2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
The point at which electric cars will become truly cost competitive with internal-combustion cars is a subject of vigorous discussion by advocates and skeptics alike.
But could tougher emissions standards help push the cost of electric and internal-combustion powertrains toward convergence?
Even if the cost of electric cars doesn't drop dramatically over the next few years, these standards could increase the cost of diesel engines to near parity with them, one Volkswagen executive believes.
The cost of meeting emissions standards could soon result in a "cost line crossing" of battery-electric and diesel powertrains, Volkswagen Group of America executive vice president Dr. Matthias Erb said in an interview with Green Car Congress at last months' Los Angeles Auto Show.
Strategists within Volkswagen predict that by "2023, 2025, due to the cost of meeting emissions standards, diesels are going to become really expensive," Erb said.
He didn't specifically address the impact of anticipated emissions standards on the cost of gasoline engines, which vastly outsold diesels in the U.S. even before it was revealed last year that VW installed illegal "defeat device" software on its diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests.
Earlier this year, VW North American boss Hinrich Woebcken said the company was effectively done selling large numbers of diesel cars in the U.S.
He attributed that decision not to the ongoing diesel emissions scandal, but to the anticipated cost of the exhaust aftertreatment systems that would allow diesels to meet future, more stringent emissions standards.
Volkswagen is now hurriedly pivoting to emphasize electric cars, with ambitious plans that include selling 1 million electric cars per year by 2025 across its sprawling lineup of brands.
That timing coincides perfectly with the "cost line crossing" of electric cars and diesel vehicles mentioned by Erb.
This plan will be put into action as part of a new corporate strategy called "Transform 2025+."
One component of that strategy involves building electric cars, based on Volkswagen's new MEB platform, somewhere in North America.
The MEB platform was designed specifically for compact electric cars.
It underpinned two recent Volkswagen electric-car concepts: the Budd-e van and I.D. hatchback.
North American production of at least one MEB-based electric car will begin in 2021, according to the Transform 2025+ blueprint, but a specific production site has not been named.
The only Volkswagen electric car currently sold in the U.S. is the e-Golf, an all-electric version of the popular Golf hatchback.
All e-Golfs today are built in Germany, though the company recently announced that in addition to its main Wolfsburg assembly plant, the e-Golf would also be built at its showplace "Transparent Factory" in Dresden.
That site, with glass walls and immaculate conditions inside, was formerly used for production of the now-discontinued VW Phaeton luxury sedan.