Volkswagen Newsroom

How Volkswagen is helping diverse suppliers find their footing

September 18, 2020
Edkedsha “KeeKee” Mathis is the Manager of Supplier Diversity at Volkswagen Group of America at Chattanooga Plant.

Automakers may be fierce competitors on the showroom floors and production lines, but in one critical area they share a common goal: working to equip diverse suppliers to help build the future of electric mobility and autonomous cars.

The Automotive Industry Group (AIG)—a coalition of industry competitors including Volkswagen Group of America—works to develop and train suppliers in advanced technologies so that minority-, women-, veteran- and LGBTQ+-owned businesses have a chance to compete.

“A unique challenge with diverse suppliers is helping them perform at the level needed to compete with the current and actual needs of the automotive industry today,” said Volkswagen Manager of Supplier Diversity Edkedsha “KeeKee” Mathis. “Technology is a massive area in which minority and diverse suppliers need to build their competencies, so it’s more difficult to award that type of business to those we’ve committed to working with. As technologies evolve and change, my role is to make them aware of our existing needs and to help develop their capabilities to better [align] with the future of the industry.”

When Mathis stepped into her role with Volkswagen in 2013, she focused not only on significantly contributing her time to the AIG, but also on providing one-on-one mentorship to help Volkswagen’s existing diverse supply base streamline operations to enhance their competitiveness, and adopt development plans to help them hone in on their strengths and sharpen their areas of weakness.

Mathis and James Wingard, CEO & President of Wingard Supply, LLC. at the 2018 Volkswagen Group of America’s 9th Annual Partnering for Success Conference. Presenting Mr. Wingard with a Volkswagen Passion for Diversity Award.

For many diverse suppliers in the industry, the biggest barrier to being awarded work by Fortune 500 companies is access. Smaller minority-owned businesses do not typically have someone who can walk them through an RFQ (request for quotation) process. Without that insider knowledge, they can also lag in developing the right technologies and skillsets needed to help meet changing industry demands.

“If you are not able to provide certain technologies or meet scopes in their entirety without deviation, you are simply not going to be competitive in these spaces,” said Mathis.

For some of the businesses Mathis works with, adjustments to marketing, inventory and structural operations are all that is needed to help move the needle. With Wingard Quality Supply, LLC, for example, one of the target areas was in finding ways for the second-generation minority-owned business to better market the company to other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). From a thorough website review, to creating speaking engagements for company president James Wingard, Mathis worked with the company in helping to provide opportunities to engage with other OEMs and business leaders.

“KeeKee was really pushing me to become a company that is visible, making me stand up in front of audiences to talk about our business,” said Wingard, whose tire and wheel assembly business has been a supplier with Volkswagen since 2010. “It was all out of my comfort zone, but it helped open the door for me to explore new business opportunities.”

Mathis speaking at our 2016 Volkswagen Group of America’s 7th Annual Partnering for Success Conference.

An integral part of Volkswagen’s acquisition process is for Mathis to sit down with suppliers one-on-one, both to provide education about the industry and to give them feedback, especially if they did not win a particular RFQ. Her goal is not only to help each business identify their strengths, but to point out their weaknesses so they can both better align themselves with Volkswagen for the next RFQ, or with any Fortune 500 company.

For BarPellam, Inc.’s CEO David Barfield, Mathis has been an invaluable coach as well as an advocate in helping the business expand its footprint within Volkswagen.

“In no way has our long-term relationship resulted in her being easier on us; in certain instances, its resulted in her being tougher on us—in a good way—because she really wants us to perform well and therefore she challenges us and certainly holds us accountable,” said Barfield, who manages the staffing and recruiting company. “KeeKee is very direct, but she always comes about it in a spirit of partnership and really caring for BarPellam as one of her suppliers. We are a better company because of her support, her mentorship, her guidance—and quite honestly, her tough love.”

For Mathis, supplier diversity is not just about short-term contracts, but long-term invested partnerships, so that as Volkswagen grows, these underutilized minority and diverse companies can grow alongside.

“I believe it’s incumbent on Corporate America to help ensure that diverse firms are invited to participate in the bidding process, and that ultimately the supply base reflects the nature of our country’s changing demographics,” said Barfield. “I just think it is critical that responsible companies like Volkswagen continue to seek partnerships with leading minority and women-owned firms to ensure all of its customers are represented in the supply chain.”

“For me, programs they come and go with an organization,” Mathis said. “This is not a program—this is a part of our process; it’s embedded in our policies, procedures and guidelines and it is here to stay.”

#TBT: Volkswagens tie grandkids to their family legacies

September 17, 2020
Frank R. Shoemaker Sr. purchased a 1967 Beetle brand new in December 1966. It’s been in the family ever since.

