Fuel and drivetrain strategy

It is expected that, by 2018, 90% of the Volkswagen Group’s vehicles will be sold in markets that have statutory limits on new vehicle fleet greenhouse gas emissions. Meeting this ambitious target will require significant funding for measures to reduce CO2 emissions in conventional drive systems and for the development of electric vehicles. The Volkswagen Group invested €11.5 billion in research and development in the past year. The majority of this was spent on green technologies, a major long-term investment that is already bearing fruit: the Group’s new vehicle fleet in the EU emitted an average of approximately 126 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2014, meaning that we are already under the 2015 European limit of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer.


The Volkswagen Group’s fuel and drivetrain strategy is paving the way for carbon-neutral, sustainable mobility. We are pursuing the goal of increasing drive system efficiency with each new model generation, irrespective of whether these are powered by combustion engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electric drives, or potential future fuel cell drive systems. All of our mobility concepts are tailored to our customers and their increasingly personalized mobility requirements. This will expand the portfolio of different drive systems and will also lead to a future situation where traditional drive systems coexist side-by-side with e-mobility.

The Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB) is already designed so that the full range of drive systems can be deployed and flexibly mounted at product lines across our global locations – bumper to bumper.

From today’s perspective, the combustion engine looks set to serve as the broad basis for drive technology in the coming years. This is particularly true for potential growth markets such as Russia, India and the Far East. Given the need to use resources responsibly, it is therefore crucial to further optimize combustion engines. Our new generations of petrol and diesel engines satisfy this requirement. When it comes to vehicles with conventional drive systems, we have significantly reduced average fuel consumption. The primary contributing factors here were the introduction of BlueMotion Technology in our TDI and TSI engines, engine management and our innovative direct shift gearboxes (DSGs), lightweight construction and aerodynamic design.

Natural gas engines play a key role in the drivetrain portfolio. As a rule, they emit around 25% less CO2 than petrol engines due to the fuel’s chemical properties, something experienced by customers who are driving our natural gas vehicles such as the eco up!, Golf TGI, or Audi A3 g-tron. Natural gas is also being used as an economical and clean drive system for heavy commercial vehicles. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) must replace compressed natural gas (CNG) for these engines to be used in long-distance trucks and buses, since this is the only way of achieving the required energy density and thus the desired range. Better infrastructure is needed for natural gas to be widely used as a fuel. For example, fuel station networks have only been sufficiently developed in certain countries.

We are expanding our traditional range of engines through drivetrain electrification. The number of drivers travelling predominantly short distances is growing. These include commuters and residents of cities, but also delivery vehicles in urban areas. The population shift towards urban areas is continuing, and by no means is this limited to just the burgeoning megacities of Asia and South America. Pure-play electric vehicles like the e-up! and e-Golf are emission-free when driven locally, and are thus of particular interest to customers whose everyday driving covers short distances. Opportunities to charge batteries privately – e.g. using a charging station installed at a customer’s location – must be supplemented by a good public recharging infrastructure in the medium to long term.

However, the majority of customer also want to take their vehicles on longer journeys in addition to driving short distances. Hybrid vehicles, in particular plug-in hybrids, combine highly efficient combustion engines with zero-emission electric motors. Where this combination of drive concepts is concerned, Volkswagen sees an opportunity to offer electrified models for short- and long-distance driving to customers of a wide range of vehicle classes, to build trust in the new technologies, and thus to help e-mobility gain acceptance. We have been offering hybrid versions in a range of vehicle classes for several years. In 2013, we launched the first plug-in hybrid-drive vehicles onto the market – the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the limited run XL1. With the launch of the Golf GTE, the Audi A3 Sportback  e-tron and the Passat GTE in the reporting period, we unveiled the first plug-in hybrids to be based on the MQB.

The modular toolkit strategy is one of the Volkswagen Group’s key advantages. We are not just realizing substantial synergies through implementing the modular toolkit, we have also designed the vehicle architecture so that all drive system types can be integrated flexibly and economically. This is particularly true of the MQB-based vehicles, i.e. the upcoming Polo through the Audi A3 down to the Passat. For example, these models can draw on a standardized plug-in hybrid system comprising a highly efficient TSI engine, an electric motor, our compact six-speed direct shift gearbox and a lithium-ion battery. We have integrated the production of electrified vehicles into the manufacturing processes at our existing plants, e.g. in Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt and Leipzig.

The battery is the heart of an electric vehicle and its storage capacity is the deciding factor in determining the vehicle’s range. The technology currently used in pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles uses lithium-ion cells. We assemble these into battery systems at our plant in Braunschweig. Work is currently ongoing to develop solid electrolyte-based battery types with a higher energy density, which will also meet higher safety standards. The industrial application of this technology is currently being reviewed. The next generation of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be fitted with improved lithium-ion technology. Electric motors are manufactured at our plant in Kassel.

Hydrogen will not be widely available as a fuel in the medium term. In contrast to natural gas, adequate distribution infrastructure is not yet available. Both hydrogen filling stations and renewable hydrogen production plants have to be constructed from scratch. Volkswagen has been working on fuel cell technologies for over 15 years and has gained extensive experience operating a test fleet. The MQB has already been adapted for fuel cells, as demonstrated by the Golf Variant HyMotion concept car launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2014. The decision on whether to proceed to series production will depend on market requirements and infrastructure.

Thanks to our conventional and alternative technologies and the modular toolkit strategy, which allows innovations to be incorporated rapidly into different vehicles, we are optimally positioned to meet the challenges that the future will bring. We have expanded our expertise in electric traction with the help of additional technical specialists and experts, and have provided our employees with training on the new technology via a major training program.