The Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) is providing Volkswagen with its foundation for mobility of the future. But how exactly does the MEB function – and what do we need it for? We answer the ten most important questions.
1. What is the MEB?
The Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) is a modular system for manufacturing electric vehicles and is currently being developed by Volkswagen. The introduction of the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) into automotive architecture back in 2012 represented a radical revolution in system technology. A flexible modular system superseded the platform principle, making vehicle production even more efficient. The MEB will be the next big step in this context: It has been undergoing development since 2015, to further optimize the strengths of the MQB, while making it suitable for electro-mobility.
2. What distinguishes the MEB from the MQB?
When the conceptual design for the MQB was first developed, the vision of an e-vehicle for the mass market wasn’t yet the key objective that it's become today. The MEB is now being specifically developed to achieve this vision: what do axles, drive units, wheelbases and weight ratios need to look like to ensure the vehicle is optimally equipped for the requirements that e-mobility presents? And, above all, what does the best design and position of the batteries look like? The e-vehicles currently available from Volkswagen are being made using the MQB as a basis. This works brilliantly, however the MEB will allow the conception and production of electric vehicles to be optimized further.
3. Why do we really need a new modular toolkit?
Because a toolkit like the MEB has been specifically developed to make the manufacture of electric vehicles even more efficient – and therefore less expensive – in the long term. It thereby allows Volkswagen to organize its production with a more systematic focus on e-mobility. This will allow it to cater for the greatly increasing demand for electric vehicles. There are, however, many other factors which have an impact on the future sales prices of electric vehicles, in particular the rapid progress being made in battery technology.
4. Are there already vehicles based on the MEB today?
So far, Volkswagen has presented three e-concept vehicles that are based on the MEB: the e-Bus BUDD-e, which made its debut in 2016, the I.D., which caused a stir at the Paris Motor Show in 2016 and the I.D. BUZZ, showcased at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2017 and conveying a vision of the VW campervan of the future. The plan is to start series production of a compact car based on the MEB in 2020.
Electric drive, digitalization, autonomous driving: The MEB will take all current major issues into consideration.
5. Will the drivers of the cars notice the difference?
Drivers of Volkswagen electric vehicles are already profitting from the merits of e-mobility. These strengths will be refined even further in the generations of vehicles based on the MEB: Full torque from a standstill, rear drive and the advantages it brings to traction and acceleration, and – thanks to the lower position of the battery – optimized driving balance and better digital functions. Many of the visions that seemed insignificant just a few years ago are now being directly incorporated into the concept for the MEB.
6. Will the MEB impact the design of the vehicle interior?
A central element of the MEB is the high-voltage drive battery. Its design and placement plays a key role. On first glance, it looks like a stylized bar of chocolate, flat, comprised of submodules. The components installed in the vehicle floor free up an unexpected amount of space in the interior. The outside length of the I.D., for example, is similar to that of the Golf, however it offers a similar amount of interior space to a Passat. Moreover, the dashboard insert has been made more compact, the position of the centre console (“physical app”) can be varied – space is an important aspect of travel concepts for the future: Vehicles that largely drive autonomously, in which the occupants can deal with their office work or enjoy their free time.
7. What are the biggest challenges when developing the MEB?
Number one: the vision factor. Complex elements that will only be manifested in a specific technology over the coming years need to be factored in to the MEB – digitalization, connectivity, fully automatic driving. What does a vehicle architecture need to look like to allow as many applications and interfaces as possible to be integrated? Retrofitting hardware in a defined architecture is always a handicap – digital locking systems for car sharing or sensors for the autopilot therefore need to be implemented in the MEB right from the start. Number two: Efficiency and costs. This is where we are pulling out all the stops to make e-mobility even more attractive.
8. What still needs to happen before series production of vehicles based on the MEB can start?
Since work on the MEB began in 2015, great progress has been made – the so-called Early Phase of development will come to a conclusion in the spring of 2017, and series production of the first e-vehicle in the same style as the I.D. is supposed to start in 2020. How quickly e-mobility will gain popularity in future does, however, depend on other, largely infrastructure-related, factors – for example, the situation regarding the public charging station network. Availability varies enormously from country to country, however work on its expansion is currently making steady progress.
Envisioning the future: Series production of the first vehicles based on the MEB to start in 2020.
9. Will the MEB supersede the MQB altogether?
No, it will not. Even if the role of electric drive will gain significance over the coming decade, Volkswagen will, for the time being, continue making vehicles with combustion engines – something that requires the MQB as the basic architecture. And although making electric vehicles using the MQB as a basis is perfectly feasible, it doesn’t work the other way around: No combustion engine will ever fit into the MEB architecture.
10. What significance does the introduction of the MEB have for the Volkswagen Brand?
The “TRANSFORM2025+” strategy foresees the sale of 1 million electric vehicles made by Volkswagen per year by 2025 – accounted for by around 30 different models right across the Group brands. The results of this objective depend on the MEB: High-volume series production of electric vehicles is only possible using the new toolkit as a basis. This concerns so much more than details of engineering technology: The Modular Electrification Toolkit is an investment in mobility of the future. A milestone of the Volkswagen vision.