Eric Shoemaker had no real interest in cars. As a designer and entrepreneur, he primarily took an interest in hobbies like woodworking, furniture restoration, and photography. Today, however, he not only owns a business with his wife Amanda that restores air-cooled German engine components, but his website (1967beetle.com) is a go-to resource for tech tips, classifieds, and Volkswagen stories from around the globe. And what he attributes as the catalyst for his newfound passion is a 1967 Beetle his grandfather drove that almost ended up in the crusher.

Eric’s grandpa, Frank R. Shoemaker Sr., was 54 years old when he purchased the family Beetle brand new. As someone who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, Frank bought the car in December 1966 because it was economical and reliable as a piece of quality German engineering that could get him to and from work. For young Eric, however, the Beetle was more than a car—it was a vehicle, literally, for drawing the family together.

Frank R. Shoemaker Sr. (L) and his grandson, Eric Shoemaker (R), pose with the family Beetle. Frank passed away in 2019, but his grandson Eric carries on his legacy through his business and his family’s love for the Beetle.

“I have many fond memories riding around in our ’67 Beetle with my family—that ‘Volkswagen smell’ and the cadence of an air-cooled engine,” Eric said, who lives with Amanda and seven-year-old twins in Decatur, Ga. “It’s special to me now for obvious reasons—nostalgia from the family history and the connection to my grandparents.”

As studies have found over the years, car culture and consumption are never simply about consumers’ making economic choices to meeting a material need—aesthetics, emotional responses and the ability to build relations are driving factors in the cars they choose to buy and drive. In fact, Volkswagen’s 2019 SUV survey revealed that more than 80 percent of parents today view their cars as a place where important family discussions take place, creating a new space for family time, whether they are running errands or on a family road trip. It should be no surprise that many fans of vintage Volkswagen models feel an emotional connection to their vehicles because of how it ties them back to their families.

 

Margo and Tony Huizing live out of their 1982 VW Vanagon Westfalia for eight months of the year, but still find unique ways to connect with their six grandchildren.

For grandparents like Margo Huizing and her husband, Tony, their Volkswagen camper is a tool they use to build lasting memories with their six grandchildren. After retiring 10 years ago, the couple has spent their time split between living in a sailboat off the coast of Baja California and living out of their 1982 Vanagon Westfalia for eight months of the year. Since 2000, the Huizings have traveled to 49 of the 50 states in their van (Hawaii is out since they can’t get there by car) and have created a special way to connect with their grandchildren from afar.

“Our grandkids have grown up with our lifestyle, and when we’re on the road I make maps so they can follow us when we travel and color in all the places we’ve been,” said Margo. “I make a point to send them pictures and we bring them home things that are not traditional souvenirs—like volcano dust from Alaska—so they can learn about our adventures and we can teach them to follow their dreams.”

Margo Huizing makes maps for her grandkids so they can follow their grandparents on their travels.

For Eric, the nostalgic tie between his family’s history and the Beetle came later in life when he learned that the car was sitting unused in his grandpa’s garage.

“I asked my Dad about it because I thought it could be a fun creative side project, then one day, my Grandpa called me up and simply said, ‘Come over, let’s talk about it’,” said Eric. His grandfather had all the car’s original records since it left the factory.

“The window dealership sticker, bill of sale, all service records, everything,” said Eric. “He proudly signed the title and handed over the keys.”

The car did not run well at all at first, and the restoration journey was long, so Eric and Amanda created their website in 2009 to share their progress on the Beetle. As he worked, the site became a canvas to tell his family story, and the catalyst for eventually launching their business, Lane Russell LLC.

Eric Shoemaker (L) and his grandfather Frank R. Shoemaker Sr. (R).

The most rewarding moment for Eric, however, was when he finally drove the fully restored Beetle to his grandpa’s house for the first time. “I can still see Grandpa standing in the driveway as I pulled up the hill to his house saying, ‘Well, I’ll be damned, Eric!’” said Eric. “My Grandpa left us last year at 99, but our family ‘67 Beetle lives on as a symbol of hard work, creativity, and my family history.”

For Margo, the family Volkswagen symbolizes more than simply building memories, but an important tool to instill life lessons and pass on what she and Tony have learned over the years.

“I tell them: ‘If you can imagine it, you can do it,’ and I show them how through the way we live our life,” said Margo. “I want to instill in them that there is more to the world than sitting on the couch with a video game—there is the possibility of today. Our van gives us that.”

A new name in small SUVs from Volkswagen: The Volkswagen Taos

September 17, 2020

Tiguan, Touareg, even Thing – over the decades, most Volkswagen SUVs have a certain alliteration in their names. On Oct. 13, Volkswagen will reveal an all-new SUV for the small compact space in America, and with it a new name: the Volkswagen Taos.

The Volkswagen Taos SUV shares the same name as the New Mexico town of about 6,000 residents that has a rich history and culture. Occupied for more than 1,000 years, the town offers artist colonies that have thrived in the beautiful, mountain-ringed landscape since the early 20th century.

