CARS.COM — As Volkswagen scrambles to rebuild an image for both engineering skill and green credibility in the wake of its diesel scandal, it has unveiled an electric-car concept it says “starts the countdown to a new era for Volkswagen.”
Related: 2016 Paris Motor Show
The I.D. small hatchback concept unveiled at the 2016 Paris Motor Show is what the company says is the first in a “completely new fleet” of electric vehicles and shows off a new “design DNA” for VW’s electrics.
Also, it’s not just a show pony: While it has some gee-whiz features, VW says it will launch some version of the I.D. in 2020 and be sold “parallel to the Golf” compact hatch. Volkswagen brand leader Herbert Diess in an earlier interview called it a “near-production prototype.”
The vehicle will be among the first electrics based on VW’s Modular Electric Drive Kit, an EV-specific platform that will underpin its future EVs, including the next-generation e-Golf due late in 2018. It also was used under the BUDD-e small van concept that VW showed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
The company says the I.D. has a 125-kilowatt motor and a battery sufficient for 400 to 600 kilometers in range. Assuming that is on the more generous European test system, that would translate to about 250 to well over 300 miles by EPA standards. That compares to the due-this-year Chevrolet Bolt compact sedan’s EPA-rated range of 238 miles.
Like the Bolt, the I.D.’s sit-up-straight hatchback form is designed to allow more interior space than its compact footprint would indicate, a spatial design VW calls Open Space. This includes having the battery pack arrayed under the floor “skateboard-style” and the motor on the rear axle. At the Paris press conference, VW brand chief Herbert Diess described the result as the exterior size of a Golf and the interior space of a Passat.
Among the futuristic features of the I.D. concept is a “first tangible glimpse” at fully autonomous driving, which VW says will be offered in 2025. The steering wheel retracts into the dash when the car is running in “I.D. Pilot” autonomous mode, which VW says uses 10 laser sensors. The car has no physical knobs or buttons, only screens, and uses voice and gesture control. It provides a head-up augmented-reality display for manual driving.
There is no key, only your “Volkswagen I.D.” on your smartphone, which also has access to all your personal settings for seats, audio, playlists, contacts, and navigation through the Volkswagen Mobility Network.
Diess compared the significance of the car as “the next game-changer” for Volkswagen to the original Beetle and the first Golf.