The VW emissions scandal has panicked the major vehicle manufacturers, and they are suddenly rushing to pour their time and money into developing EVs. That’s the impression one might get from the increasing number of announcements about OEM electrification strategies that have been issued since the VW defeat device scandal broke in the second half of September.
VW was first, announcing as part of its latest crisis-management strategy that the VW brand it will divert its attention away from so-called Clean Diesels and focus on electrification.
Were diesel sales to drop as buyers opt for apparently cleaner gasoline-engined cars, many of the major OEMs will struggle at best to meet future emissions targets on their current powertrain offerings
That was followed days later by an announcement from Volvo that it would electrify its range to varying degrees, and the OEM is this week outlining further details about its vehicle electrification plans to media. Toyota also issued an environmental strategy, unveiling an ambitious plan to reduce CO2 emissions from its cars and its factories, with specific targets set for 2020 and 2050. The strategy relies heavily on electrified powertrains, notably using hybrid and fuel cell technology.
GM has partnered with LG to accelerate its Bolt EV programme, and BMW has reportedly confirmed plans for a second all-electric car to sit above the i3, as well as hinting at an improved range for the i3 from 2016.
Although the future of the PSA-Mitsubishi electric car partnership looks uncertain, remaining focused on the poorly-received i-MiEV/iOn/C-Zero trio, the two OEMs’ interest in EVs remains strong. PSA is pursuing an EV with partner and shareholder Dongfeng, and Mitsubishi has announced plans to develop a next-generation range of minicars with Nissan and the two OEMs’ joint-venture, NMKV. Those plans include the development of a minicar EV.
It’s worth noting once again the lack of all-new battery EVs in the market, and the absence at the 2015 IAA – one of the world’s biggest motor shows – of any new BEV product. But readers of this column know full well that the OEMs listed above – and any others with BEVs in the pipeline – have not just suddenly each conjured up an EV strategy.
With diesel under threat, OEMs failing to develop an electrification strategy are taking a high risk; but it’s equally risky to assume that ‘if you build them, they will come’
What they do appear to be doing, however, is talking more openly about electric cars.
The VW emissions scandal has raised questions about the future of diesel. Were diesel sales to drop as buyers opt for apparently cleaner gasoline-engined cars, many of the major OEMs will struggle at best to meet future emissions targets on their current powertrain offerings.
There are some good EV products already on the market, yet sales are far from where any earlier targets might have put them. Those people who want – and can afford – to buy EVs, like their EVs, and are happy with the infrastructure issues and range restrictions that deter other buyers. But will there be enough new interested consumers out there for a viable mainstream offering of EVs? Without appropriate support – not just incentives, but also infrastructure and information – there is a danger of developing products for a market which does not exist. With diesel under threat, OEMs failing to develop an electrification strategy are taking a high risk; but it’s equally risky to assume that ‘if you build them, they will come’.
Martin Kahl is Editor, Automotive World
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