“It was important to choose a name that really embodied the nature of the car and the town of Taos, New Mexico was a perfect fit,” said Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President for Product Marketing and Strategy, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “It’s a small city that offers big things—from outdoor adventure to arts and design and great cuisine.”

Taos also has a bit of connection to Volkswagen history. A must-read of the original van life culture, his book has helped keep countless VW models running, from Beetles and Buses to Type 3 and Type 4 models.

The Taos will slot into the Volkswagen lineup beneath the Tiguan, and represents not just another SUV model, but one designed in the North American region, with its consumers’ needs in mind, with superb space, handling, efficiency and technology. You’ll get your first glimpse of the Taos on Oct. 13.

Why battery power will drive the future of transportation

September 15, 2020

Chances are you might have at least two lithium-ion batteries on your body right now – one on your wrist, and one in the phone in your pocket. You may have multiple more if you’re holding a car key fob or have a pacemaker or any other electronic device.

But do you know how those batteries actually work?

For a technology at the heart of modern life, batteries remain something of a mystery. While humans have used batteries for hundreds of years, it’s only within the past decade that the science of batteries has advanced enough to make long-range electric vehicles like the Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle possible. Among all alternatives, researchers suggest that battery-powered vehicles hold the promise today of reducing carbon emissions from personal vehicles enough to help make significant progress against climate change. And Volkswagen hopes to have the next evolution of these batteries powering its vehicles within a few years.

Batteries rely on basic chemistry to work, formulas that were first identified by Alessandro Volta in 1799. Basically, every battery cell has two electrodes – one positive (the cathode), one negative (the anode) – and a substance in between called an electrolyte. When connected to an electric circuit, electrons move from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte, while ions move in the opposite direction, creating electric current. In rechargeable batteries, the process reverses.

It wasn’t long after the invention of the early batteries that people began experimenting with vehicles built around them. In the early years of the auto industry at the turn of the 20th century, EVs were among the best-sellers, thanks to their quiet operation, ease of driving and low maintenance needs around newly paved cities. Only when roads improved and gas vehicles became more affordable did the first EV era end, aided by the increasing prevalence of gasoline stations, the lack of charging options for batteries, and the short range of early EVs.

The modern revival of EVs was made possible by lithium-ion batteries, first invented in the 1970s, and  Volkswagen’s own electric history shows how far EV batteries have evolved. In the early 1970s, Volkswagen built a handful of Microbus vans converted to electric power, using the lead-acid batteries that you find under the hood of gas-powered vehicles today. The tray of batteries in the floor provided 25 miles of range– and added 1,847 lbs. of weight. Today, the largest lithium-ion battery pack in the Europe-only ID.3 EV holds nearly four times as much energy (82 kWh) at a third of the weight.

And the battery lies at the heart of why EVs are considered by experts to be one of the best choices for vehicles that combat climate change. Liquid fueled vehicles only use about a third of the energy it contains to move the vehicle – the rest escapes as heat and friction, and it generates carbon dioxide when burned. Similar waste happens with alternative fuels, from ethanol to hydrogen. But according to the EPA, EVs typically convert over 75% percent of their energy to movement and, if charged with renewable energy, have zero direct emissions in use.

Most EV owners will never see the batteries that power their vehicles. In the Volkswagen MEB electric vehicle platform, the batteries are built into the floor, for optimal weight distribution. EV batteries – like those in the upcoming ID.4 electric vehicle – aren’t one huge cell. It’s a modular package, where flat, individual “pouch” batteries are stacked 24 to a “module,” with up to 12 modules then connected into a single unit like the squares of a chocolate bar.

The components of the MEB battery system

There are multiple reasons for building EV batteries this way. Smaller cells carry more energy per pound. It can be easy to add or subtract battery modules to offer EVs with different ranges and prices. Most importantly, as each individual battery can be controlled through software, it can be easier to maximize power flow and battery life, helping ensure a steady delivery of energy as the batteries discharge.

These systems can store and deploy tremendous amounts of electrical power. A typical cell phone battery runs at 3.7 volts; the battery pack in Volkswagen’s MEB electric vehicle platform operates at up to 408 volts. This helps allow the ID.4 EV to provide ample energy to its electric motors and power all the internal accessories, including heating and air conditioning.

Battery power for vehicles comes with some drawbacks. EVs simply don’t hold as much energy as a liquid-fuel vehicle and therefore have shorter ranges. It can take hours to recharge a large battery pack with a home 110-volt supply, and although there are fast charging options, everyday use of high-power charging can degrade EV cells. And EV batteries are the most expensive component in the vehicle.

