German automobile major Volkswagen, which also emerged as the No. 1 selling global car company last year with sales of 10.8 million vehicles, has today taken a bold step in moving towards a new era of electric mobility.
The company announced commencement of production of its all-electric Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback at its plant in Zwickau, in Saxony – located in central Germany. The 300,000 unit annual capacity plant, which was building the much popular Volkswagen Golf premium hatchback until recently, has been completely transformed into an all-EV manufacturing facility, by the deployment of a high level of automation systems, digitalisation tools and Industry 4.0 methodologies, at large.
In a gala ceremony marked by the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a host of other dignitaries from the state and the Volkswagen Group top brass, the company showcased the first of the ID.3 all-electric hatchbacks produced from the series production of the car which was flagged off today.
The transformation of the factory, however, had begun in late 2018, when the company had slowly started phasing out production of its conventional cars up until last month, when it made the gasoline Golf at just one of the assembly lines. Volkswagen aims to produce six different electric models for various VW brands under its umbrella from Zwickau by 2021, with the plant brimming at an annual capacity of 330,000 units by that time.
According to Dr Herbert Diess, chairman of the board of management, Volkswagen Group, “We are facing a systemic change in the automobile industry with electric mobility shaping up the future. The future belongs to the electric car and with the ID.3, we aim to offer a high value proposition to its owners without having to compromise in any form. The ID3 is only a beginning of the fireworks of sorts to come.”
“Here at Zwickau, we are fully converting a large car factory into an all-electric plant while giving up on the production of our gasoline and diesel models,” he added.
Euro 1.2 billion investment
The Group, according to Diess, has invested a massive sum of Euro 1.2 billion (Rs 9,414 crore) into the transformation of the plant by choosing to go with high levels of automation and digitalisation, all targeting high-volumes production and meeting highest quality standard for the new electric model.
There is large focus on sustainability and carbon neutrality as well with the plant relying on renewable sources of energy such as solar power.
“1.2 billon euros have been invested in this conversion and we expect the biggest training program for our manpower to end by next year. Zwickau is slated to be the biggest electric car factory in Germany and also the most automated,” said Dr Diess.
“Most of the traditional and basic jobs do not exist here anymore, but there are more and more sophisticated tasks to be taken up. There is more digitalisation and Industry 4.0 deployed here now. However, we still have to ensure jobs and our workmen in the past have shown that they can build exceptional cars, added Dr Diess.
“Will be spending approximately 44 billion euros (Rs 345,180 crore in future technology in the coming years, out of which 30 billion euros (Rs 345,180 crore) are earmarked towards electric mobility,” he added.
More plants to be converted to produce EVs
Volkswagen aims to reduce the carbon emission of its fleet, which, in the present day, contributes to roughly 1 percent of the total vehicular pollution around the world, by 25 percent by 2025.
As a result, the Group is relying more on vehicle electrification as the propulsion technology going forward and further aims to transform its plants in Europe, Asia and America as well to be converted into dedicated EV manufacturing units.
From 2020 onwards, Volkswagen will also have a battery cell factory for which it has partnered with Swedish company Northvolt. “This will enable us to determine the rate of innovation ourselves,” said Dr Diess.
According to German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, “Connected, automated, shared and electric is showing a paradigm shift in motorised mobility and it is happening not only in Germany, but all over the world. It also affects big markets such as the US and China.”
“We will only be able to manage this tremendous change by having rules in place for an open global trade. We need to put down a new framework for the transportation solutions of the future. While electric mobility is the technology that we concentrate upon right now, but we should not neglect the others. We know we have to speed up things because by 2030, around 25 percent of our electricity generation is going to be by renewals, and that is a herculean task.
“There are challenges with electric mobility. Expansion of charging infrastructure needs to be there and we also need to give incentives to the public to buy electric cars. This is what we politicians are tasked up with right now,” added Dr Merkel.