Could this be the next stage in the electric revolution?
When the Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf was launched as a replacement for the Beetle, it changed the industry. According to Haynes, "The simple two box, hatchback body style, combined with front wheel drive, and a transverse mounted water cooled four cylinder would be copied by every other car maker all over the world... There can’t be many times in automotive history when such a huge revolutionary change in car design has taken place."
It wasn't in fact the first car to have these features; the British Mini introduced most of them. But the Rabbit took them mainstream. Similarly, Tesla really created a market for electric cars and now Volkswagen is jumping in, with their new ID.3, now taking orders at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
It kind of looks like a Golf, and according to the New York Times, it costs 30,000 euros, or $33,000, in the same range as a well-equipped Volkswagen Golf. The company claims that they now have pushed the cost of batteries below $100 per kWh: "That price is considered the point at which electric cars become more affordable than internal combustion models. Analysts had not expected costs to fall that far for several more years."
A lot of people are not convinced that they have actually done this, but then a lot of people are still not convinced about anything VW says; they still have a ways to go to rebuild their reputation after the diesel scandals. But this car may be the one that puts the company back on its feet, the way the Rabbit did years ago. As the Daily Car Blog notes,
The ID3 isn’t an apology for dieselgate, it is VW being pragmatic and admitting its mistakes without saying so. Its pride after the temporary fall. And over the years people, new car buyers, will forget about dieselgate because they have already moved on. From now on VW is a sustainable clean energy brand. Dieselgate?
The more expensive models have big batteries and serious range at 550km (342 miles). 30,000 of the middle-range model with 420 km range are available for pre-order in Europe [update: they have all been snapped up already], with no word on when they are coming to North America. According to VW, it's all very green and sustainable; I have often complained that electric cars won't save us because of the upfront carbon emissions of making them, but they are actually calculating and trying to compensate for them with offsets:
The ID.3 is to be delivered to customers in carbon neutral form. Both battery cell production and ID. production are oriented towards this goal, for example with the consistent use of power from renewable sources. Unavoidable emissions in the production process will be compensated for by certified climate projects. Production of the ID.3 is to start, as planned, at the end of 2019 and the first vehicles are to be delivered to customers in mid-2020.
When I drove cars instead of bikes, I owned a succession of Beetles, Rabbits and Jettas and always had a fondness for VW products, but like so many other people, wrote them off. The company may well now have a a product and a strategy that really does put Dieselgate behind them.