Volkswagen Group has started to tackle these challenges with battery innovation start-up QuantumScape, and the concept of the solid-state lithium battery. Today, most lithium-ion batteries use either a liquid or gel electrolyte. A solid electrolyte could in theory create a battery that holds more energy per pound, at a lower cost, with fast recharging times in normal use. Volkswagen Group has invested approximately $300 million with QuantumScape since 2012 to research and develop such batteries, toward the goal of bringing the technology to market over the next few years.

Volkswagen marks National Wildlife Day with Chattanooga preservation efforts

September 4, 2020

When Volkswagen built the Chattanooga plant, the company pledged to restore nearby wetlands in an effort to help protect local wildlife and preserve the natural environment. In the first several years after the plant’s opening, Volkswagen successfully restored over 40 acres of biodiverse wetland through regular testing, monitoring and studies.

Today, the total wetland area spans over 88 acres and is home to 15 endangered animals, hundreds of species of wildlife, including 167 species of birds, and continues to grow. The area is restricted, which means there is no hunting or fishing allowed on site, and people come from all over to see the protected environment throughout the year. The wetlands’ water is tested regularly and regarded as some of the highest grade in the state of Tennessee.

“Volkswagen’s commitment to environmental stewardship is inspiring,” said Kaye Fiorello, an environmental compliance specialist at Volkswagen. “At the plant in Chattanooga, precautions are taken to help protect local wildlife, wetlands and surrounding land. We take our commitment to the environment seriously. It’s a special place to work.”

Sherry Teas, a licensed rehabber from Happinest Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, gives a red-tailed hawk a final check before release.

Today, September 4, is National Wildlife Day, and Volkswagen is more committed than ever to helping protect our environment. Globally, the automaker has made large-scale commitments to employ more sustainable practices, such as working to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and bringing electric vehicles to market, including the ID.4 introduction later this month. The company continues to help protect the land surrounding the Chattanooga plant, and as a result, fosters a habitable environment for an array of wildlife species.

Volkswagen employees are no strangers to the local wildlife. Animals often need to be rescued from the plant perimeter and relocated for their safety. To do this, Volkswagen has collaborated with Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation & Rescue, Inc., a group of licensed volunteer rehabilitators who help sick, injured and orphaned animals. The organization is also trained to inform the public about wildlife and their habitats so people can become more aware of the native wildlife surrounding them.

Injured wildlife are rescued, brought back to health, and released back into the wild.

“We have a really great relationship with our local animal rehabbers,” said Timothy Youngblood, a technical assistance manager at Volkswagen. “They help take injured animals from us and put them into rehab. Once the animals are healthy again, we release them back into the wetlands park onsite. You’d be amazed at the amount of wildlife we have at the plant. We often see deer, hawks, owls, snapping turtles, raccoons, nutria and more. It’s really neat.”

In addition to the outside help from nonprofits, Volkswagen also leverages its onsite fire department to assist with animal rescues. Members of the fire department are often tasked with moving wildlife back to wetlands or other safe areas outside the plant property.

Placing a Common Nighthawk in a tree so it would be ready to fly at dusk with other birds.

Over the years, Volkswagen has proudly hosted graduate students who are interested in birding and wildlife studies. One student used the wetlands as part of a study on Tree Swallows, which included counting how many of the birdhouses had Swallows, and for those with eggs, how many hatched, and how often the parents fed them, as well as how they responded to stressors such as human and predator presence.

“We are really lucky to live and work where we do,” adds Youngblood. “The ability to see wildlife at work so easily at a vehicle production plant is pretty unique. It sounds crazy, but the animals are part of us. We name them, help protect them. They are part of the Volkswagen community.”

#TBT: One owner, 42 Volkswagen vehicles, endless memories

September 3, 2020
Taylor Bryant. Photo by Jesse James of Jams Media.

You always remember your first car. For Taylor Bryant, that first car – an old Beetle – drew the template of a life-long connection to Volkswagen that has grown to more than 40 vehicles over the years.

“I’ve always liked European cars and had a soft spot for Volkswagens,” Bryant said.

His affection for VW began as a kid in Charleston, South Carolina. Bryant would ride his bike to the local Volkswagen dealership and admire the latest models while chatting with technicians. Six years later, he bought his first car – a 1961 light blue Beetle – for $500 after spotting the car while waiting at a red light. He rolled down his window, asked the driver if he would be willing to sell it and, a few weeks later, the car was his.

“I drove it all the way through high school and the beginning of college. It really got me into cars because I had to work on it constantly,” Bryant said. “You can’t pay a whole lot of people to work on your car on a Taco Bell salary at 16.”

Bryant received a degree in automotive technology from Aiken Technical College in South Carolina in 2001 and worked as a Volkswagen master auto technician for 12 years. His work introduced him to all sorts of Volkswagen vehicles, from older classics, like the Corrado and original Beetle, to more modern models, like the Jetta and Tiguan. He quickly began building his own car collection, often buying trade-in vehicles, and taking them on as project cars. Once a car was complete, he would sell it for whatever money he put into it and use the earnings to fund the next build.

