Volkswagen To Use Flat Batteries In Future Long-Range Electric Cars

2 years ago by Mark Kane 63

VW e-Golf

VW e-Golf battery not flat at all

Volkswagen Golf GTE with exhaust pipe in central point

Volkswagen Golf GTE with exhaust pipe in central point

To avoid flat sales, Volkswagen will go with flat batteries – or something like that.

The German brand wasn’t originally familiar with flat battery packs, but times change, and now VW is developing large, flat battery packs to extend range and boost sales, according to Bloomberg.

VW brand chief Herbert Diess said in a joint interview with VW’s top labor union representative, Bernd Osterloh:

“We are developing a special vehicle architecture that foresees the installation of flat batteries. This will be a breakthrough for us.”

Volkswagen’s non-flat batteries were used mainly because each all-electric or plug-in hybrid model was produced as an additional version of an existing gas-powered model (up!, Golf, Passat and so on). We believe that was the main factor (as well as lower costs) and that they will use flat batteries to achieve long range EVs.

If the new vehicle architecture is special, then there’s a big chance that the whole car will be a special new model, not a modified version of a gas car.

Source: Bloomberg

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63 responses to "Volkswagen To Use Flat Batteries In Future Long-Range Electric Cars"

  1. David Murray says:

    I’m more fascinated by the high-detail photo above of the inside of the GTE. The battery pack is surprisingly small. In fact, one could argue it is barely larger than the battery pack in the first generation Prius.

    1. JakeY says:

      The GTE has a 8.8 kWh pack so it isn’t that large capacity in the first place.

      1. David Murray says:

        Yeah, but that’s almost 9 times more energy than the original Prius battery in a form factor that is barely any larger. I’d call that progress. Granted, I’d like to see the car have a larger battery, though.

      2. Dan says:

        Remember that the e-Golf has lithium batteries while the Prius does not. Much higher energy density. The 24kwh on the e-Golf is pretty much all under the seats and the central column.

    2. przemo_li says:

      Tesla needs whole floor because:
      a) They have 4x bigger battery capacity.
      b) They choose smaller height at the expense of other two dimensions.

      Non-flat and non-wide battery packs make no sense what so ever, unless different size is all you have to work with.

      Wide & flat not only increase potential space for battery, make room in car cargo areas, it also improve driving & handling of the car. Thus EV with flat & wide battery pack can beat any ICE in center of gravity placement.

  2. ffbj says:

    And what exactly is VW breaking through too?
    Concepts and perhaps eventually implementations that mirror what has already been developed.

    Putting their statements into my honesty translator it comes out something like this:

    “Here at VW we realize everybody hates us, even morale from dedicated employees is at an all time low, sales are lagging, and law suits are piling up, governments are getting on our case, so now, to take off some of the heat, we are showing how committed we are to getting out something, anything, that looks like it was developed as a pure ev.

    In other words we have seen the light and it is electric. Flat batteries, ground up design of an ev, is new to us, but fortunately we have other forward looking companies that have shown us the way to make breakthroughs that have already been made,
    claiming that we made them, well that’s our own personal touch.”*

    Stay tuned, to see what VW hath wrought.
    *hint: Its not a breakthrough if someone else already designed, developed, and implemented it.

    1. Three Electrics says:

      VW produced electric Golfs forty years ago; I would label them as much a pioneer as anyone else.

      1. Anon says:

        VW sounds more like a conceptual explorer, rather than a pioneer whose efforts set the stage for an evolving and continuing impression on the automotive industry.

        1. ffbj says:

          Right. Being a pioneer once upon a time does not mean that at some point you don’t become a settler. VW gave up their pioneering efforts and settled in the land of ice, and diesels.

    2. Nonda Trimis says:

      +1

    3. Rick Danger says:

      +1

    4. Evdrive says:

      Omg, this is amazing news. What pioneers they are at VW. I wonder what a car with flat batteries will be like to drive? Maybe like the Leaf I bought in April 2011.

    5. Forever green says:

      +1 ffbj

  3. Vinny says:

    Zero is using flat cell in their electric motorcycles. There is an article that was posted here that talks about them. Bottom line using flat cells is a more efficient use of space than using cylindrical cells. Always amazes me how many four wheeled EVs have smaller batteries than my Zero SR does.

    1. David Murray says:

      By smaller, I assume you mean capacity?

