Klaus Bischoff, design chief at Volkswagen, discussing the Vizzion with us in Wolfsburg. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN
Klaus Bischoff, design chief at Volkswagen, discussing the Vizzion with us in Wolfsburg. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen’s plans for its dedicated electric car fleet have gone from zero to a confirmed model range so big that it needs a flagship.

It’s a clear signpost of where the company wants its design efforts to head in its new era of electrification, with 20 full battery-electric cars planned to be in production by 2025.

Its ID Vizzion concept car is so huge that it is longer than any production Volkswagen on sale today, edging beyond even the 5,037mm, seven-seat Atlas/ Teramont SUV.

The 5.11m concept limousine gives a strong hint about what the ID all-electric sub-brand’s big limousine will look like when it hits production in 2021.

We took a tour of the ID Vizzion at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg design studio, with the company’s design chief, Klaus Bischoff, showing us around every inch of the car.

"This car you will see in 2021 as a production car on the road, but not at Level 5 (completely self-driving). It will have the steering wheel and pedals and maybe have Level 3 or 4," Bischoff says.

Each passenger will have their own virtual infotainment system. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN
Each passenger will have their own virtual infotainment system. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN

Though he admits the "real" Vizzion will be a little shorter and narrower, he says the production version will look almost the same as the organically swooping concept.

The all-electric concept car has four fully reclining seats, with the promise of an enormous luggage area.

"Volkswagen is about designing products that are liked by many, many people and this shows where we are going. It’s a statement of the company where we are heading. It’s the signpost. We could have gone further. It’s our job to lead the people to the way, not to show them the complete thing at the start. We have to lead them there and not to do something for designers that nobody will want," he says.

While fully control-free driving systems won’t make it into the 2021 production car, it will retain much of the concept’s powertrain and its 111kW/h lithium-ion battery pack. With 225kW of power from two electric motors, it can theoretically hit 180km/h while driving itself at all times.

The powertrain solutions for the Vizzion. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN
The powertrain solutions for the Vizzion. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen insists it has a range of 665km, though that factors in brake regeneration systems recuperating energy whenever the car slows down and the car’s 0.23 aerodynamic drag coefficient.

The biggest advantage of the modular electric toolkit (MEB) is the growth in inner space. The true customer advantage is that with literally the same or slightly smaller footprints, you gain a lot of inner space.

Besides space creation, the extraordinary thing about the concept is that it doesn’t have a single screen, gauge or dial in its massive interior. Drivers will instead give the car instructions either by voice recognition or a revolutionary 3D hologram system, which is kind of a floating, mid-air multimedia system.

"We have an interface that is holographic, therefore you have to wear these glasses," Bischoff says. "Then floating in mid-air you have a holographic display or displays with symbols you are able to control with gestures. It’s like a touchscreen with no screen, and you don’t see it when you take off the glasses."

There’s no steering wheel or pedals in the concept but they will have to be there for the production version. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN
There’s no steering wheel or pedals in the concept but they will have to be there for the production version. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN

It’s even more advanced than that sounds, because wearing the glasses means a reclining "driver" doesn’t even have to lift up to see a screen or a fixed-position hologram. Instead, the hologram’s position relates to the glasses, so people can remain lying down to deliver their gestures. There are separate hologram "touchscreen" functions for all four seats in the car, too, though they "switch off" when the glasses come off.

At this stage, the ID Vizzion will be opened and closed by smartphone technology, though Bischoff suggests that could change. "You might have your personal devices or an iPad with you, if we still have them like that in 10 years. Maybe we will only have wearables.

"With the smartphone you go to the car and it opens it. What’s more, you can send the opening key to a family member or a friend. If you have it on your mobile device, you can send the key. You leave the car in the city and your daughter or son needs it to go somewhere, you just send the key and the position of the car to their devices. We call it a digital key."

The ID also makes big steps with its lighting technology, going full LED with slivers of headlights that communicate with the outside world, particularly for pedestrians, but only in white. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche and BMW are aiming for full-colour projections.

The four-door will be longer than any production Volkswagen currently on sale. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN
The four-door will be longer than any production Volkswagen currently on sale. Picture: VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen hasn’t given the concept or the production car a weight figure, though Bischoff admits battery-electric cars will be considerably heavier than a similarly sized internal-combustion car. Coping with that weight is one of the three reasons why it runs on 23-inch wheels and tyres (the others are their extra torque and, obviously, design).

The Volkswagen Group MEB architecture is different to the battery-electric architecture Porsche and Audi will use for their e-tron and Mission E electric cars. Porsche has gone for the lowest possible batteries to keep its driving positions lower and its cars’ handling sharp, despite the weight of the batteries. Volkswagen hasn’t.

"The Porsche batteries are lower and the driver has to sit lower because it’s a sports car. Ours is an all-wheel drive system and e-engines parallel to each axle. The basic ID just gets a rear-drive motor. But at Volkswagen, we are about the democratisation of technology and the accessibility of it. We are absolutely not considering this to be a niche product."

Volkswagen SA says it has no plans to bring the ID to this country at this stage. This may change and will also depend on world demand and local infrastructure availability.

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