Wolfsburg pushes VW to electrification
The German city of Wolfsburg, home town of car manufacturer Volkswagen also suffered under the consequences of the dieselgate scandal, but pushes VW now on its way to electrification. By 2025 its wants 50% of all 144.000 cars in the city to be electric or hybrid.
A lot of these cars are Volkswagens. Wolfsburg is Volkswagen. The city is divided by the Mitteland Canal, with on one bank the city with its concrete housing buildings, shops and restaurants and on the other hand kilometers of VW factories in red bricks. Four high chimneys are towering above the city and a meters high VW logo marks the place.
30.000 citizens working at VW
Wolfsburg needs VW. It receives a part of the VW Group’s profits through the local company tax. From Wolfburg’s 125.000 citizens, 30.000 are working directly for VW. Another 30.000 of the workforce comes from the direct vicinity. And a lot of inhabitants work for local suppliers of Volkswagen.
Last year Wolfsburg got far less tax income than it was used to, due to the impact of the dieselgate scandal. The car maker had to pay billions on claims in the US and the end isn’t in sight yet. “We have to solve this affair neatly and look at the future at the same time”, says Andreas Lassota, head of e-mobility product and marketing at VW.
“Diesel still has a future”
Lassota is one of the guys that has to carry the load in the electrification of VW. Until now Volkswagen hasn’t pioneered in this, except for the e-Golf and the e-Up. Only a few months ago, Matthias Müller, CEO of VW said that the diesel still has a future in the coming 20 years.
Which doesn’t mean VW isn’t preparing for the electric car. By 2020 Volkswagen will launch its new MEB platform, especially developed for electric vehicles with an estimated range between 400 and 600 km. It will underpin several new models. Müller also said VW wants to lead the world’s electric car market with a million sales per year by 2025.
50% of cars electric or hybrid
Ralf Sygusch is head of city development and planning in Wolfsburg and he thinks the goal of 50% of cars in the city being hybrid or electric is feasible. “A lot of these cars are company cars from VW or lease cars from employees”.
Lassota knows of the plans and says VW is cooperating by rolling out at ‘full swing’ e-cars by 2020. The major union IG Metall is working along too. “The car city is the showroom of Europe and that’s something we have to build further on”, says foreman Erb Hartwig, who happens to be a member of the town’s council too.
7.500 charging points
But building the electric cars is not enough. All these cars will need to be charged and Sygusch estimates 7.500 charging points are necessary, of which 6.000 at homes. “There aren’t as much charging stations in the whole of Germany now”, Sygusch says. Charging poles will be needed at parking lots, company terrains like VW, supermarkets.
He is talking to energy companies to find out whether they can cope with this number of cars charging simultaneously after six in the evening when coming home. “What kind of capacity do we need in this city? And who is going to pay for this?”, Sygusch says. “Not Wolfsburg. We’re not going to become the tank station of the city. That is something the private sector has to deliver.”
VW is looking with interest at the experiment in its home town and Lassota thinks they will learn a lot of it for the future. “We are a pilot project for Germany”, Ralf Sygusch says, “If we can’t make it as a relatively small town, where else in Germany? Das schaffen wir”. The union man agrees, but he thinks it will be far more difficult to realize in complex big cities like Hamburg, Berlin, Münich or Amsterdam.