    2. mhpr262 says:

      YOu mean ZERO is using pouch cells. VW is talking about whole flat battery packs as opposed to packs that fill out available spaces in former IC cars.

      1. przemo_li says:

        +1

        Flat battery PACK, can be made both with poach (flat) batteries as well as with cylindrical ones. Different internal structure, same outward shape.

        1. Wait – VW is using “poach” Cells? Who did they poach them from? An Egg? What Kind of Chicken lays these eggs? Ahhhhh… A VW Chicken!

          (Chicken: Unable or unwilling to take a leadership stance on Electric Vehicle Design, Development, and Mass Production, until others have already done it, and then taking a wait and see attitude to even follow!)

          1. Mister G says:

            Nailed it LOL

  4. Tech01x says:

    For long range BEVs, the limiting factor isn’t space… it’s weight. Space is only a problem if you aren’t designing a BEV from the ground up or if you are designing a PHEV, or worse, a platform that is a BEV, PHEV, and an ICE so it’s suboptimal/terrible at all of it.

    1. Dan says:

      Bingo! Most people are fixated with the cost/Kwh but are ignoring the fact that kg/kwh is dropping much slower. A huge car like the model S can support the extra 1200 lbs of battery. When you start designing the smaller cars that we riff-raff like to drive, we quickly run into design constraints even if it became cheap enough to load the car up with 100Kwh of cells.

    2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      There’s a reason the Model S is a large full-size car.

      There’s a reason why there’s no long-range electric motorcycle.

      It’s not the battery weight, it’s the battery _size_.

      The Model S and X are heavy vehicle with excellent acceleration and decent range.

      If battery volume weren’t a problem, there’d be Model S and X with capacities greater than 90kWh.

      1. Nonda Trimis says:

        Then why does the Tesla roadster get 300 miles of range – not a lot of space there..

        1. Dan says:

          I wonder why the Roadster can only seat 2 people 🙂 Once you start building something practical that doesn’t use half the wheelbase to hold the batteries, you run into space issues. Try climbing into an i3. It uses a flat battery but the battery is stacked pretty high, meaning that you have to climb “up” like you would in an SUV. That’s why there is no Tesla 3. Long wheelbase = heavy, expensive super cars. Short wheelbase = lighter, but low range, affordable cars. The math does not yet allow for going in between. I’ll buy the first 120 mile sub $40k car that can comfortably carry kids and a large dog in the cargo area!

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Dan said:

            “Try climbing into an i3. It uses a flat battery but the battery is stacked pretty high, meaning that you have to climb “up” like you would in an SUV.”

            The GM Bolt is the same. I think this “skateboard” platform will be the most common BEV design, going forward.

            “That’s why there is no Tesla 3.”

            No, the primary reason there is not yet a Tesla Model ≡ is because it needs the cheaper battery cells which will be produced by Gigafactory 1.

            Cost is another limit on battery pack size, just as important as the space limitation — or maybe even moreso.

            P.S. — I expect the Model ≡ to be a tall-for-its-size skateboard design, too.

          2. Big Solar says:

            2017 i3? hopefully

        2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Nonda Trimis

          “Then why does the Tesla roadster get 300 miles of range – not a lot of space there…”

          The Tesla Roadster is the perfect car for illustrating why it’s space, not weight, that is the constraint… so thanks for bringing it up!

          The Roadster is a small car with only two seats, and those are famously cramped. Tesla designed the entire car around the battery pack, managing to fit a 10.5 cubic foot (!) pack in a small two-seater roadster. Even without a back seat, Tesla still had to extend the Elise glider body by two inches.

          How much does the Roadster’s battery pack weigh? Frankly, who cares? It’s not a limitation. Weight is almost irrelevant, other than a heavier car needing a stronger suspension.

          P.S.– The original Roadster’s real-world range is only about 180 miles. You’d never get 300 miles without extreme hypermiling; the range record is 313 miles, or at least it was a few years ago.

        3. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

          It’s a 2-seater sports car where the battery takes up a lot of space relative to the size of the car. Not much room in the seats, and not much cargo room.

          For a practical car you want significant passenger and cargo space.

          The key changes for the coming generation of PEVs is that batteries are much cheaper and improving in volumetric energy density. This change will allow a more practical amount of range in smaller cars. The improvements will enable the Bolt, Leaf 2, Model 3 and others cars.

