Just when it looked like the electric car market might be dominated by Tesla on the high end and by the Nissan LEAF on the low end, a new player announced it's entering the field. At the Paris Auto Show, Volkswagen has just displayed its concept for the Volkswagen I.D., an electric car coming on the market but not that soon. The company said the I.D. will be for sale in 2020.
Unless the other electric car makers have made vast improvements by then--which of course is entirely possible--the I.D. will blow away existing electric vehicles. The I.D. will have a range of up to 375 miles, Volkswagen says, way beyond the Chevy Bolt's claim of 238 miles or the Tesla 3's claimed 215 miles. Of course, we haven't yet seen the other two either. The Bolt will go on sale late this year, and the Tesla 3, which was supposed to be on the road by now, will appear sometime next year...maybe.
Despite its longer range and German engineering, VW appears to plan a price point below $30,000, less than the Bolt or Tesla 3. Plus, it will be really striking looking, if the model VW put on display is any indicator. It has a distinctive design, with a light-up insignia and very thin tires, and, like its electric vehicle competitors, will be unlikely to be confused with any other model.
But wait a second. Isn't VW the company that drew harsh criticism, lawsuits, and sanctions over its software that falsified emissions tests? Yes--and that's exactly the point. Last week, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned over the company's improprieties. And in reaction to the scandal, Volkswagen's board has vowed to aggressively pursue electric cars, predicting that they would account for 20 to 25 percent of its sales by 2025. The company has claimed that its fraud resulted from its strong commitment to diesel as a cleaner alternative to gasoline.
Whatever the motivation, the I.D., when it arrives, should be welcome addition to the electric vehicle market, where "range anxiety" has been the biggest barrier to adoption for most consumers.
On, and in case the new model doesn't sound appealing enough as it is, VW says that by 2025 the I.D. will have a self-driving mode--during which its steering wheel will retract.