Volkswagen to Upgrade MEB Electric-Vehicle Platform

The automaker’s $1.6 billion investment in its existing vehicle platform will bring more-advanced battery and charging technology to future battery-electric vehicles.

Greg Kable

December 8, 2022

5 Min Read
Volkswagen ID.3 (2)
Refreshed ID.3 hatchback to be among first recipients of upgraded MEB platform.Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Group confirms plans to upgrade its MEB electric-vehicle platform, setting up a fundamental revision of the German automaker’s battery-electric vehicle strategy.

The reported €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) platform investment encompasses the development of more-advanced battery cell technology, among other changes. It comes as VW begins to roll back on plans originating with its former CEO Herbert Diess, following an internal review of future BEV expenditures and processes, much of which has been placed on hold pending a board meeting scheduled for Dec. 15.

The internal review identified the 4-year-old MEB platform, which supports both single-motor rear-wheel drive and dual-motor all-wheel drive, as a central pillar in instilling greater competitiveness, economies of scale, production efficiency and profitability into VW’s planned volume-market electric models.

The confirmed investment in the skateboard-style structure is aimed at extending its production life well beyond that of the earlier strategy that called for the MEB platform to be phased out during the latter half of this decade in favor of the SSP structure first announced by VW in 2021.

At the Volkswagen brand alone, the upgraded MEB platform, known internally as MEB+, is planned to underpin 10 new BEVs by 2026.

To facilitate these plans, VW has announced it will invest €460 million ($473 million) in its Wolfsburg-based manufacturing headquarters in Germany to add production capacity for an upcoming facelifted version of the MEB-based ID.3 hatchback as well as other MEB-based models, which according to current CEO Thomas Schäfer includes “a high-volume model for the booming SUV segment.

“The new model would ideally complement our bestselling ID.4 and ID.5. This is how we intend to expand our market position further,” Schäfer (pictured, below left) adds, leading to suggestions VW may launch an electric version of the Tiguan SUV as part of its future BEV lineup.

Thomas Schaefer VW CEO.jpg

Thomas Schaefer VW CEO

VW says it plans to integrate the battery-cell technology originally envisioned for the SSP structure into the MEB+ platform. It centers around a so-called “unit cell” to be used across many Volkswagen Group BEVs as part of cost-amortization efforts for the company that sold 366,000 electric vehicles during the first nine months of 2022.

Other changes planned for the MEB+ platform include an increase in charging capacity. VW reveals it will increase from a peak of 135kW today to 175kW-200kW in the future.

Despite the investment,  the updated MEB platform is expected to retain a 400V electric architecture in the interests of cost competitiveness.

The decision to invest in the MEB+ platform will see the introduction of the SSP structure, which has been conceived around a more-advanced 800V electric architecture allowing a charging capacity of up to 350kW, delayed until 2028 at the earliest.

Confirmation of this was first aired by Schäfer at the recent Los Angeles auto show, where he told Wards: “We’re not 100% sure what comes when. But what we know is that everything slides back a bit by, say, two years.” 

Plans for the construction of a new manufacturing site in Warmenau close to VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters specifically for SSP-platform models also have been abandoned, in a move that is claimed to provide savings of up to €2 billion ($2.1 billion).

First used by the ID.3 hatchback at its European market launch in September 2019, the MEB platform (pictured, below) currently underpins six battery-electric Volkswagen-brand models, including the ID.4, ID.5 and Chinese-market ID.6 CUVs as well as the recently introduced ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo from the company’s Commercial Vehicles division.

vw1.jpg

vw1.jpg

It also is used by Audi for the Q4 e-tron SUV, Q4 e-tron Sportback and Chinese-market Q5 e-tron, as well as by Skoda for the Enyak and Enya Coupe and by SEAT’s Cupra brand for the Born hatchback.

Future Volkswagen-brand models planned around the MEB platform include forthcoming long-wheelbase versions of the ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo already confirmed for launch in 2023. 

It also is set to be used by VW’s first dedicated electric-powered sedan – a production version of the ID. Aero concept to be revealed in prototype guise at next month’s 2023 CES prior to going on sale in Europe during the second half of next year under the likely name ID.7.

Further models to be based on the MEB platform include two new CUV-style offerings and a new hatchback from Ford, all set to be produced in Cologne, Germany.

Additionally, Skoda has announced plans for three new MEB-based models by 2026, while Wards can confirm Cupra will launch a new Chinese-built MEB model in the form of a production version of its Tavascan SUV concept (pictured, below) to its lineup in 2024 – the latter to be produced at VW’s joint venture run with Chinese automaker JAC in Anhui, China.

Cupra Tavascan.jpg

Cupra Tavascan

Under the previous BEV platform strategy orchestrated by Diess, the MEB structure was to be phased out in 2025, with the first SSP-based model, a midsize sedan rival to the Tesla Model 3 being developed at VW under the working title Project Trinity, to be introduced in 2026.  

With the investment in the MEB+ platform, the introduction of the SSP architecture and Project Trinity has now been delayed by at least two years, according to Schäfer.

A recent visit by Blume to VW’s Chattanooga plant in Tennessee has led to speculation that MEB-based models could also be produced in the U.S., although no official announcement has been made.

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