The Formula E season started on 22 November, and as if by coincidence, the Volkswagen Group recently announced that it’s pulling its investment and energy from non-electric motorsports. Instead, the German manufacturer wants to solely focus on electric mobility. WhichEV takes a look at the ratifications of the company’s statement.
To kick off the new Formula E season, British-born racing driver, Sam Bird drove the Audi e-tron FE06 to victory in Diriyah (Saudi Arabia). Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group, so it seems fitting that the manufacturer is steering its way into the ePrix and other e-mobility activities.
Earlier this year, we saw the ID.R electric racing car prototype set new records at Pikes Peak (USA), Nürburgring (D), Goodwood (GB) and Tianmen (CN). A monumental effort, given the racecar, is built on the same Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) platform as the manufacturer’s other all-electric vehicles, such as the ID. Space Vizzion that was revealed at the LA Auto Show.
“Volkswagen Motorsport broke new ground with the ID.R, and with its records around the world it demonstrated the enormous potential of electric drive. Now is the time for the next step towards the future: in motorsport, Volkswagen is resolutely committing to e-mobility and will say goodbye to factory-backed commitments using internal combustion engines,” says Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development. “In addition to the ID.R as a technological pioneer, the MEB will in future be the second, production-related pillar in Volkswagen’s motorsport programme.”
These changes mark a shift from the manufacturer in ICE-based vehicles, such as the Golf GTI TCR – the vehicle will be pulled from the racetrack at the end of 2019. VW has assured, however, that customer service and a supply of spare parts will be guaranteed in the long-term.
“Electric mobility offers enormous development potential, and in this regard motorsport can be a trailblazer: on the one hand, it serves as a dynamic laboratory for the development of future production cars and, on the other, as a convincing marketing platform to inspire people even more towards electric mobility,” explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “That is why we are going to focus more than ever on factory-backed electric drive commitments and continue to expand our activities with the development of the MEB. Innovative technology relevant to the car of the future is our focus.”
Shifting a company’s consumer-facing solutions towards e-mobility is one thing, but also doubling up in motorsport speaks volumes. Innovation in vehicles has often stemmed from motorsport (such as how consumer electronics take after developments in the army), and with VW moving its focus towards an all-electric motorsport future, it means the company sees no future in ICE-based engines.
Of course, in the short-to-mid term, the giant German manufacturer will still be producing vehicles, such as the VW Golf with an ICE engine (be it with or without an additional electric motor), however, in the long-term – say in 10 years – we won’t see any ICE engines developed or used. Interesting times lie ahead of us. Let us know what you make of the news in the comments section, below.