In a strategy shift, Volkswagen Group will pour new investment into making its MEB full-electric platform competitive against increasingly sophisticated rivals as it pushes back the timeline for a direct replacement.
VW this month announced an upgraded platform, called MEB+, that will offer customers faster charging speeds and longer ranges when it appears in 2026. The overhaul will “leverage the full potential of the successful platform and ensure that it remains competitive,” the automaker said.
No investment figure was given, but Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported that the project will cost 1.5 billion euros.
MEB was touted as the first globally dedicated electric platform when the first car built on it, the VW ID3 compact, was shown in 2019. VW Group licensed the platform to Ford, in addition to using it to underpin models from the its stable of brands including VW, Skoda, Cupra and Audi.
Since then, however, platforms from rivals including Hyundai, Tesla and China’s SAIC have surpassed MEB on measures such as charging speed, cost and packaging.
The planned successor to MEB, a “super platform” dubbed SSP, or Scalable Systems Platform, was to renew VW Group’s competitive edge, starting in 2025 with the Audi Artemis car, followed by the VW Trinity in 2026 and eventually encompassing nearly all models by 2030.
But the Trinity project is reportedly delayed until 2028 amid concerns that development of the E3.0 software stack planned for the SSP platform has fallen behind schedule.
VW will rely on MEB+ to address its full-electric shortcomings in the midterm, as rivals press their advantages.
"Hyundai-Kia with its E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform) is delivering a much better use of the vehicle footprint in terms of usable space for passengers and luggage compared to Volkswagen Group's MEB architecture-based vehicles such as the ID3 and ID4," one Hyundai Motor official told Automotive News Europe recently on condition of anonymity.
Hyundai-Kia’s platform, which underpins cars such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6 and the Kia EV6, trumped VW with an 800-volt electric architecture that allows charging at speeds of up to 235 kilowatts, compared with 135 to 170 kW cars using MEB (see chart, above).
Volkswagen will not change the MEB’s 400-volt architecture but said it will increase charging speeds to 175 to 200 kW, getting it closer to Hyundai's, Kia’s and Tesla’s maximums.
MEB+ will also have a maximum range of 700 km versus MEB’s 550 km (342 miles), closer to the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.
The revised platform underpins a new compact SUV described internally as the electric Tiguan, which would be built at VW’s flagship Wolfsburg plant and launched by 2026.
Cars underpinned by VW Group's MEB+ platform will have a maximum range of 700 km vs. 550 km for vehicles that use the MEB architecture.
New battery packaging
MEB+ will use the new “‘unit” or unified battery cells that Volkswagen will source from both a new battery factory in Salzgitter, Germany, as well as partner Northvolt’s planned Swedish plant.
VW has said that the unified cells can accommodate different chemistries and be able to harness synergy effects that will reduce battery costs by 50 percent.
Price is one area where MEB cars struggle against rivals, particularly those from China.
SAIC, which has a joint venture in China with VW, this year launched the MG4 compact, the first model on its MSP (Modular Scalable Platform) full-electric architecture, which uses less expensive LFP (lithium iron phosphate) chemistry compared with MEB’s nickel manganese cobalt.
SAIC benchmarked the ID3 when it developed the MG4, UK commercial director Guy Pigounakis said. The two cars have similar specifications but for one key difference: price. The MG4, which is built in China, starts at 28,240 euros ($28,220) in Germany for a model with a 51-kilowatt-hour battery, compared with 43,995 euros for the cheapest ID3 with a 58 kWh battery.
The VW ID Life concept, shown in 2021, previews a smaller, lower-cost model on the MEB platform.
VW seeks cost reductions
VW has said it will offer an LFP battery for Chinese models but has not said whether the option will be available to European cars. The chemistry could offset rising battery prices by removing the need for expensive nickel and cobalt.
The new unified cell could offer packaging and range advantages, allowing a bigger battery in MEB’s 370 liters of available battery pack space, UBS bank estimated in a recent report.
VW could also use its scale advantages to reduce production costs. So far, VW brand alone has sold more than 500,000 cars on the MEB platform, which underpins a total of 12 VW Group models wearing badges from VW, Audi, Skoda and Cupra. The automaker plans to build 10 million cars on the platform.
VW brand has promised that the MEB range will be “significantly expanded” with 10 new electric models promised by 2026, including a small car on a cut-down version of the platform selling “for around 25,000 euros
Il Frakfurter allgemeine Zeitung svela alcune caratteristiche dell’evoluzione della piattaforma MEB+. La velocità di ricarica verrà aumentata a 200 kW, l’autonomia potrà salire fino a 700 km. Nel 2026 arriverà una suv di segmento C che verrà prodotta a Wolfsburg (e che fine farà la ID4, boh?).