          If weight provides any significant constraint, it’s a cost issue. When you add weight, you need more power to get comparable performance, and adding electric power isn’t cheap.

      2. Dan says:

        Good point on volume being an even more important metric than weight.

      3. Vinny says:

        I guess it depends on your definition of long range but right now there are very few electric cars other than a Tesla that can beat the Brutus V9 with over a 210 mile range (Hwy) 280 mile (city) range using a 33.7 kWh battery. The V9 is a full size motorcycle, much like the H-D cruisers. http://brutusmotorcycle.com/brutusV9.html#specs The Zero’s a actually a physically small motorcycle.

        1. Dan says:

          Rather than long range, I would think about the concept of “long enough” range. In my world, that is a function of my bladder capacity and the size of my coffee. Given road conditions in the northeast, that works out to 2 hours for me – maybe 120 miles. 140 tops.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Tech01x said:

      “For long range BEVs, the limiting factor isn’t space… it’s weight.”

      You’ve got that backwards. Tesla does very well with a ~1200 pound battery pack. But larger battery packs require a larger car to hold them, and when cars get larger, they quickly get more expensive.

      There is also an unfortunate “death spiral” feedback effect, as larger cars need more energy to push them down the road, which requires a still larger battery pack, in turn requires a still larger car…

      1. Priusmaniac says:

        The energy increase from a larger pack grows faster than the consumption increase of a larger vehicle. If one want to set a reccord he needs to start with a limo, that will give much battery in the floor and only a fractional increase in consumption.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Priusmaniac said:

          “The energy increase from a larger pack grows faster than the consumption increase of a larger vehicle.”

          Any competent engineer can tell you that, all else being equal, the opposite is true. You can no doubt find some counterexamples, because when comparing two cars, it’s almost never going to be the case that everything other than one factor is equal.

          “If one want to set a reccord he needs to start with a limo, that will give much battery in the floor and only a fractional increase in consumption.”

          Stretching a normal car into a limo would indeed give a good result, because you’re only increasing the size of the car in one dimension: The length. The width and height would stay the same, so the frontal area wouldn’t increase, which would help a lot in not increasing energy consumption by much.

          But do the math, and you’ll see that if you occupy the entire under-floor of the car with a battery pack, like a Model S or BMW i3, and if you stretch that out to make a limousine, then the percentage of the car’s total volume occupied by the battery pack will actually increase… again, because you’re not increasing the width or height.

          1. Priusmaniac says:

            If you compare the mpg of a 1 ton car with the mpg of a 35 ton truck, you don’t get a 35 times lower mpg for the truck, it is lower but by much less than a factor 35, which is what I wanted to indicate. This is due to the fact that the rolling resistance is not behaving like the friction resistance of a solid block on a surface, which is linear, but it has at contrary a lot of non-linear scaling effects. The bearings oil friction for instance remains more or less the same whatever the weight and there are others things like that as well. Net result is the truck has a much better mpg that the linear scaling according to weight would predict.
            Likewise for the limo, since indeed the front area of the car stays the same, there is only extra friction from the extra length, which is small, and extra roll friction from the higher weight, but all together the limo Model S will be able to go further on say 2 Model S battery packs, than only two times as far. It will likely be 3 times as far since its mpKWh will be better than only half that of the Model S. So since it has 2 packs in it’s lengthen floor, it has twice the energy content while, like the truck case showcased, it needs less than twice for the same distance.

            1. Designing the Tesla Model S(L*) or Model X (L*) (* L = Limo) would probably require a new engineering start to design the double length Skateboard with increased Stiffness sow it doesn’t bound and sway up and down in the middle, but such a skateboard would also be a great place to make the design capable of handling both a Limousine Body, and a School Bus or Small Motor Home Body on top!

              I can imagine that (Meaning: Back of the Envelope Engineering Guess!) – even in worst case situation – a Tesla Model S(L) could be capable of carrying up to 180 kWh, and even at 2.5 Miles per kWh it could still knock off 450 Miles Range Per Charge, but if it could get 3 miles/kWh – it could nail 540 Miles per charge! The Model X(L) should be able to get 400 miles to 450 miles range as well!

              Even in a School Bus Bodied package – it should be good for 400 Miles range (School Bus Bodies are basically Plain Jane and therefore reasonably light), and a RV/ Motor-home package should be able to nail 325 – 350 miles Range per charge just fine!

