The Volkswagen Group has started construction of the first plant that will solely build cars based on the new modular EV platform known as the MEB, the German auto giant announced Friday.
Settled near Shanghai, China, where Tesla also plans a plant, the VW Group's new EV plant will first build electric SUVs for the SAIC-Volkswagen joint venture starting in 2020.
The Shanghai plant will span nearly 151 acres and feature 1,400 "Industry 4.0" robots for increased automation. VW also said the plant will feature artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality components to digitalize the production facility.
In addition to building the MEB-based electric cars, the plant will assemble batteries. And to ensure the electric cars minimize their carbon footprint, the plant will employ 27 types of environmentally friendly technologies. Most of the technologies will focus on water preservation, energy saving, and the reduction of carbon dioxide.
As mentioned above, the VW Group's first vehicle to come from the new plant will be a Volkswagen SUV riding on the MEB architecture. MEB is a dedicated modular platform that VW says will help it build affordable electric cars for the masses. Indeed, the plant will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles.
The platform should also award the cars it underpins greater interior space, smarter packaging, and integrated digital services VW has begun to invest in. The SUV will likely be a model based on Volkswagen's ID Crozz concept (shown above).
Volkswagen showed the electric crossover SUV at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show. An electric motor on the front axle provided 101 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque, while a second electric motor delivered 201 hp and 229 lb-ft at the rear axle, thus creating an all-wheel-drive system. The electric SUV was also tipped to have an electric range anywhere between 200 and 300 miles, based on the EPA test cycle.
Come 2025, the VW Group plans to have 50 electric cars in production across its multiple brands worldwide. In the U.S., they'll include an electric VW SUV and Microbus successor, an Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan electric sedan, and more.