Volkswagen unveils plans for next gen electric car, digital future

Volkswagen unveils plans for next gen electric car, digital future

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Trinity – that was the test programme for the first atomic bomb in the Second World War. Today, Volkswagen is using this name for a more peaceful purpose: Trinity is the development name of the next generation of vehicles. In this case, the name Trinity goes back to three technology-driven elements that will shape the character of this generation of vehicles. These are a new vehicle platform, autonomous driving and a new approach to digitally connecting the car with its infrastructure during production and afterwards.

The car that gives Trinity its name is to be mass-produced from 2026. The fact that it has an all-electric drive is probably not a big surprise. What is more interesting is that Trinity will no longer be based on Volkswagen’s successful MEB vehicle platform, but on a further development that allows higher battery capacities and thus greater ranges; there is currently talk of more than 600 kilometres. In addition, the new vehicle should also be able to be charged much faster than current electric models such as the ID3 or ID4. Another important aspect is that Trinity is to be “suitable for the masses” in terms of price. What the car will look like is still largely in the dark. Volkswagen has so far shown an outline that hints at its shape more than it reveals it. It will probably be an elongated hatchback sedan, with a size somewhere between the ID.3 and the planned electric Passat Aero-B.

An important aspect of the Trinity project is autonomous driving. Right from the start, the vehicle will be equipped for Level 2+, i.e. a little more than what today’s ADAS systems are capable of – longitudinal guidance, lane departure warning, etc. At first glance, this looks a bit disappointing, but Volkswagen does not want to leave it at this level. From the outset, Trinity will contain the necessary sensor technology and computing power Level 4 (permanently autonomous driving). The corresponding software will be updated and upgraded as soon as the technical and legal requirements are available.

German automotive industry creates sector-spanning digital platform

The car’s communication capability will not only play an important role in the retrofitting to Level 4 autonomy. Volkswagen also plans to launch the Trinity with a smaller number of variants than is usual in the industry today. The customer will then be able to retrofit additional functions “on demand” via software updates even after the vehicle has been handed over. Volkswagen is thus creating the basis for additional revenue streams and business opportunities through upgrades and digital services, even during the vehicle’s service life. This also illustrates the first benefit of the concept of the “software-based vehicle”: New, data-based business models will contribute to the car manufacturer’s revenue.

With Trinity, Volkswagen wants to “democratise autonomous driving”, explained Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of the Volkswagen brand. “We are using our economies of scale to build a learning neural network for the entire group,” Brandstätter said, according to media reports.

To create the necessary conditions for digital services, Volkswagen has also developed a strategy called “Accelerate”. It aims to accelerate the development of software in the vehicles. At the same time, it is intended to fill the much-quoted slogan “the car is a smartphone on four wheels” with content; “digital customer experience” is being placed at the centre of developments. Volkswagen cites charging and energy services as well as software-based comfort and performance functions and automated driving with its numerous intermediate stages as examples of the digital services that will contribute their share to sales in the future. The Group plans to invest around 16 billion euros in these topics by 2025.

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When revealing the Accelerate programme, Volkswagen also announced a massive increase in sales of electric cars. In Europe, sales of such vehicles are to rise to over 70% of total vehicle sales by 2030, a doubling of the previous plan of 35%. In the USA and China, the company is aiming for an electric share of more than 50% in the same period. To achieve this, Volkswagen will launch at least one new BEV model every year: the all-wheel-drive ID.4 GTX will kick things off in the first half of 2021, followed by the sporty ID.5 in the second half of the year. In autumn comes the ID.6 X / CROZZ, a seven-seater electric SUV for the Chinese market. The plans for an electric car below the ID.3 are being brought forward by two years, SOP is now 2025. Volkswagen wants to continuously optimise the MEB e-drive kit in terms of acceleration, charging performance and range.

More information:

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