Nobody can avoid the electric car. The German manufacturers rely on the battery-operated variant - but in different ways.
The decision has been made: the battery-powered electric car is the future, the hydrogen mobile is at most a dream of the future. At least, that's how the bosses of German automakers see it, who have now agreed on a common strategy. In detail, the approaches and plans of the groups are quite different.
Among the Germans, the Wolfsburg-based company relies most consistently - and with the highest risk - on e-mobility, investing almost 30 billion euros in the new drive technology. By 2030, four out of ten new VW cars with electric motors are expected to arrive worldwide. The electric offensive starts at the end of the year with a correspondingly high level of mass appeal: not with a luxury vehicle for a few, but with the ID.30.000 compact car, which costs almost 3 euros and which, in the tradition of the Beetle and Golf, is to become the brand's future volume model. The five-door is on a specially developed e-car platform on which other models such as an SUV and a bus are to follow soon. The e-mobiles from northern Germany are unlikely to be available for really little money, even if the company is likely to be willing to pay a hefty price on every car sold to avoid CO2 fines.
BMW was still a pioneer with the i3 six years ago, meanwhile the Munich-based company is threatening to fall into the lead role - even if they currently sell by far the most e-cars of all German manufacturers, the acute slump in new products could quickly shrink their lead. Because with the iX3, the next new model is probably only 2021 at the dealer. From then at least it should be quick, i4 and i5 should fill the rows. There is also a successor to the plug-in hybrid sports car i8. Until 2023, a total of 25 electrified models are to be available, just under half could be purely e-mobiles. In addition: 2020 is already rolling an electrified version of the Mini car on the road.
With Smart, Mercedes parent company Daimler will soon be the only German manufacturer to make a pure e-car brand. However, the electric fortwo also suffers from the typical problem of e-mobility: short range and high prices. With this in mind, the sister brand with the star started its electric offensive initially with the stately SUV EQC, where the surcharge for the new one is less noticeable than in a small or compact car. The Stuttgart-based company uses the platform of the conventional SUV model GLC and therefore dispenses with a special e-car architecture - and thus with possible space and consumption advantages. This also applies to the upcoming models, which will be based on the technology of the V-Class, GLA, E-Class and S-Class.
While the volume brand VW wants to spread e-mobility to the masses, premium sister Audi relies on high-end models. The Ingolstadt-based company focuses on the US manufacturer Tesla. This had shocked the success-spoiled Germans with desirable electric cars and forced them to offer late rivals. At Audi this has been called E-Tron for a few months and is a kind of electrified Q5. The Ingolstadt-based company did not really take it seriously until the beginning of 2021 with the E-Tron GT, an electric athlete developed in collaboration with Porsche, which was based on a completely new architecture and was not only intended to give technology a lead over the Tesla Model S. In between, other models converted to electric drive, such as an E-Tron Sportback, fill the portfolio. Audi 2021 is also launching a compact SUV on the VW Group's electric platform, a southern German interpretation of the ID SUV.
Is the electric motor the death of the sports car? Or does he rather promise his rebirth? Porsche was also at odds for a long time, but now the reservations about the technology seem to have been overcome: With the Taycan at the beginning of 2020, a high-performance Stromer is to be launched that honors the tradition of the brand. His technical highlights include not only driving dynamics, but also a particularly fast charging technology that limits refueling stops to minutes. Set aside, the four-door sedan later got a crossover called Cross Turismo, which relied on SUV elements and, above all, offered more space than the flatter Taycan. What the models cost is still unclear, but they should not be cheap. However, this applies to all Porsche cars and has so far not been an obstacle to success. Of the German premium manufacturers, the Zuffenhausen company should therefore have the least problem with the high surcharges for electric vehicles.
With a flash in the brand logo, the topic of electromobility is actually obvious for Opel. The fact that the drive technology in Rüsselsheim has not worked so far is due in no small part to the long-standing parent company General Motors, whose Stromer were primarily developed for the home market and not for European needs. From this point of view, the second Stromer start-up under the PSA roof could go better: Opel uses the Peugeot e-2020 platform and drive technology for the Corsa E, which starts at the beginning of 208, a car that is completely European-style. Certainly an advantage. There could be a risk that the small electric car would be based on a conventional model and that certain advantages of alternative drive technology could not be achieved. How difficult this weighs - especially in the competition with the VW ID - should not least be a question of price and availability.
Among the big car companies, Ford is probably the weakest in terms of e-mobility. Although the US company with its strong Cologne arm has at least announced some plug-in and mild hybrids, there is still an obvious gap in purely electric cars. It is largely unclear what the announced model offensive with 16 electrified cars to 2022 should look like. After all, a high-performance SUV with electric drive is promised that 2020 should start. A volume model according to Corsa E or ID knitting pattern does not seem to come at first.
Even if German brands go their own way in terms of model policy, they still have to work together. Because without a tight network of public charging stations, the e-offensive is likely to fizzle out quickly. BMW, Daimler and the VW Group have therefore already merged into the Charging Joint Venture Ionity at the end of 2017. The company is to pull up charging stations for electric cars across Europe in order to make the Stromer fully suitable for long-distance driving. At the end of 2020, fast or ultra-fast charging should be possible at 400 locations.
However, it will only become clear in 2021 whether the electric car plans of the German manufacturers will work. Then CO2 fines will become acute in the EU, which could cost manufacturers billions. In addition to the growing importance of e-mobility in China and the problems in the wake of the exhaust gas crisis, the impending sanctions were probably the main reason that the German manufacturers discovered their love of the electric car - late, but still after all. VW in particular is committed to the battery vehicle - and would certainly suffer the most if the new drive technology failed. Although this does not seem to be likely at the moment, it is certainly possible. Not because the internal combustion engine is coming back with power or because the fundamental problems of e-mobility are more difficult than expected, but because, for example, the Asians are currently making a switch to fuel cells in electromobility. And that is currently being overlooked in Germany in favor of the battery.