Test drive electric car VW ID.Life: Study shows future small car strategy

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The current situation must hurt Volkswagen enormously: The battery-electric triplets VW e-Up, Skoda Citigo iV and Seat Mii electric would be the big winners of the innovation bonus, if the group could deliver enough. But production capacities will be exhausted by the planned end of the series, and none of the three brands will take any orders at all. The situation will not ease in the short term; in the long term, the group is planning at least one battery-electric successor. At the IAA Mobility, Volkswagen presented the ID.Life study, which provides a first foretaste of how such models could basically be designed. We were able to take a test drive with the ID.Life.

First of all, it is important that the study does not necessarily have to have something in common with the production model, even if Volkswagen emphasizes: “With the platform, we are already very close to the series.” This does not necessarily relate to dimensions and engine power. With a length of 4.09 meters and a width of 1.85 m, the ID.Life has about the dimensions of the recently redesigned VW Polo. The triplets mentioned at the beginning are considerably smaller.

Volkswagen does not allow itself to be looked at when it comes to its strategy, and so the following remains explicitly speculation: A small battery-electric car will come onto the market for around 20,000 euros. It is possible that VW will present a direct successor to the Up, which as ID.1 would then be considerably shorter than the ID.Life. That, in turn, is more likely to inherit the Polo and come onto the market as ID.2. The technical basis will probably be the same. It is unlikely that it will be possible to find out what the group is actually planning to do before the end of next year.

On our test drive, the ID.Life was handy and comfortable.

The engine output also suggests that the current study is only a slight reference to the production model. It should be 172 kW, which would probably be too much of a good thing in both conceivable classes. VW itself mentions 6.9 seconds in the standard sprint, which cannot be understood because the test car, which is actually just a study, is braked at 40 km / h.

Whether Volkswagen can keep the price of around 20,000 euros depends largely on the memory configuration. This not only means the energy content, which is 57 kWh in the study, but also the cost development of the batteries and the type of cells. In this price-sensitive class, Volkswagen will very likely rely on LFP cells, which can be produced comparatively cheaply.

Then the question will also have to be clarified whether in a car that is primarily intended for short distances, the basic equipment must have a range of 400 km. VW promises that for the ID.Life. That would be a strong argument for sales, but in the application profile of many customers it would be quite unnecessary.

On the way in the ID.Life, it is noticeable that a steering wheel without a complete rim was not the interior designer’s best idea. But the chassis is already impressive. On a rocky, rough stretch of road, the spring-damper combination filtered everything out to a comfortable level. A comparatively long suspension travel also helps. In terms of its proportions, the ID.Life is not a classic small car anyway: At 19 cm, the ground clearance is greater than usual in this class, and the overall height of the car is even more so at 1.6 m.

The basic decisions have already been made: The battery will have around 50 kWh and will use LFP cells.

It is also noticeable how small the turning circle is despite the front-wheel drive, the ID.Life gives the impression of enormous handiness. In addition, it appears quiet, which of course is also due to the fact that the concept car can only go 40 km / h. There is also a very good amount of space: even in the back, adults sit reasonably passably, which is not a matter of course in this class.

The study is of course a little more playful than the production model. A front with an indicated LED grill and a hood made of fabric will not make it into the final version. In all likelihood, this also applies to the fabric roof, which can be removed. It’s actually a shame, but far too expensive for series production. Because Volkswagen actually wants to make money with the small cars.

The interior looks modern, not necessarily functional.

In the interior, too, the distance from what will later be found in the sales rooms should be quite large. The wooden frame that visually connects the roof, A-pillars and dashboard looks chic, but would be beyond budget. There is no longer an instrument cluster; instead, information is only given via a head-up display. A mobile phone is attached to the fabric-covered cockpit, with which all essential functions can be operated, touch surfaces are embedded in the wood – a trend that can already be seen in the Honda e and BMW iX.

Touch surfaces on the steering wheel even determine whether the car should drive forwards or backwards. There are no storage areas, ventilation nozzles or the like. All of this looks modern and detoxified, but hardly functional enough to have a chance of widespread acceptance in a production car. And this is exactly what Volkswagen relies on. Because the fact that you cannot deliver what customers want for a long time is likely to increase the pressure on those responsible to such an extent that the group will probably respond with power.

Which small electric cars are currently available? A selection of cars that we have already tested:


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