Speaking at an industry gathering in Munich last week, Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn confirmed that the automaker plans to introduce its first mass-produced electric vehicle (EV) in 2013. The new car will be based on the firm's "New Small Family" platform that was originally displayed at various auto shows in 2007 as the space up! concept. Winterkorn indicated that it will be only one of several affordable zero- and low-emissions vehicles that VW plans to introduce during the remainder of this decade, in addition to developing an even more efficient line of conventional and hybrid models.
While recognizing the growing importance of the EV as a viable transport module, VW's headman also was quick to point out there were both conceptual and physical issues to be resolved in what he referred to as a "marathon rather than a sprint." Winterkorn warned that too many consumers are already falling victim to unwarranted "electro-hype" in what is barely the initial stage of a process that, even if successful, will likely achieve no more than a 1.5 percent market penetration by 2020. He cited three key challenges still waiting to be met, with the list topped by the inadequate energy capacity and unacceptable recharge times of currently available batteries. Winterkorn also noted the need for automakers to transition EVs from their current "eco-niche" status to true mainstream alternatives for the average consumer. His final concern involves expediting the development of adequate infrastructure that will support both pure EVs and new strains of plug-ins -- both of which also figure prominently in VW's future plans.