Over the years, his 42 Volkswagen car collection has included multiple Golf, Jetta and Passat models.

“I pretty much love them all [and] have touched or owned all of them at some point,” said Bryant.

Some of his fondest family memories are tied to his Volkswagen cars. Bryant ran for school board in 2010 and used a 2005 Jetta GLI as his campaign car. He bought his wife a Cabriolet for their fifth wedding anniversary, and his son’s first car was a Jetta.

His current collection includes a 1999 Jetta, a 2004 Passat Wagon and a 2017 Jetta. He recently spotted one of his favorite project cars – a beautifully restored red 1967 Karmann Ghia – for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

“It was pretty neat to see a car I restored 20 years ago still running around and looking beautiful,” Bryant said.

In 2013, after 12 years of working as a Volkswagen mechanic, he left the shop to become an instructor at Augusta Technical College in Georgia. “It feels really good to give back to the career that has given me everything I’ve ever had,” Bryant said.

Due to COVID, he has moved his classes online and spends some of his spare time tracking down models to use for teaching purposes.

As to his personal collection, it always has room to grow. He is currently eyeing the Atlas SUV as his next big purchase to cart his four large pups and two children around town.

“[Volkswagen] was the first car I bought and will likely be the last,” Bryant said.

RSVP for an EV SUV with a $100 reservation for the Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle

August 28, 2020

In good times or bad, people need their vehicles. Over the past few months, Volkswagen of America has worked with dealers on a new shopping and buying experience so our customers can shop from home. Next month, Volkswagen will unveil its first electric SUV, the ID.4 — and a new system that allows customers to reserve their car.

The Volkswagen reservation platform will make its debut on Sept. 23rd, immediately following the reveal of the all-new, zero-tailpipe emission Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle at 11 a.m. EDT. on VW.com. Customers who want to experience the future of driving will be able to reserve an ID.4 before it hits dealer showrooms later this year.

The easy-to-use platform lets Volkswagen fans reserve an  ID.4 in a few simple steps. The platform also includes shopping tools such as a range estimator, payment tool and dealer selection to assist shoppers with finding an ID.4 model and making the transition to EV ownership.

“Our online reservations portal will give those who are ready to make the switch to an EV SUV a place at the front of the line,” said Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Volkswagen. “We’re excited to share the future of Volkswagen with the ID.4. It’s a compelling, zero direct emissions alternative to the compact SUVs on the market today.”

Once a user has built their vehicle, they can secure their place in line with a fully refundable $100 reservation payment. As vehicle production starts, our reservation holders will be invited to lock their configuration and confirm their order with an additional $400 deposit. From placing a reservation, to production and through delivery, the customer can see where they stand and when they can expect their ID. 4 to arrive at their preferred local VW dealer.  At that time, the customer can transact with their dealer and complete their purchase.

Volkswagen plans to offer the ID.4 electric vehicle across all 50 states, and throughout its network of more than 600 dealers. The reservation platform will also invite owners and prospective EV customers to become insiders by allowing them to subscribe to Volkswagen’s latest EV news as it plans to sell 26 million electric vehicles globally by 2029.

#TBT: Sixty-five years later, the beauty of the Karmann Ghia endures

August 27, 2020
A vintage Karmann Ghia.

When the Volkswagen Beetle became a hit in America during the ‘50s and ‘60s, it won over buyers for its utility, its frugality and its driving dynamics – not its unusual approach to automobile design. Even Volkswagen ads would later compare it to the Apollo lunar module with the tagline: “It’s ugly but it gets you there.”

It would be 1955 before Volkswagen produced its first truly beautiful car, a coupe whose lines were crafted in Italy and essentially hand built in Germany. And 65 years after the first one rolled out of Karmann’s Osnabruck factory, the Karmann Ghia remains a striking piece of automotive art.

The history of the Karmann Ghia lives in its name. Wilhelm Karmann was a contract car manufacturer, who got his start building convertibles and became the sole supplier of Beetle convertibles from his factory in Osnabruck. In 1953, he asked the Carrozzeria Ghia automotive design house in Turin, Italy, to take the chassis of a Beetle and design a convertible sports car. After four months of secret work, Ghia showed Karmann the result – which by then had turned into a coupe. Karmann shared the prototype with Volkswagen’s Managing Director at the time, Heinrich Nordhoff, and the two agreed to build a production 2+2 seater coupe and convertible.

A vintage Karmann Ghia.

The prototype Karmann Ghia looked nothing like the Beetle. An elegant nose and front cargo area flowed smoothly into a sizable seating area for two passengers. The thin roof pillars and gracious curves gave the Ghia a sense of motion even at rest, and it has a sporty stance because the body sits seven inches lower than the Beetle. The Beetle engine was stock, but the suspension was altered with a front sway bar and different springs for better handling response. While some of the Karmann Ghia’s lines were inspired by other models, it was clearly its own model – and a striking departure for Volkswagen.

