News > i3

Volkswagen's Dr. Herbert Diess

Dr. Herbert Diess Explains Why Volkswagen is Going Electric

When Dr. Herbert Diess, a former BMW executive, became head of Volkswagen’s Core Passenger Car brand in July 2015, he took on a difficult task. In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency h ad alleged that some four-cylinder engine Volkswagen vehicles were enabled to fraudulently pass emissions tests. The Volkswagen Group announced on September 22, that roughly five million Volkswagen Group vehicles worldwide were affected by issues regarding emissions. However, new vehicles do not have this issue.

Diess, 57 was appointed Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG and Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand to remedy the situation. He took over the reins from Dr. Martin Winterkorn, who remains Chairman of the Group Board of Management.

Born in Munich, Diess studied vehicle technology at Munich University of Applied Sciences and then mechanical engineering at Munich Technical University. The German automaker is now debuting its strategy to move into electric vehicles. Audi and Porsche AG, which are both owned by Volkswagen, have also announced plans to introduce electric vehicles.

To expand upon VW’s plans, Diess will deliver a keynote address at CES and show the world the company’s designs for the future and how the company views electric mobility. Volkswagen will also launch a new all-electric concept car at the event that will illustrate the synergy between the Internet of Things and the automotive industry. Diess will share Volkswagen’s vision for the future, including the company’s commitment to sustainability, and display its latest developments in safe and energy-efficient electric vehicles consistent with Volkswagen’s long history of innovation in the driving experience. He recently spoke with i3.


How have you addressed the emissions scandal? How is VW focusing on sustainability through tech innovation?

Our customers continue to be our number one priority. We want to regain trust we have lost. That’s why we will ensure that the technical measures are available as soon as possible. We will ensure that something like this can never happen again by adapting out structures and processes. But I also want to state very clearly that these incidents are against everything Volkswagen stands for. Sustainability was and continues to be one of the most important core tasks for our company. Technological innovations will help us achieve this goal.

What is your strategy to keep Volkswagen at the forefront of innovation?

We are currently in the process of completely restructuring the Volkswagen brand. “New Volkswagen” will be on the offensive, especially when it comes to the big questions impacting the future of our sector: electromobility, digitalization and new mobility services. For example, we are working on a new automotive architecture developed specifically for electric cars. It will allow a greatly increased range, while the charging time will be only a fraction of what it is today. And it will also be fit for high-volume series production. It will mark the breakthrough for electromobility.

How is electric mobility driving the automotive market?

Electromobility is still a niche market and far from profitable. But I am convinced this will change within the next five to 10 years. Range will increase, costs will fall and charging times will be so short that electric cars will be suitable even for longer distances. At Volkswagen, we want to play our part in adapting electromobility to the demands of our customers.

You are introducing a new concept electric vehicle at CES, what makes it unique?

The BUDD-E is the first vehicle based on our new automotive architecture developed specifically for electromobility. It achieves a range of more than 370 miles, while charging up to 80 percent capacity is expected to take only 15 minutes. The battery is extremely shallow and installed in the vehicle floor, where it saves space. In a way, the BUDD-E is a precursor of the future electric world “made by Volkswagen.”

As vehicles become more intelligent, what is your vision to tie the car in with the Internet of Things?

The automobile of the future isn’t just connected to the Internet via individual services, but is itself an integral part of the Internet. The BUDDE shows the advantages this offers. The car thinks ahead; it learns and understands. One interesting feature is the connectivity with the smart home. The car will become part of home automation, almost like a mobile extra room. It is important that these new functions run automatically in the background. Nobody has the time to fight their way through menus, submenus and settings.

How will electric vehicle charging evolve in the future?

High-performance batteries are the key to the breakthrough in electromobility. I expect significant progress, not only with regard to the charging process, but also when it comes to range. That’s why we invest a lot of time and money in the ongoing research and development of battery and charging technology.

Could roadways one day be outfitted with wireless charging technology like that used to charge cell phones (Powermat, etc.), so for example, electric vehicles could recharge while sitting at a stoplight?

Inductive charging could indeed deliver greater convenience and more everyday usability. However, I see the biggest potential of this technology in the inductive parking space. We have already developed an interesting solution in the form of “V-Charge”, whereby the electric car looks for a charging station all by itself and leaves it again when fully charged. It’s all absolutely convenient and fully automatic, while at the same time making best possible use of the infrastructure. That’s what the future of parking and charging could look like.

Is 3D printing having any effect on manufacturing or R&D prototyping?

Of course, because this technology offers a lot of benefits. That’s why Volkswagen was one of the first car manufacturers to introduce this technology, in prototype build as well as in series production. What makes it special is that we print parts made not only of plastic but also metal. In the Wolfsburg plant, we rely on 3D metal printing in areas such as toolmaking.

What innovations will have the biggest impact on driver and pedestrian safety?

Apart from electromobility, autonomous driving will surely play the biggest role here. Not only will it make traffic run more smoothly and efficiently, it will first and foremost also be safer. I expect to see a successive reduction in the number of accidents through the use of ever better and more intelligent driver assistance systems. In the long-run, the only goal can be to prevent accidents altogether.

Cindy Stevens, Sr. Director, Publications, Consumer Technology Association