With the development of the Modular Electric Drive System (MEB), the Volkswagen brand has undertaken pioneering work for e-mobility – and brought a real game-changer to the road. Thanks to its great flexibility, the platform designed exclusively for electric cars can be used to build a wide variety of models, from compact cars to vans.
At the end of 2019, the first MEB model celebrated its world premiere with the ID.3, and in the meantime more than half a million models of the ID. family alone have been delivered on this platform. So the MEB has already proven itself – and is now being taken to the next level, the MEB+. Volkswagen is investing substantially in its further development in order to leverage the full potential of this successful platform and ensure that it remains competitive. The basic ideas behind the successful MEB concept, the advantages for customers and the improvements that will be made with the MEB+ will be explained here.
One for all
Building the best possible electric car at the best possible price – this was the goal Volkswagen engineers set themselves when they began developing the Modular E-Drive System. In addition to comfort and suitability for everyday use, the focus was on two aspects in particular: range and efficiency.
After all, these are what determine the utility value of an electric car – and it was therefore clear that as much space as possible had to be created for the battery system: “Here, for the first time, we had the chance to develop the vehicle practically around the battery,” says Frank Blome, who was significantly involved in the development in 2020 as head of the Battery Cell Business Unit. With the Modular Cross-Sectional Toolkit (MQB), there was already a modular vehicle basis that had proven itself – and whose basic concept could be transferred to the platform developed exclusively for e-cars.
Nevertheless, the vehicle architecture had to be fundamentally and consistently rethought in order to achieve the best possible result. The battery system found a place in the underbody between the axles; wheelbase and track width are easy to change. This means that a wide variety of vehicle concepts can be realised on one and the same platform – from compact city cars to spacious SUVs and family vans suitable for camping. With the MEB, Volkswagen has created the basis for cost-efficient production that makes e-mobility affordable for almost everyone – and at the same time offers all customers the right car for their individual needs.
Diversity in spite of unity
Because many Volkswagen Group brands can literally build on the MEB, customers can choose from a diverse range of models and numerous options for individual vehicle configuration. At present, a dozen vehicle models are already being built on the electric platform: all models in the VW ID. family, several e-cars from the group brands Audi, CUPRA, ŠKODA and the ID. Buzz from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. So far, the VW brand alone has delivered more than 500,000 cars of the ID. family on the e-platform, and more than 670,000 vehicles have been delivered across the Group.
A big plus of the MEB is the modular battery concept, which allows the capacity of the battery to be optimally adapted for the intended use. For example, if you mainly drive your ID.3 in the city and only drive short distances, the battery with 58 kWh is sufficient; this makes the car cheaper to buy. Those who frequently drive longer distances can choose a larger battery with 77 kWh when configuring the car. The range of the different batteries extends from more than 400 to over 550 kilometres.
On top of that, the design of the MEB allows for a significantly larger amount of space in the interior than a combustion car with the same vehicle dimensions: The passengers can enjoy a comfortable open space, which offers them the same amount of room in the ID.3 as in a Passat with the external dimensions of a Golf.
Driving a Volkswagen electric car is not the only climate-friendly option – in Europe, delivery to customers is already CO2-neutral. This is achieved, for example, through the use of green electricity in production. The carbon dioxide that Volkswagen as a manufacturer and its suppliers are still unable to avoid during production is subsequently offset – for example through certified climate protection projects. In addition, only animal-free materials are used for the interior.
The next generation of the MEB is coming
In the coming years, Volkswagen will invest substantially in the further development of its successful e-platform: MEB will become MEB+. In line with the original idea, the charging and storage technology as well as the digital infrastructure will be improved. With MEB+, significant leaps will be possible in automated driving functions, for example. The MEB+ will use Volkswagen’s new generation of batteries – the so-called unit cell – and enable ranges of up to 700 km. And the MEB+ will also significantly improve charging times, with charging speeds of 175–200 kW possible in the future.
In addition, the MEB-based model range will be significantly expanded – ten new Volkswagen e-models will be launched by 2026, including an entry-level model for around €25,000. New cars are also being planned in the performance and premium segments. All in all, this means another significant increase in individual choice and comfort, as well as in quality and reliability – familiar values that customers can expect from Volkswagen again in the future.