              However – I guess it would take a well heeled and savvy Automotive Tech player to pull this off before Tesla Does, but they have time, as the current Tesla timeline is the Model 3 showing in March, 2016, and after they are delivering the Model 3 and it’s production is ramping up, they will reveal a New Roadster (Which might be after a Model 3 Variant – as a CUV)!

              Elon has also stated a few times, in one form or another – he would like to build an Electric Aircraft – but I don’t recall hearing of his interest in any Electric Limo, or School Bus, let alone Electric Motor-Home! So Larger, Big-Battery Vehicles, are not something he has hinted at yet, from what I have been able to keep up with!

              However – If Tesla Wanted to go for the Big Stuff, there are Garbage Trucks, Dump Trucks, Cement Trucks, and others – besides City Buses, and Airport Shuttles, that could all be targeted by Tesla Motors in due time! All of these items are not extremely dependent on a super high powered charging network across the country like Long-Haul Semi-Trucks would be needing. Local Services with a Tesla Supercharger site on their Base and local areas would do them well!

  5. techguy says:

    Prismatic cannot be beaten on a technical and packaging level

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Then why are so many EV makers now using pouch cells? And Tesla uses cylindrical cells.

      1. techguy says:

        ..because pouch and cylindrical formats are cheaper. Cost is king for most manufacturers. But BMW decided to do it properly which will pay dividends going forward.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Hmmm, well I don’t think you’re gonna get any consensus on what is “proper”. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three types of cells: pouch, prismatic, and cylindrical.

          Also, certain chemistries will work better with one type rather than others. For example, a cell which is less likely to undergo runaway overheating would do better in the closely-packed configuration of pouch or prismatic cells in an EV’s battery pack, whereas cells which are more sensitive to overheating would do better with the more loosely packed configuration of cylindrical cells.

          Another question: What is the EV’s top speed? An EV with a relatively high top speed, like the Tesla Model S (125 MPH or more), will need to dump waste heat from the battery pack faster than a car of equal weight and wind resistance but lower top speed. So a car like the Leaf, with limited acceleration ability and a relatively low top speed (90 MPH) for a highway-capable car, won’t ever need to dump heat as fast as a Model S running near its top speed.

      2. mr. M says:

        Prismatic is a special pouch

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “We are developing a special vehicle architecture that foresees the installation of flat batteries. This will be a breakthrough for us.”

    Thanks, but we didn’t really need another reminder that Volkswagen is several years behind the cutting edge of EV tech.

  7. Lad says:

    BMW has developed a standard that allow them to easily provide upgraded packs across their whole line of EVs and improves the chances their used cars will retain a fair resale value. This is one reason used Nissan Leaf’s have lost their value, i.e., Nissan doesn’t offer an upgrade to their first generation Leafs.
    Nissan doesn’t get it that EVs are a different than gassers.

    I suggest VW follows BMW’s lead.

    1. techguy says:

      It’s not a standard really. Flat prismatic cells are just easier to design an ev around, from weight and packaging/layout point of view. The fact they are easier to replace without major redesign is the icing. Of course different manufacturers have different priorities, hence differing choices on cell chemistry and physical format.

      1. techguy says:

        Ask the world’s best lithium ion professor and you get confirmation of who’s made the right technical choice.

        Not saying Tesla isn’t any good, just that they had to use a format that is difficult to maintain at the right temps for the most longevity. The other formats have other challenges.

        The future is Solid State Prismatic format, and way off is the promise of Lithium Air, which at a stroke, would kill petroleum for transport.

        1. techguy says:

          …so designing EV’s from the ground up accommodating prismatic formats now, in currently available chemistries, is the smart choice.

          1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

            The battery is a big metal box where you put power in, draw power out and try to keep it at an even temperature.

            The best approach will be the one that gives the lowest battery cost per mile of range at a density good enough to make a small midsize car.

        2. Djoni says:

          And who is the world’s best lithium ion professor?

          1. World's Best Lithium Professor says:

            Who wants to know?

        3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          techguy said:

          “Not saying Tesla isn’t any good, just that they had to use a format that is difficult to maintain at the right temps for the most longevity.”

          Obviously Tesla’s engineers don’t agree, since they’re sticking with the cylindrical format, altho a slightly larger cell size, when they start having cells built to their own design in Gigafactory 1.

          Looks like there are more variables, and more advantages and disadvantages to each form factor, than you realize, techguy.