For the production model, Volkswagen added a small pair of chrome vents into the nose, but otherwise kept the concept’s look intact – even though its shapes required many hours of hand-built metalworking. After its reveal in July 1955, production began in August, and the first cars arrived in the United States in 1956. With 36 horsepower from and 150 pounds more weight than the stock Beetle, the Karmann Ghia was not a fast vehicle; one magazine was able to reach 60 mph from rest after 28 seconds. It also came at a premium of $900 to the Beetle, but its gracious design made it a hit.

Over the next 19 years, Karmann built 362,601 coupes and 80,881 convertibles, with U.S. sales of nearly 279,000. Through 1974, the Karmann Ghia went through several updates shared with the Beetle line, with power eventually topping out at 60 hp. But its basic outline never changed – a reflection of how on target the original design was. Volkswagen built a second Ghia model, the Type 34, based off the platform of the 1600 sedan, but that vehicle was never officially sold in the United States.

Today, Karmann Ghias are collectors’ items and crowd-pleasers at any car show. Their easy parts availability and graceful lines have made them among the more valuable Volkswagen classics. And the idea of taking a basic platform and modifying it with a unique exterior top-hat is shared with the upcoming ID. electric vehicle family – meaning the electric future could have some of the styling freedom of the past.

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#TBT: The Wedding Beetle: Mexico City’s metal masterpiece

August 20, 2020
The Wedding Beetle. Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards.

Ever wanted to take a spin in Cinderella’s magical coach? Look no further than the Wedding Beetle, an enchanting white, wrought iron-bodied coachbuilt car from the 1960s.

The Wedding Beetle was the creation of Rafael Esparza-Prieto, a talented welder and blacksmith from Mexico City. Esparza-Prieto was reportedly working at a local parts shop in 1968 when his boss asked him to create a one-of-a-kind Beetle shell to display and attract new customers.

Using a Beetle as his base, Esparza-Prieto built the skeleton of the vehicle out of white wrought iron and artistically filled in the gaps with unique floral patterns and decorative swirls. The auto store owner was so impressed with his work that he displayed the finished product on a rotating platform outside his business, where it quickly drew local attention and the eye of Volkswagen executives down the road at the newly built Puebla plant.

Impressed, Volkswagen commissioned Esparza-Prieto to create two more Wedding Beetle pieces ahead of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City — and these ones were drivable. The wire shell left the vehicle’s simple, yet sophisticated, mechanics fully exposed so anyone —the driver, passengers and even other vehicles on the street — could see under its hood.

Athletes, artisans and auto-enthusiasts from around the world admired the vehicle’s 1.5-liter flat-four, air-cooled engine, which reached up to 53 horsepower. As it gained popularity at the games, Volkswagen commissioned Esparza-Prieto to build an additional 20-odd creations to display at different dealerships across the globe.

The Wedding Beetle. Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards.

The white metal whimsical designs of the car evoked images of Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage and, as the car’s moniker suggests, the cars were loaned to happy couples as picturesque getaway cars for their special day.

After Esparza-Prieto immigrated to California, he built two more Wedding Beetles on his own. Along with his original creation, there are an estimated 23 Wedding Beetles in total. Several other welders have since mimicked Esparza-Prieto’s work and built their own wrought iron versions of the car using different colors and patterns.

It’s rare to see a Wedding Beetle these days — and not only because their limited number makes them highly sought-after by collectors. While these artistic automobiles are perfect for a post-wedding photoshoot, the quirky creations don’t include a windshield or sheet metal to protect passengers from weather or stray pebbles and are not suitable as everyday drivers.

The car’s spellbinding silhouette and expert craftmanship still have the effect Esparza-Prieto intended when he designed the Wedding Beetle over 50 years ago: make people stop and stare. This wrought-iron wonder is as much a piece of art as it is a Volkswagen.

Everything you wanted to know about EVs (but might be afraid to ask)

August 18, 2020

The electric revolution will be coming soon to a street near you. Volkswagen will reveal the production version of the ID.4 electric SUV online on Sept. 23, part of a worldwide strategy to deliver millions of electric vehicles to help combat global climate change.

Electric vehicle owners know the joys of driving and owning a battery-powered model. But for those who are on the fence about whether an electric vehicle may be right for them, Volkswagen has developed this Q&A to tackle everything you need to know, and a few things you might be afraid to ask.

Answers to questions about EV ownership

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Why should I buy an electric vehicle?

Electric vehicles have zero direct emissions from driving and can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions compared to traditional vehicles. Researchers suggest that there may be no way to combat global warming without millions of electric vehicles worldwide. They’re fun to drive and quiet on the road, plus you can recharge them at home. They are also far more efficient at using energy compared to liquid fuel vehicles, which waste about two-thirds of their fuel as heat and friction.

