It’s not often that you get to see the future of transportation in such nuts-and-bolts detail. But this isn’t just any future vehicle chassis.1
In German, it’s called the “Modulare E-Antriebs-Baukasten,” which provides the source of its acronym at Volkswagen: MEB. Translated, its name means “modular electric-drive toolkit,” and it’s designed to be the basic building block of the Volkswagen brand’s electric transportation future.
The MEB will form the basis of the future anticipated Volkswagen electric vehicles in America, namely the production versions of the I.D. CROZZ SUV, the I.D. BUZZ van and beyond. Around the world, Volkswagen is making plans to produce 10 million copies of the MEB in a variety of styles – the most ambitious electric-vehicle rollout of any major automaker.
With the MEB “we have developed a platform designed specifically for electric cars,” said Christian Senger, Head of the Volkswagen E-Mobility product line. “The I.D. models will not be combustion engine versions that have been converted, they will be designed to be 100 percent, thoroughbred electric vehicles. And they will be engineered to be online, upgradeable- and update-compatible. We’re making optimal use of the possibilities this technology brings.”
Automotive jargon can be a bit dense, so it’s worth defining exactly what constitutes a “toolkit.” The MEB isn’t just the basic metal chassis, but the layout of key components and, most importantly, how they all fit together. Much like the Volkswagen MQB, the toolkit that underpins Volkswagen models from the Golf to the Atlas, the MEB can easily adapt to many different sizes of vehicles and battery capacities while using common components to help lower costs.
Thanks to being designed from the start for electric propulsion, the MEB-based vehicles will have several innovations. Since electric drive components take up less space than gas-powered engines and transmissions, the I.D. models can offer interior space that’s a class-size larger than their exterior dimensions; the I.D. CROZZ can pack Atlas-type space in a Tiguan-size wrapper. All will be engineered to be either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, via one or two electric motors, for more optimal weight distribution and handling. And the battery pack, located in the floor, can be easily redesigned for different sizes and types of batteries, allowing for driving ranges from about 200 miles up to more than 340 miles on the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) cycle.
“The platform that Volkswagen is developing is more consistent and innovative than many of the other platforms,” said Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management, E-Mobility division. “By 2022 alone, we anticipate that four Volkswagen Group brands will be ramping up 27 MEB models worldwide, ranging from compact cars to the I.D. BUZZ van.”
Beyond the basics, the MEB can be designed to help make advanced technologies commonplace, such as over-the-air software update capabilities and 125-kW charging. Ulbrich compares the launch of the MEB to the transition VW made in the 1970s from the Beetle to the Golf – one that changed the company and transportation around the world.
“The MEB modular electric drive matrix is probably the most important project in Volkswagen’s history,” he said.