Volkswagen has thrown its support behind electric cars, saying that it wants to become the biggest maker of EVs in the world.
'We want to become the leader in electrification of vehicles. The board decided in a substantial investment so we can develop completely new powertrains,' said the Volkswagen Group's commissioner for electric drive systems, Dr Rudolf Krebs.
So far the company has hired about 400 new specialists and trained about 70,000 existing employees to make this possible.
Volkswagen will be selling pure electric versions of both the Up and the Golf next year, and by the end of 2014 there will be 14 cars in the VW Group that are either hybrids, plug-in hybrids or fully electric. Dr Krebs also said that up to 40 models could be fitted with alternative drivetrains, including Compressed Natural Gas.
However, VW has said that it is not likely to see widespread take up of either CNG- or hydrogen-powered cars any time soon; hydrogen is too inefficient a system and not supported by infrastructure.
'We have a ongoing hydrogen programme and we have a lot of cars that are being tested with fuel cell stacks, but hydrogen vehicles in larger numbers will not happen before 2020,' said Krebs. 'There is no infrastructure and even the technology is extremely expensive and not as reliable as customers need. We still have the problem that hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green electricity.'
Volkswagen also admitted to being confused about the lack of uptake on CNG-powered cars.
'You can convert every gasoline engine to CNG but the demand is not there. We really don't understand why this is so,' said Krebs.
'There is a lot of confusion about CNG – people think there are a lot of restrictions but that is not true. The best car I could imagine in terms of CO2 would be a CNG plug-in hybrid. There is a CO2 reduction of around 25% by switching from petrol to CNG,' added Krebs.