Why can’t I buy one today?

In the United States, EV supplies have mostly been limited either to specific states or to luxury vehicles. Volkswagen aims to change that starting with the ID.4 electric compact SUV, the first of a line of EVs it plans to launch in the United States over the next several years. These vehicles will be what Volkswagens have always been – affordable and fun to drive.

Why is Volkswagen building so many EVs?

The Volkswagen Group has pledged to make its global business carbon neutral by 2050, and electric vehicles will help make that possible. By 2025, the Group plans to build about 1.5 million electric vehicles a year worldwide – including at its U.S. factory in Chattanooga.

Are they as safe as regular vehicles?

Yes. All Volkswagen vehicles are subjected to intense safety testing. They must meet rigorous safety standards and crash tests required by law, and often exceed these standards.

Aren’t the batteries in EVs just versions of what I have in my phone or laptop?

While most electronics use some form of lithium-ion battery today, the chemistry and design of an EV battery is quite different than those used in consumer electronics.

The battery in my phone only lasts a few years. Will I have to replace the battery in my EV?

EV batteries in vehicles are not designed to be replaced like those in phones, and it’s rare for an EV owner to face that issue. EVs are designed to provide a certain amount of power for many years of ownership. While all batteries can lose charging capacity over time, Volkswagen EVs have several strategies to help combat that process, from liquid cooling to energy reserves. For example, the Volkswagen e-Golf came with an eight-year or 100,000-mile (whichever occurs first) limited warranty on the battery pack.1

Answers to questions about EV Charging

CHARGING

How long does it take to charge an EV?

That depends on how much power the charger can provide, and how fast the vehicle can accept it. There are three general levels of charging power:

  • Level 1 is your typical 120-volt plug. Most EVs can get roughly 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging at one.
  • Level 2 chargers are the most common; they run off 240-volt circuits and can add about 12-24 miles per hour of charge. Most charging is either Level 1 or 2, and about 80 percent of all vehicle charging takes place at home.
  • Level 3 is commonly known as DC fast charging and requires special equipment with heavy-duty cables and inverters. These systems typically are only found at public charging stations and used for occasional recharging on long-distance drives. A Level 3 charger can recharge an EV battery to 80 percent capacity in roughly 30-40 minutes, depending on the charger’s total power limit. (Charging speeds at a DC fast charger slow for the final 20 percent of capacity due to heat buildup.)

Because the power coming out of a U.S. outlet is alternating current (AC), and vehicle batteries rely on direct current (DC), that electricity has to be converted, and the vehicle’s onboard converter can only handle a certain amount at a time. (That’s also the reason fast charging uses DC – it bypasses the onboard converters.) Charging times can also be affected by temperature extremes; very hot or cold weather can slow charging rates and lower the total amount of energy the battery can hold.2

Can I plug in anywhere, or to any EV charger?

Not quite. Your EV has a specific type of charge port that has to match the charger. All Level 1 and Level 2 chargers use the same standard plug, but there are different plugs for DC fast charging. It can be a bit frustrating and confusing at first, but more automakers are moving to use the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) for DC fast charging already used on all Volkswagen Group EVs.

Your Volkswagen EV will come from the dealer with a Level 1 charger that plugs into a standard three-prong, 120-volt outlet. However, if you have a driveway or a permanent parking place, you will likely want to get a Level 2 charger installed at your home. Many apartment buildings and parking garages are also installing Level 2 chargers nationwide. There are about 59,000 public Level 2 chargers available in the United States, along with about 2,500 DC Fast Chargers that use the CCS standard, and more are being built.

What if I don’t have a driveway or fixed parking spot?

That’s one of the challenges that Volkswagen, along with companies like Electrify America, have been working to tackle. Some EV owners may be able to rely on charging at their workplaces, or paid public charging. Other firms are building chargers that can be added to public streets. For some people who want to buy an electric vehicle, this may be too big of a hurdle to overcome today – but many companies want to solve it soon.

How much energy does an EV battery pack hold?

The non-scientific answer is: A lot. According to federal energy data, the average U.S. home uses 30.5 kilowatt-hours of energy a day. The smallest battery pack in the Volkswagen ID.3 electric hatchback sold in Europe could power that typical home for a day and a half. The largest available pack for the ID.3 holds 82 kilowatt-hours of energy – or roughly 5,500 times that of your smartphone.

Can I plug it in when it’s raining?

Electric vehicle charge ports and plugs use software to confirm they’re properly connected before sending electricity to a battery, and they’re designed to work in all weather conditions.

Answers to questions about how EVs driveDRIVING

EV people say driving one is fun. What’s so fun about it?

