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EV acceptance coming soon: Bartsch

Coming soon: Volkswagen’s first electrified vehicle offering in Australia will be the plug-in Golf GTE, which will be launched next year.

VW Australia boss says charging infrastructure will grow when market embraces EVs

Volkswagen logo7 Jul 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch says the expected increase in demand for electrified vehicles in the coming years will spur investment in charging infrastructure and that wider consumer acceptance of alternative powertrains will ramp up in Australia by 2025.

The German car-making giant has made no secret of its plans to increase the number of electrified offerings in its line-up and, despite the lack of government incentives to encourage Australians to buy EVs and the relatively low number or charging stations, Mr Bartsch said the local automotive landscape is about to change dramatically.

“Is the electric car part of the future road scape of Australia? Absolutely, categorically, it is part of what is coming for Australia,” he told GoAuto at the Golf ‘7.5’ launch in Victoria this week.

Mr Bartsch said that many people look at the limitations of an EV and see the price premium, driving range and lack of charging stations as a barrier to purchase, but added that some of those issues will soon be gone.

“What I can tell you is, it’s a matter of time where if you buy a Golf diesel, the objective is to be able to supply a Golf ‘ID’ (electrified) for the same price as a Golf diesel. When you reach that point, the barrier of the economic rationale goes. When you combine it with the fact that it is no longer a concept for the future of, ‘can we get a range of 350 kilometres out of it?’ It’s well and truly there and more.”

 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch

Mr Bartsch said that when the market eventually accepts and embraces electric vehicles, there would be more demand for charging stations and private companies would likely respond to that demand.

“In terms of infrastructure, the moment you create the demand, infrastructure will pop up as ubiquitously as Apple stores did when the iPhone came out. And the moment that you move away from a world of ‘I’ or ‘E’ (sub-brand), or whatever you want to call it, that is simply driven by whether or not a government is prepared to stand behind it and subsidise it, to it having free market forces behind it that allow it to make sense in its own right, it will take off.

“Now, when will that happen? The general discussion is we will start seeing it emerging as a reality from 2020, and that it will really hit its strides by 2025.”

Volkswagen Group increased its research and development spending on electric powertrains in the wake of the 2015 diesel emissions scandal, when the company admitted to fitting a cheat device to a number of diesel-powered models in group brands including VW, Audi, Skoda and Porsche.

In mid-2016, the company announced its ‘Together – Strategy 2025’ overarching corporate plan that included a measure to release more than 30 new battery electric vehicles globally over the next decade, which would make up about 20 to 25 per cent of total units sales.

VW is set to kick off its electrified assault in Australia next year with the launch of the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid hatchback, while the fully electric e-Golf is unlikely, for now at least.

Production versions of the all-electric ID concept hatch from last year’s Paris motor show and the ID Buzz Detroit show van concept are expected to roll out from about 2020, but it is unclear if they are locked in for an Australian launch.

Mr Bartsch said Australians were early adopters, adding that he expected the advanced EV models being offered in other markets to be made available Down Under.

“2025, it’s still eight years away. That’s a long time in the automotive industry. It is coming. It’s not a question of if. I think we still underestimate ourselves a little bit in Australia. I see Australia as a country of fast adopters.

“The only thing that’s ever been a barrier to us is distance. Distance has shrunk dramatically in the last 10 years. I see absolutely no reason that whatever is launched in Europe, that we can’t under normal launch life cycle conditions, have the cars out here. There’s no reason.” Mr Bartsch said he recently attended a Volkswagen summit in Berlin where executives were shown the future product portfolio out to 2025 and praised the drive experience of an EV, comparing it to an internal combustion engine-powered car.

“The experience would be different, but not diminished. The power from the torque is phenomenal. The modes that you can drive it in, the range will be completely determined on the mode that you select to drive. If you want to race, then you might get 100km or so out of it. But if you put it on economy mode, or just a standard mode, your range is anything that you could possibly do in a day commuting around Sydney. It’s all there.”

Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda are all members of the recently formed Electric Vehicle Council – a lobby group set up to push the federal government to introduce incentives and encourage wider take up of EVs.

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