          1. Dan says:

            I don’t about sticking with it. It’s not easy to simply rip out and change the design of your chassis on a whim. Tesla is a small company and unless a decision becomes a major disadvantage, they will likely stick with it until they can become profitable. So, even suboptimal design decisions will likely stay unless they prevent them from meet a particular goal. With the S, they are not constrained in the way they would be in a smaller, cheaper more mass produced car. We will know when they release the designs of the 3. If they switch to prismatic, then we can look back in 20-20 hindsight!

            1. JakeY says:

              Why would they need to rip out their chassis to use a prismatic cell? As long as the cells are laid out such that they fit in the same pack footprint, the type of cell is not that relevant to the chassis.

              1. Dan says:

                The battery pack is the single largest, heaviest unit on the chassis. I would imagine that they would need to put it through all of the testing to make sure that it continues to work safely and reliably.

            2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              Dan said:

              “So, even suboptimal design decisions will likely stay unless they prevent them from meet a particular goal.”

              The words “Suboptimal” and “Model S” belong in the same sentence about as well as “cheap” and “Rolls-Royce”.

              Tesla has succeeded in making a profit on selling BEVs with a significantly larger battery pack than any production EV from any other auto maker, and the rate of battery fade as the years pass has proven to be significantly slower than what experts predicted.

              It’s some or most of the other EV makers who are using a “suboptimal” battery pack design, not Tesla.

              “We will know when they release the designs of the 3. If they switch to prismatic, then we can look back in 20-20 hindsight!”

              We don’t need to wait. The Model ≡ will be using cells from Gigafactory 1, which will be making battery cells similar to the cylindrical 18650 form factor, but larger in all three dimensions.

      2. JakeY says:

        This is a false premise. The updated 30kWh Leaf pack has the same physical footprint as the old one. So the upgradeability has nothing to do with the physical characteristics or some supposed superiority of the prismatic format.

        Rather it is that the BMS of the older Leafs can’t handle the new module configuration of the 30kWh pack (24 modules of 8 cells vs 48 modules of 16 cells for the old 24kWh pack).

  8. Pete Bauer says:

    In next week’s Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card will show how many VW eGolf and Audi eTrons are sold and from that we can gauge how much VW is really interested in EVs.

  9. Rick says:

    Agreed it’s not a breakthrough, but Tesla should feel quite flattered. Another major car maker that validated their skateboard layout and probably benefitted from the open patents Tesla generously gave away.

  10. Chip says:

    VW ‘to use flat batteries’ is a rather unfortunate choice of phrase, considering the small batteries in the existing VW e-up can go flat all too quickly, particularly in winter:

    The winter range of the e-up will limits its sales in cold climates. I am surprised that VW does not offer a factory-fitted kerosene or propane heater as an option. This is very odd considering that German RVs have those heaters fitted.

    A few people have fitted heaters to he i-MiEV, but the amount of work involved was alarming because Mitsubishi did not design it to cater for a heater:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0QJLANDl5k

    The results were good:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTn29gjpd6w

    Personally I would prefer to burn a little heating oil in winter rather than have to carry a heavier battery all year round.

    1. PVH says:

      I am sure you will see those heaters fitted in many EV’s in some years as they make perfect sense in cold climates. We just to wait for EV’s to be polpular among general public which is less sensitive regarding “green” aspect of EV’s (thus buying EV’s mainly for its other qualities).

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Some classic VW Beetles had gasoline-burning heaters installed, due to the air-cooled engine not providing adequate heating for the cabin. According to the link below, these were only dealer-installed, not factory-installed.

        I suppose we might see aftermarket gas-powered or kerosene-powered heaters for BEVs, altho safety regulations might make it more difficult to sell those today.

        However, as newer BEVs continue to get larger and larger battery packs, the fraction of the battery pack’s total energy needed to heat the cabin will become less and less, so any need for a supplemental heater will eventually fade away.

        http://www.thebugshop.org/bsfqheat.htm
        (See the paragraph “About Gas Heaters”, near the bottom)

        1. Nix says:

          Webasto still makes both diesel and gasoline heaters for that task. Some BMW diesels come with Webasto heaters as stock items, because the big diesel engines are slow to heat up in winter.

          http://www.webasto.com/gb/markets-products/car/retrofit-parking-heater/

  11. HowieB says:

    If the battery is “Flat”……car ain’t goin nowhere………Sorry folks bit of humour?