It’s the very nature of electric driving. Your gas-powered engine makes its maximum torque and horsepower when it revs up to a few thousand revolutions per minute. An electric motor makes its maximum torque the instant it begins spinning, and it makes for a great driving experience. The last generation Volkswagen e-Golf was as quick to 30 mph as the same-generation Volkswagen GTI, even though the GTI had nearly 100 horsepower more than the e-Golf.3

Volkswagen EVs will come in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, and the Volkswagen electric vehicle chassis locates the battery at the bottom of the car, giving it a low center of gravity designed for better handling. All Volkswagens offer engaging vehicle dynamics and that can get even better in the Volkswagen EVs.

Oh, and it’s quiet to drive – there’s no engine noise or exhaust.

How far can I go in an EV?

Every EV in the United States has an EPA rated range estimate for a full charge. In daily use, EVs offer a constantly updated estimate of available range, based on your current driving data, your recent past driving history and other factors such as temperature and HVAC usage. Your range estimates may be lower in winter or higher in summer than the official number due to the effect of weather on batteries; they tend to work best at moderate temperatures, and lose some capacity in extreme cold or heat.

What about range anxiety? EV owners must worry about that all the time.

Range anxiety can happen to EV owners, but it’s no different than planning your fill-ups in a gasoline-powered vehicle. According to federal data,the average American commuter was traveling about 35 to 40 miles per day before the pandemic; the next generation of Volkswagen EVs starting with the ID.4 are engineered to have EPA estimated ranges that well exceed those daily driving needs. As we mentioned before, about 80 percent of charging happens at home; beyond that, the number of public charging stations continues to grow, and more tools than ever are available to help EV drivers find a recharge if necessary.4

What is regenerative braking?

EVs all work the same way: Batteries feed electric power to a motor, which turns the wheels. One of the ways EVs can help save energy is by regenerative braking, which simply reverses that flow — using the wheels to turn the motor and send power back into the batteries while slowing the vehicle.

Volkswagen EVs have a sophisticated set of sensors and software that lets drivers decide how much regenerative braking they want, and whether they want the system to kick on the moment they take their foot off the accelerator pedal. At higher speeds, you may want to coast as far as possible. In stop-and-go traffic, the regenerative braking can make driving even more efficient.

While regenerative braking can handle a lot of speed reduction, EVs do also have traditional friction brakes. The software system ensures a safe engagement of the traditional brakes as needed.

What kind of tires do EVs have?

EVs typically come with low rolling resistance tires that help extend their range while still providing assured handling. These typically do not cost more to replace than comparable regular tires.

Why do EVs seem to have strange wheel choices?

Aerodynamics. Well-designed EVs try to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible to maximize their range. Wheels designed to smooth the air flow around the car can make a noticeable contribution to range in most EVs.

What about a transmission?

Volkswagen EVs don’t have a traditional multi-gear transmission and don’t need them; the motor connects with the wheels via a single-speed gearbox. You can set different driving modes that offer either more sporty acceleration, or those that can help save energy and are designed to extend your vehicle’s range in many cases.

Answers to questions about cost and CO2 savings with EVsSAVING

Do electric vehicles cost more or less than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles?

Electric vehicles typically have higher MSRPs than comparable gas-powered vehicles due to the expense of batteries. That said, many electric vehicles, including the upcoming Volkswagen ID.4, may qualify for Federal or state government incentives, such as a potential U.S. federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. They can also be cheaper to run, as the cost of charging is generally lower than the cost of gas to drive a comparable distance. Plus there are fewer parts that need servicing (i.e., no more oil changes), which can result in lower scheduled maintenance costs. Depending on how long you own the car and how much you drive, these lower costs may help offset an EV’s initial higher purchase price.5

Volkswagen’s strategy to make electric vehicles for millions involves driving down the cost of the components, including batteries, by building EVs at a global scale.

Do EVs really reduce carbon dioxide compared to gas vehicles?

Yes, they can over time, especially when they use renewable energy sources.

While EVs do require slightly more energy to build, they can make up that CO2 deficit and then some over their useful lifetimes. Exactly how much less CO2 emissions driving an electric vehicle generates compared to driving a gasoline-powered vehicle depends on the source of the electricity the owner uses for charging, which varies by geographic region. In many places, electric grids are converting to more CO2-free sources – such as solar and wind – and as that trend continues, the CO2 benefits of EVs will grow. But even at today’s mix of energy sources in the United States, electric vehicles can have a CO2 benefit, as most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline.

How much does it cost to charge an EV?

If you’re at home, your EV recharging costs are based on your electric rates. In some places, EV owners can get special programs from their electric utilities that offer special discounts for charging at night or during off-peak times. The current U.S. average price of residential electricity is 13 cents per kilowatt-hour; at that rate, a full recharge of most EVs today would cost less than $10.

Public chargers range from free to more expensive than home charging for DC fast charging, depending on their power levels and networks. In general, charging your EV is still less expensive than filling up a tank of gasoline.

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