Volkswagen is among the very few major automakers who are committed to the mass production of electric vehicles. Undoubtedly pushed by the backlash of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, the German automaker invested heavily in its new MEB platform for electric vehicles last year and announced plans to build 2 to 3 million all-electric cars a year and unveil 30 new models by 2025.
The company has since unveiled a few concepts using the platform and they are now laying out their design direction for EVs in more details.
EVs have long been plagued with weird designs to unnecessarily differentiate them from gas-powered cars beyond functional features like a grille or an exhaust.
While the trend has been winding down over the past year, we are still seeing remnants of the concept, like with the blue accents on the Mercedes EQ concept or the Jaguar I-Pace.
The grille has also been a design dilemma for electric vehicle designers. Unlike combustion engines, electric motors don’t need the air intake of a grille, but it has been an important design feature for so long that automakers have often included it in the design of EVs. Even Tesla first added a decorative grille-like nosecone to the Model S until the refresh last year.
The company has since moved away from the idea and it has apparently embraced the non-grille look for electric vehicles with the Model X and Model 3.
In a recent interview with Automotive News, Klaus Bischoff, VW brand’s head of design, said that the German automaker will also let go of the grille for its first electric car on the MEB platform:
“We don’t want a grille. Volkswagen, if you look back [at the Beetle], was born without a grille. The engine was in the back.”
Sure enough, the first prototypes of the new EVs recently unveiled by VW, like the I.D. concept, which will be the first all-electric vehicle on the new platform, and the I.D. microbus, have no front grille:
We can still expect a lot of refining of those concepts before they make it to production. The Golf-size I.D. concept is not expected to make it to market before 2020 and the all-electric microbus should follow a few years later.
As for the interior, like most electric vehicles designed to be electric from the ground up, VW is taking advantage of the skateboard-like design of having the battery pack sit on the floor between the two axels, which opens up the interior of the vehicle.
On top of the large interior, VW plans to go minimalist with the “ultimate reduction”, says Bischoff:
In the interior, VW designers are shooting for the “ultimate reduction” — eliminating console elements in favor of a tablet and a heads-up display enhanced by augmented-reality.
While it has long been present in concept vehicles, augmented reality might be ready to soon go mainstream in production cars. There are still some hurdles before the adoption of the technology, but it is expected to be facilitated by the introduction of autonomous driving technology.
So far, the only images of the interior that VW released of the I.D. concept have shown a minimalist design:
Not unlike the upcoming Tesla Model 3, which is also expected to feature a heads-up display and a minimalist interior.