Volkswagen’s Eberhard Sees 500-Plus Miles EV Driving Range By 2020

By · August 15, 2010

Volkswagen E-Golf

Volkswagen’s first all-electric vehicle, either the Blue-e-motion Golf or the E-Up city car, will arrive in 2013. Will either of them be equipped with 18650-type lithium-ion cells like those in laptop computers?

Most early automobiles ran on batteries. But when the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine arrived in the 20th century, even Thomas Edison knew that petroleum transcended electricity when it came to powering a car that wasn’t attached to a wire. The big advantage? Driving distance.

Today, some experts believe the energy of electric car batteries eventually will catch up to gasoline. One of those experts is Martin Eberhard, founder of Tesla Motors and currently the electric vehicle-engineering director at Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California. In an interview with Britain’s Autocar, Mr. Eberhard said, “At the current rate of progress, I’d say we will have banished the range anxiety problem, and will be making EVs with greater than 500 miles of operational range, within 10 years. At that point, the further development of fast charging infrastructure won’t be so important—because how often do you drive more than 500 miles in a day?”

Eberhard wasn’t that definitive three weeks ago when he gave a presentation to the media at ERL. At the event, when asked by Auto Week magazine about electric vehicle range, he said, “Cars get really interesting when the range in miles has three digits, and more is always better.”

Is Eberhard suggesting that the Nissan LEAF and other electric cars with 100-mile range are not sufficient?

18650 or Bust

The main focus for Eberhard’s group at ERL is the development of the lithium-ion battery packs for Volkswagen’s Blue-e-motion Golf, the E-Up city car and the Audi e-tron. The group works exclusively with 18650-type lithium-ion cells, the same size found in most laptop computer battery packs, and Tesla’s electric cars.

Repeating to Auto Car what he said at the earlier ERL presentation, Eberhard outlined why he is a believer in the 18650 cell: it has the highest energy density, thus providing the longest driving range; new chemistries always go in this cell first; and the 18650 is absolutely the lowest price per kilowatt hour. Additionally, he says, the cells are ideally suited for vehicles because they can take advantage of space available that is otherwise not used.

Volkswagen’s first all-electric vehicle, either the Blue-e-motion Golf or the E-Up city car, will arrive in 2013. Will either of them be equipped with 18650-type lithium-ion cells? It would be easy to guess yes, since Eberhard said that the original Audi e-tron prototype had a range of just over 150 miles and they are expecting close to 300 miles with cells they are about to take delivery of.

Then again, maybe it will be something entirely different. At the ERL presentation, Eberhard stated, “We are not wedded to lithium-ion.”


· · 7 years ago

I would like nothing more than to see a 500 mile capable EV. Whatever the technology, over the next 10 years certainly costs will fall and distance will increase. The question is how much. While the current Nissan LEAF technology provides for perhaps a 100 mile range, that is sure to increase over time. The Tesla Roadster currently may provide a 200+ mile range, depending on driving conditions. But that battery is also extremely expensive. It was quoted last year at almost $36,000 which is more than the entire Nissan LEAF. In racing it is said that speed is money - how fast do you want to go. In the EV world it could be paraphrased as distance is money - how far do you want to go.

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 7 years ago

500 miles of range might sound desirable, but unless it can be done without too big a cost or by adding too much mass, it's unlikely to be successful in the market. You really need to look at how cars are used. For long distance, the smaller battery with a genset to generate long distance kWh burning a liquid fuel is a reasonable solution. Most daily driving could still be on renewable grid supplied kWh.

Since most people rarely drive over 200 miles in a day, a Leaf with 100 mile range and ubiquitous Level 3 charging in 20-30 minutes would give an easy 200 mile range in a day.

Build cars for what people do, not for what people might do once in a blue moon. Borrowing a friend's car or renting for those long trips is a reasonable alternative.

· · 7 years ago

Nissan leaf and Other EVs, being pushed as second Car or the car for daily local use .its needs to get to the point of being Primary vehicle or the only car a family needs to have the greatest Mass Market appeal.Cost will be issue for Most.

· · 6 years ago

Average drive is a lot less than 200 miles in a day.

Regardless, I think 500 miles would be fantastic, again as long as the battery remains relatively "small" so that it can easily be juiced from a level III station.

I drive down from NYC / CT to the Florida Keys for a month each winter, and a 500 mile range would make the trip do-able in the time it takes in my car now. 500 miles each day, do it in two and half days, re-charge over night. No problem.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.