alternative energy powertrains
That push includes fitting both the Golf and the up! with CNG, ethanol, plug-in hybrid and full electric power by the middle of next year, then filtering the technology through the rest of the Group in the near future.
While it has already delivered its supercar-gone-thrifty XL1, its real-world star will be the Twin up! plug-in hybrid, which made its official debut at last month’s Tokyo motor show.
“We are spending 50 billion euros in research and development by 2015, half of which will be spent on electrification systems and greener production,” Dr Neusser, who is in charge of VW Group powertrain development, said.
“We are making sure all of our electric systems can be used in a number of different models and don’t have to be re-invented every time we have a new model.
“With the up!, we introduced it with petrol and diesel internal combustion engines. We then introduced ethanol and CNG (with the ethanol mainly for South America) and CNG now accounts for 10 per cent of all up! sales.
“Now we are taking the next step forward by electrifying the up! with e-drive and a plug-in hybrid and we are adopting the same strategy with the Golf.”
That will give the Golf an armory containing petrol, diesel, ethanol, CNG, twin-fuel CNG-petrol, full electric and plug-in hybrid options.
“Customers want to do different things with their cars and we don’t want to foist on them a fixed idea of what a car needs to be,” Dr Neusser said.
“For these people who want to go longer distances with the weekend we offer the Twin up! and the Golf PIH, which will also go into other group cars.”
Oddly, though, while the all-electric Golf will be the icon’s cost leader, Dr Neusser admitted the Golf Plug-in Hybrid will have higher running costs than the conventional Golf diesel and the upcoming Golf TGI, which burns both CNG and petrol in a twin-fuel package.
On Dr Neusser’s own figures, the full-electric Golf will have running costs of around €3.30 per kilometre, the Golf TGI will cost €3.63, the TDI diesel €4.48 and the Plug-In Hybrid a surprising €5.39 per 100km.
“The critical thing about the Plug-In Hybrid is its ability to run for 50km as an electric car.
“We chose 50km for the Golf Plug-In Hybrid because 80 per cent of our customers don’t drive more than 45km per day.
“The German government did its own survey, which we didn’t know about, that was essentially asking the same question and came to the same conclusion of sub-50km on average.”
One of the key issues adding to the running costs of the Plug-In Hybrid version of the Golf was that it carried everything a normal petrol-powered Golf carried, but added a 150kg lithium-ion battery pack, a 75kW electric motor and a host of controllers and charging systems, making it around 300kg heavier than a standard Golf.
Still, on NEDC figures for hybrids, the Golf Plug-In Hybrid delivers a combined fuel-economy figure of 1.5L/100km, CO2 emissions of just 35g/km and a range of almost 950km.
Admitting Volkswagen was “picking a few elements out of the XL1 to mobilise the fleet,” Dr Neusser suggested VW’s seemingly sudden focus on alternative powertrains was one of the driving factors behind the MQB architecture in the first place.
“None of us will be able to see how e-mobility will grow in the next few years. If we had just one factory doing it we would run the risk of that factory being too small or under utilised.
“With MQB, all of our factories can do electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars on the same production line as the internal combustion cars and at the same time. It will be a standard part of our production and we needed MQB to do it like this.”
Introduced with the Audi A3 last year, the MQB is a small-to-mid sized, modular architecture that can be spiced up for premium use or dumbed down for cheaper models, as well as providing for longer and shorter wheelbases, vehicle lengths, widths and weights.
Critically, apart from being engineered to allow for both electric and hybrid models, the architecture that already underpins the A3, Golf, Seat’s Leon and the Skoda Octavia locates all of the expensive pieces (the engine, gearbox, firewall, pedal box and front axle) in the same place, regardless of the size of the car.
The VW Group has two other key architectures: MLB (which includes cars like the VW Phaeton, the Audi A4, A6 and Q5) and MSB, for Porsche’s Panamera and Bentley’s Continental family.
[© carsales.com 2013]
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